On one of my inspections yesterday I came across an electrical panel made by Federal Pacific. They made millions of Stab-Lok breakers between the 1950’s-1980’s. If your home was built during those time periods, there is a good possibility that you may have these breakers installed in your panel.
Circuit breakers were created to regulate the way electricity flows through your house. Just as the name states, they break a circuit if it senses any change. If there is a short, over current, or electrical surge the breaker would trip, and electricity will be shut off. The problem with Federal Pacific breakers is the hidden hazard that the breakers can fail to trip in response to an over current, which leads to electrical fires. Another defect is that the breakers may not internally shut off, even if the toggle switch is switched to “off.”
I’ve heard people say that these breakers are fine because they have been working without a problem in the house for 50 years. Well, the problem is when there is a short circuit; that’s when there is potential for overheating and/or fires. There have been approximately 2,800 fires per year linked to these breakers, so just because these breakers have been “working just fine” doesn’t mean they can’t cause harm in the future.
I am not an electrician by any means, but after consulting multiple electricians they have all agreed that these breakers are not safe. And they have a good reason to think that because m
any tests were completed on these breakers during the 1980s, which proved that about 1 in 4 Stab-Lok breakers were defective. Unfortunately, Federal Pacific committed fraud and attempted to cover up the results by labeling the breakers as meeting UL standards. (New Jersey court found them guilty in May 2008 during a class action lawsuit.)
Now if your house has been built in the past 20-60 years, and you are unsure if you have these now would be a good time to check. All you must do is open your electrical panel and look on the legend for the name. As you can see in the picture I provided, it’s very easy to determine if these breakers have been installed. If you find these breakers, I would have contacted a licensed electrical contractor and seek further evaluation due to the possibility of an electrical problem in the future.