One issue with home inspections is sometimes there is conflicting evidence about the danger or lack of danger about particular home aspects.
Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok breaker panels, aka FPE breaker, or simply Stab-loks, are often debated as to how much, if any, danger they pose to homeowners.
Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok breaker panels were very popular panels to install across the United States from approximately 1950 through the 1980s. In 1979, it was reported the FPE breakers did not fully comply with Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) requirements. And while the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission confirmed the breakers failed to meet certain UL requirements, no recall was made, and it was not determined the panels were unsafe. Though some have said, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission investigation was cut short due to budget cuts at the time.
Media Reports on Danger
Numerous news stories have run over the years claiming Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok breaker panels pose a high fire danger. Such as this one:
and this one:
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
As recently as 2011, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission updated their initial investigation. Their statement says “the Commission does not establish that the circuit breakers pose a serious risk of injury to consumers.”
As such, there is no recall on Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok breakers. There are no mandates from any level of government, state or local agency that states Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok breaker must be replaced. Further, numerous homes and entire condo complexes in Los Angeles exist with Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok breaker and have not, as of yet, had issues with them.
Do I have to replace the panel?
Some insurance companies may deny insurance on homes with an FPE panel. However not every insurance company does this. Homebuyers should check with their insurance carrier. However, with no mandate to change a panel, no one can force a panel to be changed.
It is recommended at a minimum that a qualified electrician carefully evaluate all Federal Pacific panels and make repairs as necessary. And while there is no mandate or solid black and white evidence that an FPE panel should be upgraded, the price of changing a panel is small compared to the price of a home. The peace of mind of having an upgraded panel is likely worth it.
Book your home inspection now by calling 818-298-3405