Does this panel need to be replaced?

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  #1  
Old 11-01-13, 09:22 PM
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Does this panel need to be replaced?

It's an FPE Stab-Lok. The service received final approval in March, 1980. The only number I've found on it is BU-910315, on a sticker on the inside of the door.

In addition, the new owners need a circuit added. I doubt I could find a new breaker for this jewel for less than the cost of a decent new panel, if I could find one at all.

Assuming the answer to that question is "Yes, yesterday if not sooner!" -- does anyone have a recommendation for a replacement that will fit in the existing 10-1/2" wide opening?
 
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Old 11-01-13, 09:37 PM
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Between 1976-1980..... FPE was all we used. I no longer work for that electrical contractor but have never heard of a problem with any of our services.

What do you need..... a flush mount main panel ?
 
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Old 11-01-13, 09:46 PM
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Between 1976-1980..... FPE was all we used. I no longer work for that electrical contractor but have never heard of a problem with any of our services.
I haven't seen any problems either, personally, but the internet machine is full of dire warnings like this one: Federal Pacific “Stab-Lok” Electrical Service Panels Can be Problematic

What do you need..... a flush mount main panel?
Oops! Got hung up on the width question -- which is kinda silly 'cause enlarging the opening is probably not a huge deal since the panel is mounted in the face of a chase wall. Thanks for the wake-up call.

Yes. Flush mount, main lug, 12 position/24 circuit minimum.
 
  #4  
Old 11-02-13, 04:59 AM
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I doubt that you will find a panel with that many circuits and still that narrow. The gutter wiring dimensions were increased. Most panels are now stud bay width.
 
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Old 11-02-13, 07:35 AM
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Does this panel need to be replaced?
I would suggest it, but I wouldn't lose any sleep over it if they don't want to. I would, however, mention that their insurance company might require it.

In addition, the new owners need a circuit added. I doubt I could find a new breaker for this jewel for less than the cost of a decent new panel, if I could find one at all.
New Stab Lok breakers are not a problem at all. Assuming you just need a 20 amp single pole, try this for the thin breakers.

Federal Pacific 20 Amp 1/2 in. StabLok Thin Single-Pole Type F UBI Replacement Circuit Breaker-VPKUBIF020N at The Home Depot

.............or this for the full size thick breakers.

Connecticut Electric 20 Amp One Pole Thick Type F UBI Replacement Circuit Breaker-VPKUBIF20N at The Home Depot

Actually, HD isn't the least expensive place to buy breakers for an FPE panel, but they are available. I can buy the similar breakers made by American Circuit Breaker locally for about $20 less than HD.
 
  #6  
Old 11-02-13, 10:14 AM
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I would suggest it, but I wouldn't lose any sleep over it if they don't want to. I would, however, mention that their insurance company might require it.
The new owners told me that someone - possibly the condo association's rep - had suggested, on as early walk-through, "you might want to replace that."

They're not married to replacing the existing panel. What they want is a safe install at the lowest cost . Where we left this question, at the end of my walk-through, was that they would rely on my assessment. I told them -- well, the man of the house, actually -- that I would check here for assessments, since I haven't run into many FPE panels before - maybe none.

Right now, I'm surprised to learn that the consensus, from three members whose experience I respect and whose judgement I trust is that it can remain in service and even be upgraded mildly. And I'm delighted to learn that I can buy new breakers for it. I was inspired by Joe's links to go searching.

They're doing a full remodel of the kitchen, and they need a second 20A SABC as part of that, plus a receptacle at the new refrigerator location. So that means adding one 20A circuit. I also expect that they'll want some undercabinet and/or task lighting on the long wall that will be the refrigerator plus the sink, so that might need a new 15A circuit. And the panel has two half-height open spaces with blank fillers in the cover.

I found what looks like the right breakers at Amazon. Since I have so little experience with FPE Stab-Loc, I'm hoping Joe or someone can confirm that these should work:

Connecticut Electric UBIF020N FPE Circuit Breaker, 1-Pole 20-Amp Thin Series

Connecticut Electric UBIF015N FPE Circuit Breaker, 1-Pole 15-Amp Thin Series

Yeah, $45 is more than I'm used to paying for two SP breakers, but if I can do that and save them several hours labor plus the cost of a new panel and breakers for it, they're well ahead.

Oops! Just realized that they're planning to put the range that's replacing the wall oven and cooktop against the interior chase wall where the panel is. Time for a phone call!
 
  #7  
Old 11-02-13, 10:30 AM
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Be careful of counterfeits. Had a customer who bought some from who knows where. They were so loose they kept falling out before I could get the cover on. Given that real Stablocks can be so hard to get out your tempted to use a crowbar I'm guessing counterfeit. I finally just refused to use them.
 
