Ok here is the deal. I went to check out a kitchen remodel job today. Down to the basement I go and in a soft heavenly light stood a 200 amp FPE panel. Plenty of room for circuits, and a bunch of spare breakers waiting to be used. I started to explain that we might want to change the panel, but I really couldn't come up with a good reason why. So here is the problem. I have heard and read about these panels but have yet to really come up with some hard evidence as to a real problem. I will shut up and get ready for the advice now!
Well you can go the usual route and tell them that the trade calls Federal Pacific, FPE-No Blows, and that the really niffty thing about these breakers is that you can weld with them and not have to ever worry about them ever tripping. Even our inspectors are totally against these panels, they wont even accept new ones, and I suppose, to the customer it looks like your trying to sell them something they dont need. Good luck with this one -Mark-
#8448 - 03/22/0208:41 PMRe: Federal Pacific Here we go again!
I don't believe that you can buy UL listed breakers for their old panel. The only ones I've seen for sale are sold at the "Big Orange Box" store, Made in China, and don't have a UL. (Although a few showed up in Florida with counterfeit labels about a year ago). This should give you a little leeway? You know the rest of it. Print off the New York FPE, the link's here in the threads. If you look way back, sparky66wv did an actual (don't try this at home) test with these, I think. The best thing about them is the glowing feeling you get when you throw one of these, or a Zinsco, into the dumpster
#8449 - 03/22/0210:54 PMRe: Federal Pacific Here we go again!
I hate to say this, but "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I know about FPE breakers, but the fact is, they are a problem that we have to live with. It all comes down to the consumer. Scott, educate the customer as best that you possibly can, and if they don't listen, you've done all that you can. Put a clothes pin on your nose, blinders on your eyes, or whatever it takes to get the job done. Whatever you do, don't over load any circuits. Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it! Then, in writing (get them to sign it), show the customer exactly where, and what size circuits you added to the panel. Why? Murphy's Law tells me that the day you walk off the outstanding remodel job you've done, they start having problems with the panel unrelated to anything you've done. Then, they suddenly have a hard time paying you for your work. If there is one thing that I hate worse that an FPE breaker, it's not getting paid !
The Watt Doctor Altura Cogen Channelview, TX
#8450 - 03/23/0212:25 AMRe: Federal Pacific Here we go again!
Depending upon the number of new circuits needed, and the cost of a panel change (does it involve the PoCo and Inspector) the cost of two or three Stab-Lok FPE breakers may offset an entire Murray Panel with Breakers. I've seen them quoted upwards to $50 to $80 for used single pole 20A ones.
I did do a simple experiment involving loads of 200% of a CB rating (40A on a 20A CB), to have the upstream breaker (SQ D 30A and a GE 30A) trip first. I didn't do any bolted fault tests and don't want to even try without arc flash protection. I've heard that some will not trip even bolted.
My mother's dryer cord burned to a crisp when the thermal overload failed in the dryer convinced me to change her panel a few months ago. A typical "no trip" situation being a 120/240V circuit and 2 pole CB.
Be very afraid...
-Virgil Residential/Commercial Inspector 5 Star Inspections Member IAEI
#8451 - 03/23/0206:10 AMRe: Federal Pacific Here we go again!
Hi Scott Remember me? (From that other board) Anyway I try to explain to folks in a calm and rational manner that FPE are trouble. I’ve seen it went on a service call one day (at a lawyers office) it was summer and around 10-11 AM each day the breaker for several window air conditioners tripped. Upon investigation I found them to be on an FPE panel 20Amp circuit. My first thought was wow these things do work. So I reset the breaker and went up and turned on the units. Then with my trusty Amp meter in hand back to the panel I went. Lo and behold 35amps of load!! And it only took 3-4 for a trip!!! Another example during a remodel job removing some old heat circuits I asked my partner if he had killed all circuits. “Yep all dead”, as I proceeded to cut into a 10/2 RX no trip, just pliers welded to the side of a 4” square box. Bottom line my advice is get rid of them. The following web site has some good information, which I have printed out, and shown people in the past it usually does the trick.
Thanks guys I'll take the extra info and keep some copies in my truck. I agree with you all, my concern is showing the customer something that will let them see that I am not just trying to sell them something they don't need.
#8454 - 03/24/0212:48 AMRe: Federal Pacific Here we go again!
Guess what, friends? I went to a trade show last week, and I found a table that had flyers for, of all things, replacement breakers for use in FPE load centers. Manufacturer is UBI (Unique Breakers, Inc.) www.connecticut-electric.com
They also have replacement breakers for Pushmatic load centers.
From their description, these were tested to higher standards the UL.
Thought you might be interested in this info.
#8455 - 03/24/0208:21 PMRe: Federal Pacific Here we go again!