Federal Pacific Panels

What you really need to know:

Federal Pacific was a very common breaker and panel manufacturer between the 1950’s and the 1990. Millions of these were installed in homes across the US. We come across these panels quite often and always suggest removing them. If you have bought or sold a home that may have had one of these panels, your home inspector noted it on his report and suggested you have it replace. Here’s why.

All of your devices and appliances in your home draw current. Current is the measurement of the electrons that move through your wiring or device. With current you have heat and the more current that is traveling through a wire, the more heat that is being generated. The wiring (and equipment) in your home is only rated for a certain amount of current. An electric baseboard heater for example draws (or allows) 12.5 amps (measurement of current. That’s a lot of current given the fact that most general circuits in your home are only rated (and protected) at 15 amps. Within your circuitry you need to understand that the wire size thats installed in your home also has a current rating. We will again use the standard circuit in a home, 15 amps. The wiring going from receptacle to receptacle is rated for 15 amps. Based on its physical size, and how much heat it can withstand, it is rated for that number. Running a baseboard heater on that circuit doesn’t seem like a problem does it?' The baseboard heater is only 12.5 amps, the wiring in the walls is rated for 15 amps and the breaker is 15 amps so all should be well shouldn’t it? (Technically). What happens if it’s much colder outside one day and you decide to plug in another heater? You just introduced 12.5 MORE amps on that circuit. A total of 25 amps!! Remember your wire is rated at 15 amps. Your breaker is a 15 amp breaker. So the lonely component here is the wire. It can do nothing. It will allow the current. It has no special super power. It can’t defend itself. It has no choice. That current is riding on the surface of that wire back to your panel whether it likes it or not. What happens if more current (heat) goes through a wire than it is rated for? The obvious. It burns and melts. From there it creates arcing and from there it creates more heat and unfortunately….a fire. There is a hero to this story. We can not expect your average homeowner, tennant, or even teenager to understand the risks and science behind what’s happening here. There is a hero to this story! THE CIRCUIT BREAKER. That little number that’s labeled on each one are its muscles…to put it in a silly fun way. If a breaker is labeled with a 15, that means it’s a 15 amp breaker, also meaning only up to 15 amps can travel through that guy. If it sees more that 15 amps, it QUICKLY shuts off. So this unsung hero is here to protect us from the person plugging in TWO electric heaters (25 amps) into a 15 amp circuit. Problem solved right? Yes in most cases. So now that you have a grasp on what this equipment is doing, let’s talk about the issues with Federal Pacific Panels and Breakers.

At this point we have an understanding that electrical equipment draw current, current creates heat, our wiring and devices can only handle so much of it, our breaker is suppose to shut the circuit off if too much is going through, and we know what can happen if too much happens to travel through the circuit. You may be able to guess what is about to come next.

That’s correct. Federal Pacific Stab Lock breakers are extremely well known to not do their job! In fact, tests have shown that over 51 percent of Federal Pacific breakers either exceeded their limit or never shut off at all. It is also estimated that Federal Pacific breakers are the cause of 2.5k fires, A DOZEN DEATHS, and roughly 40 million dollars in damage every single year. Federal Pacific panels are still in millions of homes throughout the United States, and still a large amount here in Cincinnati. If you have Federal Pacific equipment in your home, it is important to have it replaced. We can help. Call us at 513-443-4RDK (4735)