FPE Stab-Lok subpanel advice sought

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Old 01-01-21, 04:27 PM
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FPE Stab-Lok subpanel advice sought

Previous owner upgraded the main panel to 200A about 13 years ago. It was permitted. From the main panel, there is a 50A double pole breaker that leads to a Federal Pacific Stab-Lok sub-panel in the garage about 100' away (pictures attached). There are about 10 circuits connected to this sub-panel such as a 1kW Microwave, Refrigerator, Dishwasher, Clothes washer, etc. All the heating and cooking is gas.

I believe the entire house was rewired 13 years ago when the main panel was upgraded. I haven't seen any cloth wiring, all outlets are properly grounded and every receptacle and switch in this ~1940s house has been updated. I believe this 100A sub-panel was the original main panel. I've confirmed that the unbonded neutral and ground separately return to the main panel and that the voltage between L1 and L2 is 240V. All the breakers are firmly attached and can be manually tripped.

However, I've recently learned the history of these ubiquitous panels (it seems like every house in my area that hasn't been remodeled has them). I've read this article and some others and am convinced that I should upgrade it very soon. Although everything appears fine and I've yet to trip a breaker, I believe that's the potential problem with the FPE panels and their bogus fault testing.

I'm comfortable installing receptacles and lighting fixtures, but I don't think this is a DIY project. I'd like to get an idea of how involved this upgrade will be. One main issue is: The existing sub-panel is 8"x10" and I haven't seen any 100A panels that small that can handle 10 breakers. If the new sub-panel is bigger, could re-connecting the wires be very difficult? I don't think there is any rigid conduit in the wall but I can't get a good look.






I can easily provide more pictures if that will help.

I'd appreciate to hear your thoughts.
 
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Old 01-01-21, 06:02 PM
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Since this is a sub panel, replacing it is fairly straight forward. Tear out the old and install the new. That hardest part will be to find a panel of similar size but cutting back the wall finish shouldn't be too tough with the right tools.

This is likely the closest you will find: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Square-D...00DF/100165040

Of course, going bigger is rarely a bad thing
 
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Old 01-01-21, 06:13 PM
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Gutter space on newer panel is larger so there will be some cutting of the wall. Splices are allowed so no issue if the wires are too short.
 
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Old 01-02-21, 07:46 AM
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Exclamation

One thing I think I see is a panel full of 20 amp breakers that appear to be feeding undersized wiring.
If you are dependent on the current those breakers provide you need to seriously need a larger panel and more ccts!
 
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Old 01-02-21, 08:10 AM
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Thanks everyone.

If everything was permitted, would 20 amp breakers be allowed with undersized wire?

If it is 14ga wire (I'm really bad at determining wire size), I should derate them to 15A, correct?

This is in an garage area where I'm not terribly concerned with size or wall finish, so if I have to cut I should just go with a properly sized panel with adequate circuits.
 
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Old 01-02-21, 08:56 AM
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If everything was permitted, would 20 amp breakers be allowed with undersized wire?
No matter if it is permitted or not. You may not over fuse undersized wire.

If it is 14ga wire (I'm really bad at determining wire size), I should derate them to 15A, correct?
Correct. If it is #14 wire you can only use a 15 amp breaker.

This is in an garage area where I'm not terribly concerned with size or wall finish, so if I have to cut I should just go with a properly sized panel with adequate circuits.
Correct. As mentioned, you would likely be better off getting a larger panel than what you have now. The panel I linked earlier would only give you a few open spaces. A full-size panel that could fit between 16" OC stud spacing will give you more options.
 
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Old 01-02-21, 07:34 PM
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Agreed with the others. A subpanel replacement is a reasonable DIY project (though a bit advanced). Since you can shut off the power to it completely, it's a good project. And definitely go for a 20+ space panel for future expansion.

(I'm really bad at determining wire size)
Easiest way is to use a wire stripper with holes for each size wire. It's always a bit difficult to know for sure as insulation sizes vary with different types/ages of wires,
 
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Old 01-03-21, 01:40 PM
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I would also recommend replacing the FPE subpanel, but I wouldn't be too worried if I couldn't get to it right away or even if it had to wait till Spring.
 
 

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