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
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?)
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
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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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.
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
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
'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.
On 26 May 2004 01:54:41 -0700, firstname.lastname@example.org (Jeff) wrote:
Pull the power *before* standing in the puddle and fooling with the
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.
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
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.
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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
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