WHAT'S IN YOUR WALL?
From the late 1950s to the mid 1980s, Federal Pacific electrical panels were one of the most popular brands installed in new homes. Beginning in the 1970s, it became apparent the Federal Pacific (FPE) electrical panels had some unique design flaws that could lead to fires or electrical shock. After extensive testing by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, Underwriters Laboratories and even Federal Pacific, these panels were taken off the market in the mid-1980s. However, there are millions of homes in the U.S. and tens of thousands in central Florida that still have this brand of panel installed. Here are some of the common questions homeowners have regarding the panels.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A FPE PANEL?
FPE panels can be identified by a label or embossed "FPE" on the front cover. The older breakers are brown or black plastic, but most FPE panels have breakers with orange on the end of the toggle, and the amperage size in black numbers.
WHY ARE THESE PANELS UNSAFE?
There are two major problems with the FPE breakers. The internal components can jam, resulting in a failure to trip in an overload situation. Also, the point of contact made when the breakers is installed is very small, so the slightest bit of oxidation or corrosion can significantly hinder the flow of electric current. When current flow is inhibited, heat builds up in the components, which speeds the breakdown of the connection. In addition, the manner in which the panels themselves are assembled can lead to overheating when the components develop corrosion or loosen over time.
I'VE NEVER HAD PROBLEMS WITH MY PANEL. WHY SHOULD I REPLACE IT?
Just because you've never experienced problems doesn't mean the inherent problems of the design aren't there. You may have a defective breaker that will not trip, but just haven't had an overload situation that would require it to trip. Also, the naturally humid, salty air in Florida ensures that all metal components will experience some level of oxidation over time.
WILL A NEW PANEL RESOLVE OTHER ELECTRICAL ISSUES IN MY HOUSE?
A new electrical panel only replaces the old panel. If the design of the original circuitry is such that a circuit is overloaded with devices, or if additional devices have been added to a circuit over time resulting in a chronic overload, a new panel will not resolve such a problem.
IT'S MY HOUSE. WHO CARES IF I HAVE A FPE PANEL?
More and more insurance companies, at the time of renewal or when new policies are written, are requiring homeowners to identify if they have a FPE panel in their home, and will not write a policy unless the panel is replaced.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HAVE MY PANEL REPLACED?
A lot less than you may think. Because there are many different methods of installation, a representative of Masters Electric can come to your home at no cost to you and give you a written estimate.