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What to Do If You Have an FPE Panel

Posted on: January 31, 2014

From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Federal Pacific Electrical Company (FPE) installed electrical panels in millions of homes across the country. Unfortunately, these electrical panels are basically recipes for disaster—over the years, electricians and home inspectors have found that FPE panels often fail to protect homes from overcurrent or short circuits. The danger seems to happen randomly: even if panels have been installed and working properly for years, a single incident can quickly cause the panel to overheat and create a major fire hazard.

Remember—circuit panels trip in response to unusual surges of electricity. If they fail to trip, as FPE panels often do, those electrical surges cannot be stopped or shut off manually and will move through your home until they run out of fuel or until the wires burn out. This could cause the panel to overheat and catch fire, leading to a potentially serious disaster.

Why Federal Pacific Electric Panels?

FPE panels may not be up to modern safety codes – electrical safety standards have been updated significantly since the 1980s, and experts say that FPE panels, which were produced from the 50s and into the 80s, do not meet these updated standards. Some of the deficiencies noted by home inspectors include:

  • Wires crowded in the panel box
  • Spring-mounted bus bars
  • Breakers still active even in the OFF position
  • Split-bus breakers that no longer meet updated safety codes

FPE panels may have serious design flaws – not only do FPE panels not meet modern safety standards, but they also came with some serious design flaws that weren’t even common among panels built around the same time. Some of the most significant flaws include:

  • Breakers that trip unexpectedly when the deadfront cover is removed
  • Loose connections between the breakers and the bus bars
  • Breakers jammed into their sockets, which leads to overcrowding
  • Breakers that easily split when placed in the sockets

FPE panels may have manufacturing defects – as if that weren’t enough, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has noted a number of defects that make FPE panels unfit for homes, including weak materials used to construct the breakers that may prevent them from tripping and could cause the panel to catch fire.

What should you do if you have an FPE panel?

If you live in an older home and you’re worried your panel might be a danger, call Kolb Electric. Our trained electricians are familiar with the potential hazards of FPE and other outdated panels and can replace your existing panel with a modern panel that will keep your home safe for decades.

For more information about circuit panel replacement in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC, call Kolb Electric today.

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