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FPE in Germany

Posted By: Texas_Ranger

FPE in Germany - 11/15/16 11:44 AM

Yesterday an interesting post popped up on Facebook from a German electrician. He actually stumbled across an FPE StabLok unit complete with German (as well as English, French and Italian) factory label, rated 220/380 V 3ph and the MCBs labelled with European trip curves (L and H from what I can decipher). Today there was another post on an American-style box in the same area, this one without the cover, clearly showing an aftermarket main switch and an incoming mains cable with old (pre-1965) German colours. None of the buildings were linked to US facilities in any way.

I wonder if those are just as bad as the ones for the US market! Obviously they must have been produced separately as H and L trip curves didn't exist in the US so they might be more reliable but who knows?

Pictures (should be visible for anyone, even without a Facebook account)
https://scontent-vie1-1.xx.fbcdn.ne...069dfd69f00e23c9b2471c0f&oe=58C34856

According to the circuit directory there are three 3-phase circuits (water heater, washing machine and cooker) and three 1-phase circuits (can't really read much about them).

This is the second one, not sure if it's FPE:
https://scontent-vie1-1.xx.fbcdn.ne...f4d0f01bc7cf149bbbc14621&oe=58BB9DB0

Apparently the odd colours are because the original installer covered all the wires with silicone sleeving.
Posted By: NORCAL

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/16/16 09:47 AM

WOW! Since the Canadian FPE offshoot does not have the same issues as the US models, one can only guess those do not either, with a 380/400/415V supply, a fault could have serious consequences.

Fisher

Price

Electric

laugh
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/17/16 03:55 AM

Interesting!!

Is the factory location listed on the label? FPE had a plant here in Newark, NJ back in the day.

FPE panels are still being swapped out around here. They were popular back in the day.

Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/18/16 09:28 PM

There seems to be an "FPE Schaltgerte GmBH" in Karlsruhe, Germany listed on the label but no indication of the actual production. It's a bit hard to read since the picture is so small.
I googled that name and actually found an extract from a 1962 address directory that includes an ad for FPE. According to that full-page ad the Stab Lok MCBs were actually produced in Germany for the entire European market, production began in 1959.

Here's the ad:
http://digital.blb-karlsruhe.de/blbihd/periodical/pageview/631182

Despite their claims on successful marketing FPE was never actually common in Europe. In fact I've only ever seen two FPE Stab Lok panels in Europe! According to the electrician who posted the picture on Facebook FPE was for some odd reason popular in a small area of Germany a few hundred kilometres north of the FPE factory. Maybe a local wholesaler there was in touch with FPE and got good prices!
Posted By: wa2ise

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/19/16 11:34 PM

Maybe there was a US military base in that area? But that would imply that someone imported FPE stuff into Germany, not the stuff having been made in Germany...
Posted By: uksparx

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/20/16 12:58 AM

We had Federal Electric breakers and panels here in the UK in the 1980s - I installed a good few at the time. I assume this is the same company as FPE, as they used the Stab Lok system. They were not that popular and vanished pretty quickly. I think the main distributor was City Electrical Factors. It's now almost impossible to find breakers it seems.
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/20/16 02:39 PM

Originally Posted by wa2ise
Maybe there was a US military base in that area? But that would imply that someone imported FPE stuff into Germany, not the stuff having been made in Germany...


Well the ads clearly claim that they actually manufactured in Germany so I don't think there's any direct relation to the US military. The buildings where those pictures were taken weren't related to the army either.

I wonder where the equipment for the UK market came from!
Posted By: NORCAL

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/21/16 07:10 AM

Have seen some photos of FPE panels in the UK, but where they (the photos) are is the $64.000 question.
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/21/16 03:43 PM

Are there not voltage differences between the US 120/240 single phase that the Stab-Loc CBs I am used to seeing are rated for??

We also had two (2) Stab-Locs; the 'full size' similar to what is in the pic, and the 'half-size' which IMHO are/were more prevalent here in the US.

Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/21/16 07:02 PM

The second picture seems to show "half-size" ones, these are two different boards. The second one has obviously been modified to accept a standard DIN-rail main switch.

