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Arizona Home Inspectors Warning

Property owners should be advised of potential concerns regarding their existing electrical system components. Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) “Stab-Lok” service panels and breakers are considered by many experts to be a latent hazard and can fail during use. Specifically, some double-pole (240-Volt) FPE circuit breakers and also some single-pole units simply may not work as intended. It is suggested that there are as many as 28 million of these devices in use in the United States.

Upon testing performed under the direction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) the FPE breakers failed to trip at an alarming rate. Tests conducted on the FPE double-pole (240-Volt) circuit breakers indicated that in some overload conditions, particularly when one pole of the breaker is overloaded, the circuit breaker will not trip. Some tests showed that as many as 65% of the circuit breakers would malfunction. Once this malfunction has occurred, the breaker is “locked” and it will not trip under any circumstances, creating a serious fire hazard.

In fairness to all parties, it is most often proper to label the FPE panel/breaker issue as a latent hazard. The panel or breakers do not, on their own, initiate an unsafe condition. Rather, when an unsafe condition such as a short circuit or current overload occurs, the equipment may not provide the protection expected.

Costs for panel and breaker replacement can be high. Property owners are encouraged to research the issues and draw their own conclusions. Additional information exists on the internet at www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm

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