Just moved into an eighteen year old condo that has a federal pacific
electric breaker panel with challenger circuit breakers.
I have an 1988 vintage GE electric combination electric range/oven
with an integrated over the range microwave.
Every time I use the electric range, its oven, and the microwave
together, the range circuit breaker in the panel box trips. This
circuitbreaker is double breaker that has 40 on its two tandem
switches which I assume is an 80 amp double breaker.
I am looking for professional opinions
Is it possible the 80 amp breaker is bad??
Would the total draw of the range its oven and the micro on at the
same time cause an 80 amp rated breaker to trip??
Thanks for your help
I wouldn't just assume that the appliances are in fact overloading the
breaker and tripping it.
One of the ways that a breaker can trip is from higher than normal
temperatures in the breaker itself. And THAT can happen if the
breaker "stab" connections have high resistance. And *that* type
of failure at the stab is a hallmark of the FPE design.
In my opinion, a double 40Amp (thin) in one of those panels
is simply asking for trouble.
How will you find out? With an Amprobe clamp-on meter,
measure the actual current draw. If it's below the rating,
then you can assume the breaker/panel is at fault.
Plan "B": Open the piggy bank to have a new panel installed.
It's a 40 amp double pole breaker, for 240V service. A single breaker
only provides one phase of 120V. (240V is provided by having two 120V
phases 180 degrees out.)
What is the maximum current rating on the range unit? (I can't tell
from your description, but it sounds like the microwave is actually part
of the whole deal?) If it's over 40A, then you likely need to upgrade
the service to the range to 50A or so. Unless you can determine that
the existing wire is suitable for 50A you're probably looking at having
new wire run.
DO NOT just replace the breaker with a higher rated one.
If the microwave is a separate unit, it should not be sharing a circuit
with the range. It probably needs a 15A or 20A 120V circuit of its own.
Additionally, I've heard bad things about FPE equipment. Not sure if
the panelboards themselves were shitty, but you should feel lucky that
you don't have FPE breakers.
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
It is a 40 amp breaker, it's probably bad.
You'll probably get all sorts of warnings of dire consequences if you
don't immediately replace the panel.
Well, I've lived in two houses that both had Federal panels. If fact,
in the area there are 100's of homes with Federal panels.
I've never experienced any problems with my panels or heard of any
problems in the area. Of course, this is purely anecdotal evidence
so, what's it worth?
I bought enough new breakers to replace the mis-behaving ones in the
two houses mentioned above
I bought them on ebay from this guy
NEW PUSHMATIC ITE Bulldog 2 Pole BREAKER 40 Amp P240
Item number: 150066580169 ~$60 + shipping
He has well functioning used ones & "new old stock" ones......I bought
new ones the replace any balky breakers AND any breakers more than 15
years old. The new ones worked great, crisp on/off function, not the
sloppy on/off behavior of the 45 year old ones.
His used ones are ~$25 + shipping
Well, you've got me puzzled with the above advice.
ITE/Bulldog Pushmatic breakers are NOT the same as FPE breakers.
They are weird bushbutton activated breakers used in panels originally
made by the "Bulldog Electric Corp".
They have bolted on connections, not the same as the FPE stab lock
connections. ITE later bought out Bulldog Electric.
I've got two places that still use them.
Good point....... I may have given bad advice.
Could you explain further, my experience is with Bulldog Pushmatic
breakers / panels installed in the late 50's / early 60's in area
where I grew up.
The breaker / panels I'm thinking of have small screws (~10-24?) that
attach the breakers to the bus.
These breakers are cycled on/off by pushing on the face of the
breaker. The breakers have little "windows" that display a white
"on" & a black "off" label when cycled.
The mis-behavior is failure to crisply cycle on/off and the labels
sometimes fail to cycle as well.
Are Bulldog Pushmatic breakers / panels the ones that people worry
about or is it the later ones?
I have found that the Bulldog Pushmatic breakers work fine when new
(less than 20 years old) but a little balky when older.
