Federal Pacific breakers

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My son bought my father-in-law's house three years ago. During a remodeling job, I did some minor electrical work for him and found out that he has a Federal Pacific breaker box. Now I know that they have problems especially with double pole breakers. My question is when did this proble arise? This house was built in the early 1950's and all I can find out about the problem seems to stem from around the middle sixties.
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I'm not sure when, I thought all FP breakers were all bad. Do a search and you will see that FP breakers are a known problem. Regardless you should have the panel changed.
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http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm
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I think the problem started the day they were designed.

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You can find all kinds of negative information on blogs, as well as plenty of law suits against them. When I started in the electrical trade in the early seventies, most supply companies carried two brands of panels. One would be the quality brand like Square D or Murray, and the other would be the cheap brand which was almost always FPE. We as installers generally hated them and all had stories of how they don't trip, etc etc. The truth is the panel does carry a U.L. label as do the breakers, and although FPE has been out of business for many years, circuit breakers for their stab-lok panels are still being made today. They were being made by the American Circuit breaker co. which sold out to another company who's name escapes me, and they too carry a U.L. label

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I have a FP panel installed about 1979 and I recently found breakers dont trip under full short:(
New panel is a definite must!
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RBM wrote:

Reliance Electric bought FPE and discovered that FPE fraudulently supplied test information to UL. UL then delisted most of the FPE line. Reliance Electric sued the seller of FPE and setteled for about 43 million dollars to cover liability. I believe there is currently a class action law suit in New Jersey. The problem probably covers the 1965 -1980 time period although the current Canadian manufacturer won't say what changes have been made to the line. The problem covers more than 2 pole breakers - some others being not tripping ever at 135% of rating and buss failures.
As indicated in another post the link at http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm has a lot of information of FPE, much of it derived from an investigation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
bud--
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I have one of these panels in my house. I believe it was installed in 1962. I've load tested all of the breakers to see if they trip on overload. They all do. Some newer breakers made in the 1980's do trip faster though, but that would be the case for any brand (the newer ones had white marking instead of red on the handle). The only one I had that failed was a two pole breaker that was really two single pole breakers ganged togather. I separated them and they tested and work fine as single pole breakers (and I would trust two single pole breakers ganged togather with a piece of metal anyway). Having said all of this, I would be highly suspicious of any old FPE 2 pole breakers. No real need to replace the whole panel if you can get new breakers cheap enough. They charge an arm and a leg around here for a new panel install (they don't allow DIY). The new breakers from Canada are perfectly fine. Not sure where you can find those (I got one off eBay).
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Why?
bud--
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Once a FPE breaker trips ONCE its 33% less likely to EVER TRIP AGAIN!
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Once a FPE breaker trips ONCE its 33% less likely to EVER TRIP AGAIN!
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posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

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Tekkie wrote:

Momentarily short the wires?
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I'd like to know too......
<rj>
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no doubt intental short, I must admit I have done this myself.
Anytime I am doing electrical work I turn off the breaker, but intentially short the box just in case I didnt turn off the proper one. like screwdriver between screw and box.
have saved myself some nasty surprises....
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Incidently this is how I found my FPE breakers dont always trip.
turned off what I thought was the right breaker in the middle of a job, pushed the 2 wires together, they sparked, stuck together, and literally fried. length turned brite red and blew apart. the short loaded down the neighborhood, my neighbor was running a circular saw, it quit during the short. my neighbor saw the flash and came over and asked you still alive:( I was working in my garage, adding a outdoor light.
You try your best but when doing jobs things happen....
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

That's what you get for wiring the garage lights with 00 wire. :)
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"Me too."
I've used the dead short method of touching a hot wire to a neutral, but see two problems with it:
- The wires weld together. Not badly, they can be pulled back apart with some force, but there is definitely some metal transfer that weakens at least one of the wire ends.
- The current is a quick spike of a couple hundred amps. This seems like an inadequate test of a 20A breaker -- you still don't know if it will trip at 25A as expected.
My understanding of fuses and breakers is that they typically will run at 110% of the rated capacity indefinitely, and trip at currents exceeding that. So to test a 20A breaker for instance, you would want to put a ~25A load (maybe two blowdryers on a heavy gauge extension cord) on it and wait for the trip. Any problems with this method (or is there a better one)?
It might take a while for the trip to happen... one of my books is showing that a typical 15A fuse will take 3.9 seconds to trip on 30A, and a full 31 seconds if it's a "time delay" type. Breakers have similar behavior: 150% of capacity will take a minute to cause a trip.
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You are certainly right about tripping being a function of load and time. To me it seems a little risky to use wiring, receptacles, and other devices of unknown integrity for load testing of suspected breakers. I would be inclined to remove the breaker and devise some sort of load with a 12 volt car battery. I think high beam headlamps take about 5 amperes each.
Don Young
wrote:

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DONT use 12 V, dc is different, and test only at 120V
shorting out a 120 volt breaker on 12 volts may permanetely daage the breaker. DC can arc a lot
Note: FPE breakers are known for having once been tripped by a short they are 33% less likely to EVER trip again.
So load testing MIGHT be a bad idea.!
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