Upgrade Main Panel

I own a home in El Dorado Hills, Ca. that was built in 1967. I have a FPE Stab-Lok 125 Amp Main Electrical Panel. Aluminum fed to the meter, and 3 aluminum drops to the dryer,cooktop and the stove.(all 3 seperate and dedicated to each circuit) Shortly after moving in, my stovetop shorted out and caught fire. The dedicated 2 pole 30 amp breaker failed to open.(Good thing I was home when it happened).So I replaced the breaker for $28 bucks and thought nothing of it. Just this week my clothes dryer kept tripping the breaker, so I switched it out with the breaker from my cooktoop circuit.(Since it was new and same size)Problem diagnosed, seemed easy enough. However, in my search for a replacement breaker I have read some horror stories about FPE Stab-Lok Panels and their breakers. Because of this and the outrageous prices of these old style breakers, I have decided to replace my panel. I don't think I need to upgrade the size, as 125 amps seems to be sufficient.
My question to anyone who may have had a similar project or can steer me in the right direction is:
Can I just upgrade the guts of my panel using the existing can?(I noticed that stablok has a new style upgrade kit)OR(Can another brand be used to upgrade the old can?)
OR
Should I plan on removing and replacing the whole thing?
I plan on doing the work myself to save money since I was recently laid off from my job. I got the NEC code book and all the info for pulling permits and having the power company disconnecting my service while i do the rehab.
Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for any advice!
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If I were you I would replace the Aluminum feeds from the meter to all house circuits with copper feeds.Aluminum fed circuits has been found to cause many house fires due to corrosion and a loose connection caused by expansion and contraction.Compatibility with other metals is a factor.Aluminum is not allowed in this area for equipment feeds.Not sure if it is nation wide.

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<<Joe>> wrote:

Drops are often aluminum and are not a problem as long as they are properly installed with devices designed for aluminum. The few heavy lines indicated also should be no problem, again if all wire connections are rated for aluminum and properly used.
If any other lines are aluminum in the home, I would consider replacing them or having each device in the house checked as a safety measure.

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Joseph E. Meehan

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<<Joe>> wrote:> If I were you I would replace the Aluminum feeds from the meter to all house

30A and larger aluminum wiring is not a problem if the wires are terminated properly (and they usually are.) Smaller than 30A are often not terminated properly -- a problem with lots of houses built in the 1970's.
But while the meter is out, it might be a good idea to check the connections at the meter lugs. You don't get many opportunities to inspect those.
Bob
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'If I were you I would replace the Aluminum feeds from the meter to all house circuits with copper feeds.Aluminum fed circuits has been found to cause many house fires due to corrosion and a loose connection caused by expansion and contraction.Compatibility with other metals is a factor.Aluminum is not allowed in this area for equipment feeds.Not sure if it is nation wide.'
ME: I agree. I replace burnt aluminum wire handling Electric Furnaces all the time, with copper thhn type.
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On 26 May 2004 01:54:41 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net (Jeff) wrote:

Not normally.

Probably.
Pull the power *before* standing in the puddle and fooling with the wires... :)
It's not rocket science, label everything and make sure the new panel will fit in the space and with the wire lengths before removing the old one. Make sure the new breakers for the heavy appliances are designed for aluminum wire, and make sure the appliance ends of the circuits are as well.
Jeff
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A couple of random comments:
[I assume everything but the big appliances and main feed are copper.]
Canadian FPE breakers (which are still being manufactured) are comparably priced with other popular breaker types, and haven't had the problems the US ones have. You may wish to consider mail order from a Canadian supplier. I suspect you could order them from Canadian Tire or Home Hardware's web sites. These will probably be UL listed, so there won't be any issue with code compliance/insurance.
It is a good opportunity to carefully check out all of the aluminum connections for your larger appliances. Your breaker problems may have been caused originally by connection problems (eg: overheating on the aluminum connections). Also check that the appliance receptacles (if so equipped) and wirenuts are rated for Al/Cu or CO/ALR.
Taking the time to redo the connections and apply the appropriate deoxidant grease to the terminations (both ends!) and/or replacing the receptacles if they're not Al-rated is probably just as good, and a lot easier/cheaper than replacing the circuits with copper.
That plus using Canadian-source FPE breakers will _probably_ get your panel up to snuff.
Was your stove fire on the Al bits, or internal?
If you do choose to replace the panel, I wouldn't suggest even trying to reuse the "can" - the equipment isn't remotely mechanically compatible at all. Buy a new one of approximately the same size/circuit hole arrangement, and swap the _whole_ thing.
If the electricians put slack in the circuits to the panel, this should be relatively easy. But I do recommend clipping off the stripped bits and restripping the wire (to get rid of the work-hardened copper and Al on the ends).
If there isn't enough slack, this can be a real PITA.
You will have to do extensive pre-planning on your breaker allocations to make sure that none of the circuits come up short.
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Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
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My existing panel is framed into the side of my house with an underground feed and the wall is stucco. I was just trying to avoid the patching and painting part of this project. I found a website that sells upgrade kits to use on existing panels. It looks like it has a spot for a new bolt on main breaker and utilizes the old box to mount new bus bars and the whole shooting match will be new on the inside. The breakers are supposed to be a new and improved stab-lok type.
Has anyone else heard of these or tried using them?

Plenty of slack, so swinging the drops will be no problem.
I checked all my aluminum connections like you said. I didn't know if the wire nuts were the right ones so I replaced them on two of the hardwired circuits. I inspected the wires and they all looked good with no signs of arcing or corrosion. I applied some noax grease with al/cu rated wire nuts in the 4 gang box next to each appliance, and I went ahead and replaced the 240V dryer outlet just so I knew all my aluminum connections were up to snuff.
Thanks for your comments Chris, I appreciate any input on this subject.
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Chris Lewis posted for all of us....

He he that's punny...
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Tekkie

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