Federal Pacific Electric "Stab-Lok" service panels and breakers are a latent hazard and can fail, leading to electrical fires. The problem is that some double-pole (240-Volt) FPE circuit breakers and possibly also some single-pole units simply may not work. We also have reports that independent of the breaker problems, there have been panel and panel-bus fires and arcing failures in some equipment. The failure rates for these circuit breakers were significant and are documented in the CPSC study. Additional independent testing and research are on-going and will be reported here. Besides the articles listed immediately below at Contents, readers are also referred to More Information below for a listing of other on-line FPE documents and research articles. Information Accuracy & Un-Biased Reporting are Assured for this website - see pledge link at below-left.
Contents: Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok Circuit Breaker Articles and Failures Research
A Summary of the Problem: Federal Pacific Stab-Lok Electric Panel and Circuit Breaker Hazards
Having reviewed documentation regarding this issue, and having discussed the issue with forensic experts in the field, I am convinced that a latent hazard exists where FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers continue in use. The hazard is worst for double-pole breakers. Published reports of actual tests that were performed indicate that under certain conditions it is possible for one leg of these circuits to attempt to trip the breaker, resulting in a jammed breaker which will afterward not trip under any load condition. I infer from the Commission final press release that the manufacturer and some Commission members were of the opinion that these conditions would not occur in the field.
This may be an erroneous conclusion. Some very common household appliances operate are powered by a two-pole 240V circuit (protected by the type of breaker under discussion) but use two or more independent 120V sub-circuits inside the appliance. Two obvious cases are electric clothes dryers and ranges. If, for example, the low-heat (110V) heater in a dryer were to short to the dryer case, a serious overcurrent would occur on one "leg" of the circuit.
Another wiring practice, using a single two-pole breaker to power a split circuit which uses a shared neutral, such as may be installed in kitchens in some areas, is nearly certain to have each leg of the circuit loaded independently and thus subject to single-leg overloading and subsequent breaker jamming. A breaker which jams and then fails to trip under this condition is, in my opinion, a serious fire hazard.
A careful reading of the CPSC press release suggests that the press release was very careful NOT to conclude that there is no hazard, but simply that the information at hand did not prove the hazard, and that the Commission did not have funds to pursue testing. In this document, the representation that no real hazard exists is made by the manufacturer of the device - not exactly a neutral party, and even that wording is cautious in tone: "FPE breakers will trip reliably at most overload levels." Readers should see the failure rates cited in the IAEI letter below.
It's the exceptions that cause fires.
Consumers should read and follow the Commission's advice regarding circuit breakers. But this advice is insufficient. The Commission's admonition to avoid overloading circuits and to turn off and have examined devices which seem to be creating a problem is a poor substitute for reliable, automatic, overcurrent protection. It is precisely because dangerous conditions can and do occur without adequate recognition and action by a consumer that circuit breakers and fuses are installed to provide overcurrent protection in the first place.
Therefore it is hardly an adequate "fix" for FPE breakers to just tell consumers to handle these cases manually.
It is possible that some breakers may perform with adequate reliability, possibly those manufactured after the companies discovered safety defects and improper practices in listing the product, and possibly those manufactured in Canada. However, in absence of an explicit statement from the manufacturer and/or the US CPSC indicating that newer stock equipment is defect free, and considering that defects occur in both breakers and the panels themselves, and finally, that testing showed failures in both in-use equipment and new off-the-shelf devices, my advice to consumers and electricians is that these panels be replaced with newer equipment, particularly those which use 240-volt double-pole breakers described in the literature. In my opinion, if a fire or other hazard occurs with this device, neither the manufacturer nor the Commission, who have suggested in the press release that data was inconclusive or inadequate to establish a hazard, will accept responsibility for losses that may ensue.
However a building inspector, home inspector, or contractor who makes any warranty of safety, by virtue of his/her position close to the consumer, is certain bear this very liability.
FEDERAL PACIFIC BREAKERS ARE A KNOWN FIRE HAZARD . REPLACE IMMEDIATELY
Counterfeit Breaker Information:
|WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below,
today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product.
Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless
Name of Product: Counterfeit "Square D" Circuit Breakers
Units: About 300,000 nationwide
Hazard: The recalled circuit breakers labeled "Square D" are counterfeit and might not trip when they are overloaded, posing a fire hazard to consumers.
Incidents/Injuries: Scott Electric Co. is not aware of any incidents or injuries associated with these counterfeit circuit breakers.
Description: The counterfeit circuit breakers include Square D QO-series models 115, 120, 130, 160, 215, 230, 260, 1515, and 1520. Actual Square D circuit breakers have
Counterfied Square-D Circuit Breakers Were Sold through: Scott Electric Co. distributor locations throughout Pennsylvania and Texas in the years 2003 on .They cost $4 up to $25.each .
Consumers should contact Philadelphia Electric Inc. and arrange for an inspection and if necessary, replacement .
To arrange for an inspection or for additional information, contact Philadelphia Electric Inc. 215-9271100 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or log on to www.philadelphiaelectric.com- consumers and contractors can also obtain additional information by calling.
Original CPSC Announcement Regarding the Counterfeit Square D Circuit Breaker
US CPSC Notice Square-D Circuit Breaker Recall
You Get what you pay for . Avoid Fires . Be Safe . If it sounds to good to be true , it is.
"The use of counterfeit electrical equipment is a real hazard to life and
property" said Scott Butler, Chief Executive Officer of the Arabian Anti-Piracy
Alliance, "only genuine goods comply with international safety standards, so
every fake electrical device is a public threat. We have agreed to work jointly
with the manufacturers and provide all of the support needed to the
UAE authorities to help ensure
that these dangerous products are removed from the market before they reach
construction sites and harm people."
Electrical devices are dangerous when installations and circuits are not correctly protected with suitable and reliable devices such as miniature circuit breakers (MCB's), residual current devices (RCD's), molded case circuit breakers (MCCB's) as well as switches and sockets (wiring accessories). These hazards vary from potentially deadly electrical shock, to risks of explosions or fires, and damage to equipment due to overheating.
In addition to their collaboration with the authorities, the electrical industry and the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance will also highlight the presence of fake goods in the market in order to raise the public's awareness about the need to be alert when placing orders for electrical devices. Mr. Kevin Harris, Chairman of EIEMA Anti counterfeiting Committee will hold a seminar about anti-counterfeiting activities at the Dubai Exhibition center on 20th and 21st January 2003.
The public has also been invited to report all electrical counterfeit products to the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance at UAE toll free number 800 43332 or to visit the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance's web site at www.aaa.co.ae
"We want to warn the public against many illegal imitations of electrical devices in the market that look like the original products but do not perform as per international electrical standards," added Sachin Sarpotdar, Head of LV Products Gulf, ABB "The fake trademarks are sold by illegal traders who have no technical competence, but they give a false sense of security to customers, which makes them even more dangerous"
Counterfeit electrical equipment has already caused numerous accidents throughout the world. As a result, the industry has issued many warnings, inviting customers to beware of all products offered at unusually low prices, or through atypical distribution channels.
"No amount of savings can outweigh the threat of loosing your home or your family" added Sean Cain, Managing Director, Hager, " Counterfeit electrical products cause thousands of deadly accidents around the world every year. They represent a grave threat, one that should be taken seriously at all times."