  #8  
Old 11-02-13, 10:52 AM
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If there's aluminum wiring I practically won't leave the house until the homeowner agrees to replace the FPE panel. Certainly, you should fully inform the HO of FPE's drawbacks.

1. Insurance can be difficult to get or replace.

2. Many times a house cannot be sold until the panel is changed.

3. Additions or modifications may require AFCIs and full height spaces.

anti-FPE websites

Is My Electrical Panel Safe? - Important Information About Federal Pacific Electric, Zinsco and Outdated Electric Panel Boxes

The Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Panel Circuit Breaker Hazard, Repairs, Electrical Panel Replacement Electricians Directory for Stab-Lok® Repairs

And, yes, I nearly lost both eyes to an explosion of molten metal (residential, 240V). I was new and foolish. Neither single pole FPE breaker tripped.
 
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Old 11-02-13, 11:14 AM
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If there's aluminum wiring
There's not. Final was in 1980, not 1970. Plus the install is conduit plus BX/MC/AC. Only possible exception is the range feed, which might just get replaced anyway, rather than trying to pull it back and relocate it.

Certainly, you should fully inform the HO of FPE's drawbacks.
Done. See earlier posts.

1. Insurance can be difficult to get or replace.
Insurance is in place.

2. Many times a house cannot be sold until the panel is changed.
It just sold. My clients are the new owners.

I nearly lost both eyes to an explosion of molten metal (residential, 240V). I was new and foolish. Neither single pole FPE breaker tripped.
The articles you linked to are interesting but I already saw them. Your experience has my attention, though. My SOP is to do any and all panel work with the feed off, and to install the deadfront before energizing.

I'm glad you escaped serious injury, and I'm guessing the hazard would have been less with the panel dead while open. Did I hear you correctly?
 
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Old 11-02-13, 11:31 AM
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Be careful of counterfeits. Had a customer who bought some from who knows where. They were so loose they kept falling out before I could get the cover on. Given that real Stablocks can be so hard to get out your tempted to use a crowbar I'm guessing counterfeit.
Thanks. If we decide to keep the panel and add breakers, I'll be sure to check their stability (yeah, I know). JOC, did you try the new breakers in any of the locations that already had breakers, just to see if there was something screwy about the bus part of the connections at the empty slots?

Slightly different question: Did FPE just change its name when the bad press started? That is, is Connecticut Electric really FPE with a new set of clothes? Or did CE pick up the pieces of FPE at a liquidation sale and continue to manufacture basically the same breakers with a new label? Or did they just see an opportunity in the market and decide to fill it? Anybody know, or have some good scuttlebutt?
 
  #11  
Old 11-02-13, 01:50 PM
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Slightly different question: Did FPE just change its name when the bad press started? That is, is Connecticut Electric really FPE with a new set of clothes? Or did CE pick up the pieces of FPE at a liquidation sale and continue to manufacture basically the same breakers with a new label? Or did they just see an opportunity in the market and decide to fill it? Anybody know, or have some good scuttlebutt?
No, the old FPE is totally gone. Connecticut Electric and American Circuit Breaker are two companies who continued to manufacture FPE style breakers for replacement. FPE lost their U.L. Listing when caught falsifying test data on industrial breakers at their U.L. Listed lab back in the early '80s as I recall. At that time, Toledo Scale, another division of Reliance Electric who owned FPE at that time, conducted a major recall and replacement of certain styles of FPE 480 volt beakers with equivalent GE breakers. Once the lab lost the listing, all breaker listings from testing at that U.L. Listed facility naturally were null and void. That was the end, closed the doors. That was the short version, the closing of the doors probably took close to 10 years. I believe in those later years that FPE was also entwined somehow with Challenger because Challenger sold switchboards of the old FPE design and even used the same old FPE QMQB fusible switches, but with a Challenger nameplate.

Had a customer who bought some from who knows where. They were so loose they kept falling out before I could get the cover on.
Ray, it's been a long time, but I remember FPE breakers falling out as their SOP, just normal for them.

Right now, I'm surprised to learn that the consensus, from three members whose experience I respect and whose judgement I trust is that it can remain in service and even be upgraded mildly.
I didn't mean to exactly blow it off because I think it should be replaced, but you cannot make them replace it. In the end it's the homeowner's choice, I wouldn't lose any sleep over their decision. All you can do is give them the best possible information and make a strong recommendation. If you want, I can provide you some files I got from Dr. Jesse Aronstein that will blow their socks off. How hard did you want to push them?


Insurance is in place.
But does their insurance company know about this FPE panel? My experience in purchasing homeowner's insurance is that the insurance company literally knows nothing about the homes they insure.