If you google "Federal Electric UK" you'll find plenty of pictures. Apparently they had a plant in Telford well into the mid-1990s when production was taken over by/renamed to Square D and then Schneider.

This is a UK-made StabLok:
http://srselectrical.co.uk/image/cache/data/SRS%20Electrical/DSC00308-500x500.jpg

Later ones were already to European standards (this one being a B 32 A) and light grey instead of black:

http://www.harbordelectrical.co.uk/...LECTRIC_MCB_HBNA-M9_TYPE1__32A_3_POL.JPG

Reports on the internet seem to indicate that the UK MCBs might not suffer from the same issues as the US-made 2-pole ones but partial or total bus meltdown appears to be very common.

And yes, there is an essential difference in the distribution systems used in the US and most of Europe. The majoritiy of European countries uses single-phase two-wire (derived from three-phase four-wire systems) or three-phase four-wire systems operating at nominal 230/400 V or back in the days of FPE/Federal Electric at 220/380 V on the continent and in Ireland and 240/415 V in the UK. Two-pole MCBs were essentially useless in Europe but three-pole ones fairly common, especially in Germany where even everyday loads such as domestic cookers are three-phase loads (usually two rings per phase and the third phase for the oven, all heating elements connected L - N).

FPE Germany (or another yet unknown branch) not only produced MCBs and enclosures though. Yesterday I rummaged through an old box with plugs and trailing sockets and stumbled across a big metal three-phase plug made of die-cast aluminium (15 A/380 V) with the FPE logo! Interestingly the only approval mark is VE, i.e. either this specific type of connector was only standardised in Austria or it was made by a yet unknown Austrian branch of FPE.
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/21/16 08:45 PM

Tex:
Looking at the second pic has my head spinning. Are those breakers listed/rated for two conductors terminated at the load side lug?

The conductor colors is mind blowing to me (a old US guy)

I have to look around for a US FPE panel, with some branch CBs to show you what I refer to as "half size". Basically, the buss accepts either one full size (1" approx.) OR two (2) 'half size" (1/2" approx.).

As soon as I come upon one, I'll take some pics and get them up here. No idea when, but as soon as I find one.

Thanks for all the info!! And, stay safe.
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/22/16 01:03 PM

Doubling lugs on breakers without even asking about ratings is a time-honoured tradition in Austria and Germany so I honestly don't know what FPE had to say about these. General consensus seems to be that two wires of the same size and type (solid or stranded) are reasonably safe but occasionally you see bodge jobs with up to five wires per terminal.

The colours are indeed mind-boggling to anyone, apparently most of the conductors are sleeved for some reason. The grey neutral and red earth conductors conform to the German standards of the era, as do the black, blue and black phases at the main switch. Green was an acceptable phase colour but not used in cable manufacturing, only for conduit singles.

For some strange reason there were two colour coding schemes used at the same time, one for general LV wiring and one for distribution (including low voltage up to the meter or panel). The former specified grey neutral or PEN, red earth (from 1958 onwards) and any colour for phases (although red and grey were only supposed to be used as phases where no earth or neutral was present in the same cable or conduit). The latter system specified yellow, green and purple phases and black PEN/neutral and later grey and even later blue neutrals were used, although with the introduction of blue neutrals and yellow/green earths yellow and green were no longer supposed to be used.

I think now I know what you mean by full and half-size breakers though. Is that what you've got in the bottom row to the right here?

http://inspectapedia.com/fpe/Hemm/FPEHemm09.jpg

Mind you, I've never seen one of these contraptions in real life (thankfully!), only on the internet!
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/22/16 07:36 PM

Tex:

Yes sir, that is the FPE ones I refer to.

They rated panels as "12-24" which translated into 12 full or 24 half size (commonly called 'thins')

GE was another that used the same terminology with full & half size. Some other mfgs had really crazy 'combo' half size that had a double pole, and 2 single poles. If I remember correctly it was Murray or Bryant.

Posted By: andey

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/23/16 10:15 AM

What an interesting thread!
Horrible work in the second panel picture!

Two wires in one lug, that give every american sparky sweaty Hands: only illegal for neutral and ground bars in panels here (Germany, neighbour of Austria).
As for the breakers: The manufacturers decide if you may put in two wires. Most of them allow it. No legal problem then. If the wires are inserted the correct way, not any technical risk either.


