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Check your Breaker Panel

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ktf1179 View Drop Down
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    Posted: Feb 06 2014 at 12:25pm
As I know most of the homes in Middletown were built before 1980, you might want to have your circuit breaker panel looked at to see if it has a Federal Pacific Breaker Panel in it. I know my house did and we had ours replaced before we moved in. I think it cost us at least $1,500 but it is worth it.

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From NBC Fort Worth Texas
http://www.nbcdfw.com/investigations/Experts-Warn-of-Fire-Danger-With-Certain-Boxes-117060393.html

Home inspectors are recommending that homeowners with a certain brand of electric box get an upgrade.

The federal government has issued a message of caution about Federal Pacific Stab-Lok electric panels to homeowners, electricians, home inspectors and real estate agents. The panels were installed in thousands of homes in North Texas in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.

"We've seen people injured, burned, and we've seen houses range from a small fire in a closet to almost completely burned down," said Mark Goodson, an engineer who investigated a fire linked to the box for an insurance company.

In that fire, the blaze started with a popping sound before the lights went out, Karen Clardy said.

She saw flames shooting from the panel when she went to the garage to check her circuit breaker box.

The fire quickly jumped to the walls and then up into the attic, sending smoke throughout the house.

"It is so frightening, and I just kept saying, 'This isn't me. This isn't my house. This isn't happening to us,'" Clardy said.

When a circuit breaker gets overloaded and overheats, the breaker is supposed to trip, shutting off to prevent a fire.

But Goodson and other engineers who've studied Federal Pacific breakers say some of them don't work properly. Goodson said the breaker never cuts off and, in some cases, stays on, creating a fire risk.

A study by New York engineer Jesse Aronstein of nearly 1,500 Federal Pacific breakers found that about one out of four failed to trip when overloaded.

Federal Pacific is no longer in business.

In the 1980s, the company notified the Consumer Product Safety Commission that some of its breakers did not comply with UL testing standards.

UL is a nonprofit testing service that checks the safety of electrical products.

But Federal Pacific claimed the boxes did not present a fire hazard even though they did not meet the standards.

The CPSC did not issue a recall. Instead, the agency issued a news release in 1983, saying it was closing the investigation because budget constraints prevented investigators from studying the issue further.

Clardy said she was surprised to learn the government knew about the issue, but did not issue a recall or warning.

"I can't believe they have kept this almost like a secret," she said.

Last week, the CPSC issued an update to the 1983 news release that cautions people to read the release more carefully.

"The commission closed the matter without making a determination as to the safety of FPE circuit breakers or the accuracy of the manufacturer's position on the matter," the agency said.

The release also warns people to never overload any electrical circuit and to call an electrician when in doubt.

But Goodson said the CPSC needs to go a step beyond that.

"I think the studies that were started need to be finished and, at that point in time, the CPSC needs to decide how to rectify the situation," he said.

"We have a very limited budget and resources," a CPSC spokesman said. "Reopening the investigation would be a significant decision due to the amount of time and staff that would need to be dedicated to such an effort."

Thousands of the panels are still in garages and closets in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Dallas home inspector Bob Charvoz said he sees them all the time in homes in the Metroplex. He tells customers to replace any Federal Pacific panel to be safe.

"I think there should be some type of more general warning about it to the general public," he said.

At least one local electrician has been running newspaper ads in Dallas saying that Federal Pacific panels are unsafe and offering discounts on replacements.

Jason Leath, who lives in the Lake Highlands area of Dallas, said he replaced his Federal Pacific box recently.

"(We) just heard through the Internet and neighbors and word of mouth that it was maybe unsafe, so we decided to upgrade," Leath said.

Charvoz said Federal Pacific boxes are often found in Lake Highlands, Oak Cliff, Highland Park, Fort Worth, DeSoto, Garland and Cedar Hill.

All of those cities had many homes built in the time period when the boxes were commonly used by builders.

The Federal Pacific panels often have a red line across the switches, and the name Federal Pacific should appear somewhere on the panel.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ktf1179 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 07 2014 at 2:47pm
Breaker boxes made by Federal Pacific are blamed for at least two fires in the Tri-State.

Are you a Butler or Warren County residents with one of these breaker boxes in your home? If so, contact staff writer Ed Richter today at 513-755-5067 or erichter@coxohio.com.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ktf1179 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 10 2014 at 8:40am

Deadly breaker boxes common in area

By Ed Richter

Staff Writer

It’s a key part of any home that’s designed to protect the homeowner, but it could cause a fire.

That part is a Federal Pacific Electric with Stab-Lok circuit breaker box that can be found in homes built between the 1950s and the 1980s. According to experts, this particular brand of breaker box is believed to have caused thousands of fires since it was determined that they were defective. Many, if not all, insurance companies insist this type of breaker box be replaced before a policy can be issued.