BTW, here's some more FPE info.

The Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Panel Circuit Breaker Hazard, Repairs, Electrical Panel Replacement Electricians Directory for Stab-Lok® Repairs


EDIT

Nash, I was just looking through some of my FPE files from Jesse Aronstein and ran across something I had totally forgotten about. This is from one document.

11. FPE STAB-LOK® BREAKERS WITH PINK LABEL AND WHITE DOT
The question often arises as to whether there are any years or models of FPE Stab-Lok® circuit
breakers that meet the standard performance requirements. The answer is that only FPE Stab-Lok®
breakers with (authentic) pink UL listing labels and white dots on the handles are likely to perform as
required by the UL standard. These breakers were manufactured after production restarted in about
1981, subsequent to the discovery and elimination of the company’s fraudulent testing.
14 The
fraudulent testing practices existed prior to that -- from the time that the manufacturing operations
were moved from Newark, NJ in the 1960s. The pink labels and white dots can be seen on the FPE
Stab-Lok®breakers shown below in Figure 12. Inspectors are cautioned to check for both label color
and white dot before concluding that the breakers were produced to UL requirements.
The pink label is easy, but the white dot is a very small white dot on the breaker handle right above "ON". You said this house was final inspected in 1980? That would indicate that their FPE breakers were manufactured during the period of fraudulent testing and that their breakers may be some of those that will not trip.
 

Last edited by CasualJoe; 11-02-13 at 02:22 PM. Reason: More FPE Breaker Info for Nashkat
  #12  
Old 11-02-13, 02:15 PM
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I didn't mean to exactly blow it off because I think it should be replaced, but you cannot make them replace it. In the end it's the homeowner's choice, I wouldn't lose any sleep over their decision. All you can do is give them the best possible information and make a strong recommendation. If you want, I can provide you some files I got from Dr. Jesse Aronstein that will blow their socks off. How hard did you want to push them?
Not necessarily very hard at all. If the panel has to be relocated because of their new layout I'll probably choose to replace it. In the end, they're pretty much leaving this up to me. They're long-term clients who have this new property they want to fix up, rent out for a few years and then retire to -- no roof, no yard, etc.

Originally Posted by Nashkat1
Insurance is in place.
But does their insurance company know about this FPE panel? My experience in purchasing homeowner's insurance is that the insurance company literally knows nothing about the homes they insure.
This is one of 500 to 1,000 units in this building, I'd estimate. They're bought and sold on a regular basis, in an area heavily populated by seasoned bureaucrats. If the insurers don't know what the situation is here, it's not for lack of exposure or opportunity.

Thanks for the other info, Joe.
 
  #13  
Old 11-02-13, 06:20 PM
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If the panel has to be relocated because of their new layout I'll probably choose to replace it. In the end, they're pretty much leaving this up to me.
Under the circumstances, I'd definitely replace it too.
 
  #14  
Old 11-02-13, 06:34 PM
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I talked to them in the meantime, and owe them an email which I'll write soon. On first reaction, they seem to be going for - almost suggesting - turning the panel around and mounting in the wall of the living room.

If that's where we wind up, it's new panel, full permit, the whole nine yards. And he - the husband - actually asked me if we didn't need a permit for this. They know the cost of that, too, because we pulled one for the last work we did for them - all the power and light circuits needed when they enclosed the carport at their existing house and converted it into a pottery studio Maybe two kilns? One for sure. And at the opposite end of their split-level from the panel, of course.

These folks don't splurge but they don't cheap out either. We're going to make this work. I'm thinking Siemens for the new panel.

Now if I could just remember where I stashed the spare blades for my Roto-Split...
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 11-02-13 at 06:53 PM.
  #15  
Old 11-02-13, 06:42 PM
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I would work to having the FPE replaced. The breaker mounting stabs are cheesy and the breakers can fall out when you remove the cover.
 
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Old 11-02-13, 06:55 PM
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I would work to having the FPE replaced. The breaker mounting stabs are cheesy and the breakers can fall out when you remove the cover.
Sounds like a reason to me! I was thinking it would be nice to have a solid can to start with anyway, instead of one full of holes.
 
  #17  
Old 11-02-13, 10:22 PM
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The pink label is easy, but the white dot is a very small white dot on the breaker handle right above "ON". You said this house was final inspected in 1980? That would indicate that their FPE breakers were manufactured during the period of fraudulent testing and that their breakers may be some of those that will not trip.
Thanks for the update, Joe. Yes, final inspection date on the sticker is March of 1980. I didn't notice and small white dots and I didn't see any pink labels. Keeping that panel is starting to sound like a non-starter to me. I was just writing to them about this, and your latest is going in that note, right now.
 
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