@Texas_Ranger: Good to see you are still here! Greetings to Austria!
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/23/16 03:29 PM

Actually I was under the impression that most manufacturers only allow two wires per terminal under very specific circumstances (one 10 and one 6 mm2 in terminals rated for 16 mm2 mainly) but that info isn't easy to get so I might be wrong.

The second picture definitiely has some oddities, such as the sleeving on almost all conductors (compare the thickness of the loose blue wire on the bottom-right to the other conductors (that wire shouldn't have been left hanging there anyway). You can spot the sleeving in other places too, e.g. the green on the third MCB from the bottom on the left that suddenly changes to black and the neutral on the far right that suddenly changes from green to grey or possibly blue.

The spliced neutral with that choc block isn't supposed to be like that either. Then there are those two green wires spliced to blue ones fed straight from the main switch, which is very likely illegal too (unless there is a 10 or 16 A fuse upstream, in that case the whole board would be useless). The coiled up neutrals and earths don't look too good but aren't technically violations.
All MCBs seem to be L 10 amp.

The whole thing just looks batshit crazy to me!
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/23/16 07:21 PM

Tex:
This relates only to the neutral bars here in USA

"408.41 Grounded Conductor Terminations. Each grounded
conductor shall terminate within the panelboard in an individual
terminal that is not also used for another conductor.
Exception: Grounded conductors of circuits with parallel
conductors shall be permitted to terminate in a single terminal
if the terminal is identified for connection of more
than one conductor."

There may/may not be a specific NEC Article concerning CBs, however, it's 1 conductor terminated per lug/screw. UNLESS the mfg instructions say otherwise. The only one that I a aware of for two (2) conductors terminating at one SP CB is Square D. (QO/QOB and others). The lugs are rated/listed for two (2) conductors.

BTW, in pic #2, the red conductor, lower left appears to being used to 'bond' the panel backbox, left lower stud??

Stay safe
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/24/16 09:22 PM

More or less the same wording applies to neutral and earth bus bars in Austria and Germany. Circuit breakers are entirely left to the manufacturers though.

And yes, the red (earth by pre-1965 German standards) obviously bonds the enclosure.
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 11/19/17 12:30 PM

Now it gets truly fascinating! Pictures of MCBs clearly marked "FPE StabLok" but mounted to a DIN rail and with line-side screw terminals and wire jumpers instead of bus bars!

https://scontent-vie1-1.xx.fbcdn.ne...2d6c493f3471ff1654c680cf&oe=5A9AC118

Note the loose unused cable on the left. The three 40 A breakers (bottom-right) seem to serve as splice blocks, I don't see anything connected to the load side. Another truly crazy install!

Here's a closer view:
https://scontent-vie1-1.xx.fbcdn.ne...4788203eabd5a44fda06fb0d&oe=5AAA5879

Now we've got the most common trip curves of the day, H (for household circuits, e.g. lighting and sockets in high loop impedance TN supplies, very fast-acting magnetic trip), L (for general lighting circuits, short-circuit trip identical to modern B) and G (very sensitive thermal overload and generous short-circuit trip, designed for high inrush currents). 40 A wasn't a standard size at that time though, only 35 and 50. The plot thickens!
Posted By: andey

Re: FPE in Germany - 01/10/18 01:45 PM

Ah, there they are! I live in a house in Germany that had a 1963 labeled FPE meter / fuse panel. It hat DIN Rails and matching bakelite housings with 1980s BBC (now ABB) breakers installed, but I always thought it must have come with FPE din rail breakers. Now I know how they must have looked, thanks Texas_Ranger
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 01/17/18 10:37 PM

Cool! I wonder how many of these StabLoks were actually sold, the company doesn't seem to have been around for long!
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: FPE in Germany - 01/18/18 12:07 AM

FPE here in the US was Federal Pacific Electric/Federal Pacific Electrical with FPE as their company logo. As I mentioned earlier, they had a plant here in Newark, NJ back in the day.

