Why Do Federal Pacific Electric Panels Malfunction?

Experts Have Identified Three Major Reasons

Experts report that Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) circuit breaker panels may have three major faults that could pose a danger:

1. Federal Pacific Electric panels may not meet today's updated safety codes.

Federal Pacific Electric panels were produced from the mid-1950s well into the 1980s. Experts say that FPE panels produced during that time frame would not conform to today's updated safety codes and would no longer be allowed to be sold to the general public. Safety standards that were once acceptable years ago are no longer considered safe. Some of the examples cited by experts as to why FPE panels would not pass today's updated safety codes are:

  • Wires may be crowded inside the panel box.
  • Bus bars may be spring-mounted.
  • Breakers may be still active when in the down position.
  • Split-bus breakers may no longer meet updated safety codes.

2. Federal Pacific Electric panels may have significant design flaws.

Experts report that the identified design flaws in FPE panels are not shared with other panels of similar age. Specifically, examples of design flaws in Federal Pacific Electric panels include:

  • Breakers may unexpectedly trip when the deadfront cover is removed.
  • Breakers may have loose connections to the bus bars.
  • Breakers are often jammed within their sockets, which can cause overcrowding within the panel.
  • Breakers can easily split when placed into sockets.

3. Federal Pacific Electric panels may have manufacturing defects.

Using UL 289 test conditions, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that Federal Pacific Electric panels may be unfit for homes. The materials used to construct the breakers may be weak. As a result, the breakers may not trip, and the panel could be susceptible to catching on fire.


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