Typically when buying a home people are always worried about service size for their electrical systems? Do we have 100 amp or 200 amp? That is how much power is coming into your home and how much your main panel can safely handle.
One thing that people don’t often think about is WHAT BRAND is my main panel? There are a bunch of different kinds…. Cutler Hammer, Crouse Hinds, Square D, General Electric, ITE, Siemens, etc. Then there is FEDERAL PACIFIC.
Federal Pacific was a company that started in 1950 and was very popular all the way up to 1988 in some areas, including America and Canada. Over time these panels had a higher failure rate than other panels. Studies were performed and it was found that these panels had several different problems. Mainly with the inability to trip the breaker off when necessary. Other breakers will shut off and stop the flow of power and prevent a fire. The failure rate on other brands of breakers is much much less than a Federal Pacific breaker.
It is estimated that Federal Pacific Panels are responsible for 2000 fires ANNUALLY.
Luckily an FPE panel is very easy to identify.
- Look for the bright RED tabs on the breaker fronts. No other brand uses this style of breaker size indicator. Think red = danger / red = STOP
- There may be a sticker with the company name still on it, either inside the panel cover or near the top.
- The breakers are BACKWARDS!!!!! On any other panel the breakers are pointing towards the center when they are switched ON and they are pointing to the outside when they are OFF. FPE breakers are opposite and it makes the cover difficult to remove.
When shopping for a new home make sure to look at the BRAND of panel that you are buying and discuss it with your Home Inspector. If you see the warning signs above you should plan on a full panel replacement. May as well call an electrician for a quote right away and save time, your home inspector will recommend a replacement anyways.
If you know anyone with one of these panels in there home, please, urge them to replace it. Or at least call an electrician to tell them more about the danger.