Their products ranged from the ‘famous’ Stab-Loc’ CBs, panels, switchgear, fuseable disconnect switches, to transformers (dry type is all I seen) and probably a lot of other items. The ‘Stab-Loc’ logo was also on their line of bolt-on CBs, as well as the ‘lug-lug’ breakers. Their demise was related to the ‘Stab-Loc’ failure to trip, and loss of UL listing. There are still many FPE panels around, they are a favorite item for the Home Inspectors (not AHJs) to write up as “dangerous”, ‘Must be replaced” etc.

Posted By: NORCAL

Re: FPE in Germany - 01/29/18 05:50 AM

Check out this thread at another forum, not Stab-Lok, but may of interest. https://www.electriciansforums.co.uk/threads/federal-electric.122338/
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 02/12/18 07:43 PM

Originally Posted by HotLine1

Their products ranged from the ‘famous’ Stab-Loc’ CBs, panels, switchgear, fuseable disconnect switches, to transformers (dry type is all I seen) and probably a lot of other items. The ‘Stab-Loc’ logo was also on their line of bolt-on CBs, as well as the ‘lug-lug’ breakers. Their demise was related to the ‘Stab-Loc’ failure to trip, and loss of UL listing. There are still many FPE panels around, they are a favorite item for the Home Inspectors (not AHJs) to write up as “dangerous”, ‘Must be replaced” etc.



Now that makes sense, thanks for the info! The lug - lug MCBs you mention were probably very similar to the DIN rail types in the picture above except for the different mounting.

I suppose most countries had their share of non-trip MCBs. Austria definitely had, I once witnessed a 1961 Schrack MCB repeatedly refusing to trip on a dead short. Luckily an upstream fuse did blow and prevented any serious danger. BTW; I never managed to figure out the exact cause of the short. It occurred in a floor lamp with a US 3-way ES26 socket with a regular (single-filament) ES27 bulb in it, a configuration that had worked fine for several years. After trying and failing to find the fault we disposed of the lamp, all the better considering the exposed screw thread of an ES27 bulb in an ES26 holder combined with non-polarised plugs.
Posted By: NORCAL

Re: FPE in Germany - 03/06/18 08:18 AM

Found this in a discussion of FPE, UK in origin.

http://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=431336
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 03/06/18 12:20 PM

Ewwwww, the magnetic trip is a lot more than questionnable! Thanks for the link!

The German-made ones might be different though since they were clearly built to VDE specifications - or at least labelled, this being FPE.
Posted By: andey

Re: FPE in Germany - 10/14/19 02:14 PM

Originally Posted by andey
Ah, there they are! I live in a house in Germany that had a 1963 labeled FPE meter / fuse panel. It hat DIN Rails and matching bakelite housings with 1980s BBC (now ABB) breakers installed, but I always thought it must have come with FPE din rail breakers. Now I know how they must have looked, thanks Texas_Ranger


Quoting my own message. I knew houses in my German neighbourhood had FPE breaker panels from the 60s. Today I spied this panel through an open door in a neighbour house that is being remodeled. I hope they're throwing the old stuff out!

https://www.electrical-contractor.n...220345/fpe-breaker-panel-in-germany.html

Posted By: NORCAL

Re: FPE in Germany - 10/16/19 12:24 PM

Fisher

Price

Electric

For anyone who does not know,Fisher Price is a toy manufacturer & I have no clue as to their international exposure.
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 10/29/19 10:12 AM

Originally Posted by NORCAL
Fisher

Price

Electric

For anyone who does not know,Fisher Price is a toy manufacturer & I have no clue as to their international exposure.


Fisher Price is definitely well-known throughout Europe! I guess almost everyone who's been anywhere near an average toddler in the last 50 years has seen some Fisher Price toys.

I still wonder if the German FPE equipment was any good! The MCBs were obviously manufactured to German specs so they weren't identical to their US counterparts. Considering their age they should be replaced anyway though.
Posted By: andey

Re: FPE in Germany - 12/09/19 06:49 PM

Neighbour got her panel redone and I got the breakers. Photos here. Looks like they have the bimetal thermal trip and also an instant magnetic trip. You can also see they did not have a din rail mount as I had guessed. They had a thin stripe of sheet metal that went into a slot at the bottom of the mounting plate, and then were fixed with a screw on the top side.

