Federal Pacific Stab-Lok Panels
A special note about the circuit breaker panel brand known as Federal Pacific or Stab-Lok
Many electricians and inspectors complain about this panel. Some even say it is unsafe. At one point we told customers that we hadn't seen any specific problems. That changed one day when we saw two serious instances when we thought the breakers should have tripped and they didn't. One case was significant in that I saw sparks come off the pole in the street but no breaker tripped. From that day, our story has changed and we recommend that the panels be changed. Due to age and corrosion of the main service wires and meter box, this may mean the entire service entrance wiring also has to be changed, see the Special Note below. A service change is not a minor job so you may want to read more about this panel issue.
This link takes you to a US Consumer Safety Commission notice in 1983 that says they didn't have the resources to determine whether they were safe as the new company owners claimed. Basically, they didn't check it out.
Click on http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm to read an articles that find the breakers to be a hazard. It lists other sources available. For more information on replacing your panel, go to Service Upgrades.
Special note: If the panel is replaced, it probably means the main service cable on the side of the house, and the meter box should be replaced also. Everything is probably over 30 years old, deteriorated and corroded. In some cases, the original wires will not even reach the new terminals on the panel.
If you've been living in a house with this Federal Pacific Stab-Lok brand panel, you have a choice:
Do nothing. You've been living with it this long without it causing a problem, what's the big deal? Have you ever had someone point out to you that you had been driving on bald tires? Do you figure you've been fine so far so you don't have to worry? How about seat belts? As long as you don't have an accident, who needs them? If you think you can't afford the safety now, perhaps you should budget for doing it in the future. The issue probably will come up when you go to sell your home. If it will cost you money when you sell, you might as well get the benefits from doing it now.
Replace the panel and probably the outside wiring as well. See our section on Service Upgrades. Obviously, this is a safer decision that will cost money.