Federal Pacific Breakers
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One of the most critical aspects of your home’s electrical system is the circuit breaker. It acts as a safety net, preventing electrical overloads that can cause fires and other hazards. So, it’s essential to have a reliable and efficient circuit breaker for your home. However, if your home was built before the 1980s, it’s highly likely that it contains a Federal Pacific breaker. And this is where the concern arises.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE) was one of the top manufacturers of circuit breakers in the United States. These breakers were widely installed in homes across the country, including in Providence County, Rhode Island. However, in the 1980s, numerous reports of malfunction and failure of Federal Pacific breakers surfaced, raising serious concerns about their safety.
The controversy surrounding Federal Pacific breakers has been ongoing for decades, leading to a state of confusion for homeowners and the electrical industry as a whole. In this article, we will delve deep into the issue of Federal Pacific breakers and help you understand if they are safe for your home.
What are Federal Pacific breakers?
Federal Pacific breakers are circuit breakers manufactured by the Federal Pacific Electric Company. They were widely used in residential and commercial buildings from the 1950s to the 1980s. The breakers were designed to fit into the company’s Stab-Lok panels, which were also popular at the time.
At first glance, Federal Pacific breakers may appear similar to other breakers, but they have a distinctively different design. The distinguishing feature of these breakers is their red strip across the toggle switch, which was touted as a fire-proof feature by the manufacturer.
Why are Federal Pacific breakers a concern?
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, several independent testing agencies, including Underwriters Laboratories (UL), conducted tests on Federal Pacific breakers. The results showed that the breakers failed to trip in a timely manner during overload conditions. Despite these findings, the manufacturer refused to conduct a recall or make any necessary improvements. This led to serious safety concerns and raised the question of whether Federal Pacific breakers were truly effective in preventing electrical hazards.
The main issue with these breakers is that they have a higher tendency to malfunction or fail, which means they do not trip when overloaded. This can result in overheating, arcing, and potential electrical fires. In fact, some reports suggest that in the event of a short circuit or overload, Federal Pacific breakers have a 25% higher chance of failing to trip compared to other breakers.
These concerns were further amplified in 1982 when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) investigated the safety of Federal Pacific breakers. The agency found that their failure rate was significantly higher than that of other breakers. As a result, the CPSC advised homeowners to replace Federal Pacific breakers with alternative brands.
To make matters worse, it was later revealed that FPE had manipulated test results to obtain UL certification for their Stab-Lok panels. This further raised concerns about the safety and reliability of FPE breakers.
What should homeowners in the 02908 zip code and beyond do?
If you live in a home built between the 1950s and 1980s, there’s a high chance that it contains a Federal Pacific breaker. Given the safety concerns surrounding these breakers, it’s advisable to have them replaced by a licensed electrician.
Although there are no definitive statistics on the exact number of fires caused by Federal Pacific breakers, several reports suggest that they can pose a serious safety hazard. Replacing the breakers is the best way to ensure the safety of your home and family.
It’s important to note that the replacement of FPE breakers should only be done by a licensed and experienced electrician. DIY replacements are not recommended as they can be dangerous and may also void any homeowner’s insurance.
Federal Pacific breakers have been a topic of concern for homeowners and the electrical industry for several decades. While there are no definitive answers on their safety, it’s crucial to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of your home and loved ones. If you have a Federal Pacific breaker in your home, it’s advisable to have a licensed electrician replace it with a safer and more reliable brand.