@Texas Ranger, send me a message with your address, if you want a few of them.

https://www.electrical-contractor.n...alleries/220378/fpe-in-germany-pt-2.html
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 12/10/19 11:23 PM

Cool, thanks for the pictures!
The DIN rail was still a very new thing when these were manufactured I think, if it had been invented at all, so I'd have been surprised if they did have a DIN-rail mount!
Posted By: Trumpy

Re: FPE in Germany - 12/12/19 08:29 AM

I would like to go out on a limb here and say that the whole world should use DIN rail mount equipment.
It is so simple to work with, I mean unless you are dealing with an elderly building that still has HRC fuses or what-not, tear it out and use metric DIN rail stuff.
You can work live on DIN rail stuff, simple as, all the breakers are the same physical size, apart from the width for multi-phase circuits.
No connection issues, just do your terminals up tight and you're done.
Posted By: NORCAL

Re: FPE in Germany - 12/16/19 05:45 AM

Originally Posted by Trumpy
I would like to go out on a limb here and say that the whole world should use DIN rail mount equipment.
It is so simple to work with, I mean unless you are dealing with an elderly building that still has HRC fuses or what-not, tear it out and use metric DIN rail stuff.
You can work live on DIN rail stuff, simple as, all the breakers are the same physical size, apart from the width for multi-phase circuits.
No connection issues, just do your terminals up tight and you're done.



I would rather not see DIN rail panels here as standard, DIN rail has it's place & even saved my bacon, but have no desire to see a rule change allowing DIN rail panels.
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 12/20/19 10:59 PM

Originally Posted by Trumpy
I would like to go out on a limb here and say that the whole world should use DIN rail mount equipment.
It is so simple to work with, I mean unless you are dealing with an elderly building that still has HRC fuses or what-not, tear it out and use metric DIN rail stuff.
You can work live on DIN rail stuff, simple as, all the breakers are the same physical size, apart from the width for multi-phase circuits.
No connection issues, just do your terminals up tight and you're done.


Actually that isn't quite true. As soon as you get to bus bars you're back to type testing and only combining parts from the same manufacturer. Neither the height of devices nor the distance between the terminals and the front of the device are completely standardised, so you can be a few mm off, enough to cause overheating under high load. UK manufacturers also have a whole range of completely incompatible RCBOs that are much taller than standard MCBs, requiring much larger enclosures.

Apart from that I think the great thing with DIN rails is the sheer variety of available devices - MCBs, RCDs, relays, contactors, switches, dimmers, sockets, motor relays, doorbell transformers, doorbells, bus actors, you name it!

And you can always get around the issue with type testing by using wire links in a pinch (replacing an old MCB or RCD that's no longer available).
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 01/08/20 12:46 PM

Another bit of trivia: the moulded shells of the German FPE MCBs carry an MPAD mark, which was essentially a trading standards system for cast parts, specifying the manufacturer and material type. The material is given as Type 31, which is plain old bakelite. The manufacturer code is TM, which translates as "Kunststoff- und Metallwarenfabrik Johann Kuehnl & Co. K.G., Karlsruhe i.B." (Plastic and Metal Products Johann Kuehnl). The manufacturer code isn't included in any of the lists that float around on the web so that took some digging and asking around.
Posted By: WaterIngress

Re: FPE in Germany - 04/30/20 10:19 AM

Question- why do these German FPEs have a trip coil but not the British versions?
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 05/04/20 09:50 AM

Originally Posted by WaterIngress
Question- why do these German FPEs have a trip coil but not the British versions?


Probably because the VDE regs. required it, so they couldn't get away without it. These MCBs were quite specifically built to German standards, including the trip curves H (household, very sensitive magnetic trip, 3*In, for TN-C supplies), L (lighting, magnetic trip similar to modern B), both with fairly slow thermal trip, and G (sensitive thermal trip, very slow magnetic trip, for large motors).
Posted By: WaterIngress

Re: FPE in Germany - 05/16/20 10:38 AM

3x? Why so sensitive?
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: FPE in Germany - 05/17/20 09:21 AM

Originally Posted by WaterIngress
3x? Why so sensitive?

For high-impedance TN supplies apparently, to make sure the MCB trips even if the prospective fault current is quite low. They were phased out some time in the 70s.
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