So Doug, is what you're saying is the Bulldog Pushmatic breakers /
panels are more or less ok but the FPE breakers / panels are the
btw >>>>They are weird bushbutton activated breakers<<<<<
they're not weird, they are totally "space age", a product of their
Although Pushmatics do experience aging problems, they are not
the ones with the long history of serious problems:
That's a 40 amp 240 V circuit breaker. It has two poles in order to
monitor both sides of the circuit and so both sides of the circuit get
disconnected when it is tripped or shut off, but it passes only 40 A.
40 A is normal for a stove circuit, so you might just have a bad
breaker. It happens.
On the other hand, most stoves do not have a built-in microwave oven,
and in most kitchens the microwave is either plugged into a counter
outlet, or it may be part of the range hood - either way it's on a
different circuit from the stove. So it is possible that this
particular stove needs a larger circuit if you're going to use
range/oven/microwave all at the same time. GE doesn't seem to make that
style of combination unit any more, so I can't see what one is rated to
draw. Check for a nameplate somewhere on the stove.
The best way to tell whether the breaker is bad or whether it really
should be tripping is with a clamp-on AC ammmeter around one of the
wires (but not both!) leaving the breaker in the panel.
By the way, our house was built in 1989, has a FP panel, and everything
seems to be fine (except that a previous owner put a 20 A breaker on a
15 amp circuit).
Others have covered this pretty well BUT...
I just went through the exact same scenario and found it was the "stab"
which sticks up from the main bar in the breaker box, and sends juice
into the breaker was badly burnt - had all kinds of crud burnt onto it.
Had to replace the breaker (obviously part of the problem) AND had to
file the burnt crap off of the stab. Very important as otherwise the
contact will remain poor and the thing will fail again shortly. Also, I
could not find an exact replacement for the breaker and wound up getting
a quad breaker (40/30). Was lucky in that I had space. My house was
built in 1990. Remember to turn off main power before messing in there!!!
I've seen a number of those combo stove/oven/microwave units in my area.
The builders installed them in condos and townhouses. It is one unit fed by
a single 40 amp 230 volt circuit. The most simple thing to do is replace
the circuit breaker and see if that corrects the problem. What I don't
understand is how you have Challenger circuit breakers in a FPE panel? I'm
wondering if a previous owner pulled a fast one and swapped out the FPE guts
for Challenger innards. If so it is not an acceptable set up. To my
knowledge Challenger never made circuit breakers that were compatible with
FPE. Challenger is no longer in business, but a Siemens type BR circuit
breaker should work.
As others noted, that's a 40A breaker, not 80A.
At first thought was one of the GE "radar range" combination units w/
microwave in the oven but gather that isn't the case. Have one of
them of same vintage also w/ FPE panel. Don't have book handy to
check but just happened to be working on the range the other day (self-
cleaning unlock thermostat) and noticed it is on a 50A breaker.
But, as someone else said, don't change breaker w/o ensuring wiring is
adequate and while like yet another poster said I've never had a
problem w/ the FPE breakers/panels in 40-some years, wouldn't hurt to
check the breaker for temperature (does it feel warm? Shouldn't) and
if comfortable messing around in a panel, check the breaker itself for
connection. Wouldn't hurt to check the connections to the breaker and
the other end as well -- possible they might have run an AL cable for
the size at that vintage and there's some oxidation on terminals. If
can't find something obvious, probably best bet is to then get an
electrician in to look things over. Obviously, try to find the manual
for the range and see what it recommends. If don't have it and can't
find it on the back of the oven, check w/ GE direct contact or a GE
appliance outlet (not a BORG, a real dealer who also services and will
have information can look the older unit up or know).
As to FPE stab lock. I am the unfortunate owner of one of those panels
and am planning on replacing it this spring for SAFETY reasons.Would
of done it sooner lack of $$$ need to upgfrade to 200 amps. Existing
is 100 amp service here.
I accidently shorted a wire and watched it vaporize and explode:(
The #$@%$ breaker never tripped. Once a stab lock breaker trips ONCE
its 33% less likely to EVER trip again. Just search this panel and you
The company falsified tests and went out of business over the mess.
Its a real fire hazard!!!!!!!
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.