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FPE breakers and home inspection #56663
09/28/05 04:07 PM
09/28/05 04:07 PM
Jps1006  Offline OP
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 615
Northern IL
I got a call to look at correcting a home inspectors list on a realtor's sale. One line item the inspector mentions is the FPE panel. What do you guys do for these? The HI (Home inspector)'s job is to normally raise an issue and then say "have qualified electrican make recommendation". Basically saying "This doesn't look good, but I'm not qualified to know for sure".

What can I do but offer up facts?

The equipment passed standards at the time of installation.

Most people would agree (myself included) that there is more of hazard present with this panel in your house than with a different brand.

I can't say that the this panel specically is a hazard or not. I can recommend it be changed, but other than that I can't say it a manditory change like I could for an NEC violation.

First question: Agree or disagree with the above? Any additions?

Second question: If I recommend and don't require replacement, do I then obstain from the small repairs to the panel like replace exposed romex etc.?

Problem is, she's a friend of my Mom's. Regular customer and I say, "must be replaced if I touch it". Don't really care if I am helpful or not in their eyes (care if I'm helpful, but less concerned of if they think I'm helpful) but when it gets a little tricky, don't want to come off the wrong way.

Thanks for listening, typing this has helped me think this through. Still interested in comments.

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades
Re: FPE breakers and home inspection #56664
09/28/05 04:23 PM
09/28/05 04:23 PM
maintenanceguy  Offline
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 300
Southern NJ, USA
FPE's were never recalled. But the stablock breakers have a reputation for loosening over time and overheating, sometimes catching fire. Since there was no recall, the consumer products safety people didn't think the data suggested emminent danger.

Is the hazard higher than with other panels, probably a little but there's always some risk with electricity.

If they're willing to pay for something to be done, I'd think checking breakers with an ir thermometer under load would be right, maybe looking for signs of overheating at the busses.

But most importantly, put it in writing that you don't know what will happen tomorrow or the next day, just what it looked like today.

Just my free advice...worth every penny.

Re: FPE breakers and home inspection #56665
09/28/05 04:39 PM
09/28/05 04:39 PM
gfretwell  Offline

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,343
From what I see of home inspectors, the customer would be better off just calling a qualified electrical professional in the first place. They are going to look until they find something, just to justify their job, then it will need further evaluation.

Greg Fretwell
Re: FPE breakers and home inspection #56666
09/28/05 05:13 PM
09/28/05 05:13 PM
sandsnow  Offline
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 167
Irvine, CA, USA
Do a search here and at the Mike Holt site. This has been discussed ad infinitum. You will find links to CPSC stuff, horror stories, etc.

With that you should be able to make a call you can believe in.

Some insurance companies will not insure a house with an FPE service. Previous is second hand info.

If the exposed romex is a violation, I would think it would need to be corrected, service change or not.

Larry LeVoir
City of Irvine, CA
Re: FPE breakers and home inspection #56667
09/28/05 11:49 PM
09/28/05 11:49 PM
BigB  Offline
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 740
Tucson, AZ USA
Here is what I do. I tell them the FPE panels may have issues, and I tell them to go online and do a search on Federal Pacific. This way they are the ones to decide if it should be replaced or not. (Of course if the panel is obviously deteriorated we don't get this far). Once they do the research, they usually call for a replacement. And everyone is happy.

Re: FPE breakers and home inspection #56668
09/29/05 08:38 PM
09/29/05 08:38 PM
harold endean  Offline
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 2,233
Boonton, NJ
I would do the same thing as BigB. I would tell the HO that the FPE panels were never offically recalled, The panels are now on an "Obsolete" list for this type of panel. You can still get replacement breakers here (NJ)for about triple the price of regular breakers. They have a bad reputation for not tripping, but that the HO should do some homework and research the panel on the web. In the 25 years of doing electrical work, I just saw last year a fire job that was caused by the service panel. And guess what the panel was!? That was the first and last time I have seen that, yet I remember when I was working were I shorted out a phase wire and the breaker didn't trip.


Re: FPE breakers and home inspection #56669
09/29/05 08:57 PM
09/29/05 08:57 PM
renosteinke  Offline
Cat Servant
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
Blue Collar Country
When I see an FPE panel...I know the work is somewhat dated.

My main concern is not the panel, as much as what other changes have been made to the electrical system over the years. I start looking for those other things....flying splices, overloaded circuits, etc.

When FPE panels were all the rage, ten spaces were considered more than enough for a large home. Today, that might even not be enough for the kitchen! We just have so many more appliances!

Re: FPE breakers and home inspection #56670
09/29/05 09:13 PM
09/29/05 09:13 PM
Joe Tedesco  Offline
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 2,749
Boston, Massachusetts USA

Joe Tedesco, NEC Consultant
Re: FPE breakers and home inspection #56671
09/30/05 05:02 PM
09/30/05 05:02 PM
Jps1006  Offline OP
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 615
Northern IL
Great info guys. Thanks. Joe, Great link. Just printed it off and will be in the customer's hands within the hour.

Re: FPE breakers and home inspection #56672
10/01/05 11:53 PM
10/01/05 11:53 PM
ShockMe77  Offline
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 821
Rahway, New Jersey
I wish I could find the the PDF file I was reading a month or two ago. It had a lot of facts concerning FPE breakers and the problems that company had over the years since it went out of business. I read that alot of their material wasn't realy UL listed but was in fact "forged" to have been. Space for the wire bends inside the panel was a real issue as was circuit breakers not tripping out at the specific rating on the breaker itself.

Now on to these home inspector guys...

A guy I work with just bought a house and was having a home inspection done. The wiseass I work with asked what the "big 30 amp" circuit breaker was for. Wanna know what the home inspector told him? Kitchen lighting. No joke. Then he told him he was an electrician and that the D.P ckt bkr was for a garage sub-panel.

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