Do homeowners NEED to replace Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok circuit breaker panels?

There have been grave concerns about the safety and reliability of such panels over the decades. However, it’s my understanding that they can be very expensive to replace.

Confused here. I don’t read the “panels” are dangerous, just the breakers. Am I reading that right? If so, just replace the snap in / out breakers. Right?

" Fifty-one percent of the tested breakers failed to trip.

No offense, robertpri, but a portion of this article reads:

CPSC recommends getting this type of panel inspected by a qualified electrician “to look for any signs of overheating or malfunction among the circuit breakers.” However, after testing over 4,000 breakers, [Jesse] Aronstein states that you can only identify a defective Stab-Lok breaker by first removing it and then testing it. This process can be more expensive than installing a new, less risky Federal Pacific Electrical panel or any other brand. In many cases, it makes more sense to replace an FPE Stab-Lok panel.

None taken. But Fifty-one percent of the tested breakers failed to trip.

I can’t understand why would have to change the entire panel $$$$$ instead of just the breakers.

"…you can only identify a defective Stab-Lok breaker by first removing it and then testing it. " Sounds like just the breakers could be faulty.

The inspector recommended replacement of the panel when I purchased my house 20 years ago. I probably waited another 2-3 years but when I needed electrical work done during a remodel I had them change out the panel at the same time.

I’m not downplaying the possible danger. I did a lot of fire fighting training with the USFS, and fought more than a few fires in the Cascades

But I also prefer to replace the cause of danger.

Not all breakers are standard. I worked on a panel at a house built in th emid 80’s that used very thin and short breakers. The local electrical supply company said that they don’t have any type of replacements and perhaps someone might have them on Ebay or maybe some company still has stock.

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Good advice. I will check tomorrow for what I have…then worry…or not

I don’t think the OP understands that the panel is just a piece of metal with holes in it.

The distribution bus that all the breakers attach to and the metal box that holds the whole thing, plus the main breaker might have to be replaced to accommodate currently available breakers.

Given the likely number of the questionable breakers still in use today there may be a source for breakers that will fit in the old panel.

Many of my contractor friends swear by Square D breaker panels. They have been around a long time.

20 years ago I lived in a small starter home that had a Sylvania panel. I wanted to add a heat pump and my electrician buddy came to make sure my panel had enough capacity. When he saw the panel he said: “This has got to be replaced!”. He installed a Square D. That’s all most guys around here use.

The panel I discussed is a Zinsco panel (What to do if You Have a Zinsco Panel in Your Home) and replacement breakers may be $90 each. It is cheaper to replace the panel I’m sure.

Looking at this photo you can see it is not great.

Three of the holding screws are missing and the last is a wood screw not a machine screw. The property owner is going to have to replace this panel with a new one and upgrade to 200 amp service from the 100 amp currently. This particular box is on the side of the house with open area behind, so no drilling, no wall to replace, etc, just an open crawl space behind and lattice wall.

My house is pretty much the same with access behind the panel (which also needs replacing fairly soon).

Can’t be sure what you are getting. Fb falsified test results to pass their breakers. Replacement breakers are not from a reliable source

Do you have one of those panels? If not you shouldn’t worry, but it’s not a bad idea to have an electrician take a look. The problem is that these panels are usually proprietary to a particular type of breaker. The way they clip in is different so you have to have breakers that match the panel. Square D is a major and well known breaker, but even within Square D there are different breakers. Swapping out the breakers isn’t that difficult, but replacing the panel is a chore. You have to turn off the power to the house at the meter and move the whole supply cable into the new panel. If you do it, be very careful about using those new Arc-Fault breakers. They are a nightmare for tripping easily. If you know an electrician yo may be able to pick up a panel with breakers at a discount. I’m looking for one from a fiend now. It appears that you can find replacement breakers from 3rd party manufacturers, but if you plan t stay in the house I’d replace the whole panel. It should even add some value to your house should you sell it.