Breaker boxes are designed to protect a home against circuit overloads, short circuits or outside power surges coming into the panel. If there is a power overload, the breakers are supposed to trip or shut down the electricity coming into the circuit. Should the breakers fail to trip, the heat from the increased electricity causes the breakers to overheat and melt to the point where they can possibly catch fire.

Underwriters Laboratory, which tests and certifies the safety of electrical products in the U.S., pulled its certification for these breaker boxes in June 1980 because they did not fully comply with their requirements. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission investigated the product over a two-year period but closed it without making a determination on the safety of these circuit breakers or the accuracy of the manufacturer’s position on the matter. The commission felt that it did not have enough information to make a determination nor did it have the funding available in 1983 to conduct a costly investigation or product recall.

Federal Pacific Electric went out of business years ago, but these breaker boxes leave a deadly mark as its legacy.

Since the 1970s, Federal Pacific Electric breaker boxes are believed to have been responsible for thousands of house fires across the nation, including two fires in the Cincinnati suburbs of Wyoming and Finneytown.

Terry Haynie, who owns a National Property Inspections franchise in Hamilton, said he’s seen such breaker boxes “as recently as this week.”

“They’re not uncommon but they’ve been deemed to be defective for years,” he said. “We feel that they have to be checked by a qualified electrician. It’s a liability for the buyer, the seller and anyone else in the transaction. They’re pretty common in older homes and all the information (about the breaker boxes) said it could happen.”

“They’re scattered in houses all over the area,” said Paul Horn of Anthony Electrical Service in Middletown.

Depending on the size of the box, Horn said it could cost between $1,500 and $2,000 to replace because of the various checks of circuits and wiring as well as ensuring everything is grounded.

Experts also said that when a breaker box is being replaced, there should be a check of the wiring as some poorly made and inexpensive aluminum wiring was used with these boxes.

Have a consumer problem, concern or issue? Contact Ed Richter at 513-755-5067 or Ed.Richter@coxinc.com to look into the matter.


SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Some safety precautions to take with all circuit breakers and fuses:

  • Know your electrical circuit and know which outlets and products are connected to each circuit.
  • Never overload any electrical circuit by connecting too many products to the circuit. Be particularly careful not to connect several products that demand high current (such as heating appliances) to a low amperage circuit.
  • Comply with local building codes in wiring or adding electrical circuits. Make sure the wiring and devices used in the circuit are connected to a circuit breaker or fuse of the proper size.
  • Immediately disconnect any electrical product if problems develop. Have the product examined by a competent repair person.
  • Investigate to determine why a fuse blows or circuit breaker trips. Do not simply replace the fuse or reset the breaker. If a fuse blows or breaker trips, it is often a warning that the circuit is overloaded. Check the circuit for causes of overloading (for example, too many appliances plugged in, a malfunctioning product, a short circuit). When in doubt, consult a licensed electrician.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Venly33 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr 07 2014 at 5:25am
Originally posted by ktf1179 ktf1179 wrote:

Breaker boxes are designed to protect a home against circuit overloads, short circuits or outside power surges coming into the panel. If there is a power overload, the breakers are supposed to trip or shut down the electricity coming into the circuit. Should the breakers fail to trip, the heat from the increased electricity causes the breakers to overheat and melt to the point where they can possibly catch fire.

Underwriters Laboratory, which tests and certifies the safety of electrical products in the U.S., pulled its certification for these breaker boxes in June 1980 because they did not fully comply with their requirements. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission investigated the product over a two-year period but closed it without making a determination on the safety of these circuit breakers or the accuracy of the manufacturer’s position on the matter. The commission felt that it did not have enough information to make a determination nor did it have the funding available in 1983 to conduct a costly investigation or product recall.

I reviewed the documentation regarding the issue. There were hazards with FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers continue in use. The hazard was bad two pole breakers. Tests and reports were made that show unusual conditions make them behave in a crazy manner.

Quote Federal Pacific Electric went out of business years ago, but these breaker boxes leave a deadly mark as its legacy.

Since the 1970s, Federal Pacific Electric breaker boxes are believed to have been responsible for thousands of house fires across the nation, including two fires in the Cincinnati suburbs of Wyoming and Finneytown.

Terry Haynie, who owns a National Property Inspections franchise in Hamilton, said he’s seen such breaker boxes “as recently as this week.”

“They’re not uncommon but they’ve been deemed to be defective for years,” he said. “We feel that they have to be checked by a qualified electrician. It’s a liability for the buyer, the seller and anyone else in the transaction. They’re pretty common in older homes and all the information (about the breaker boxes) said it could happen.”

“They’re scattered in houses all over the area,” said Paul Horn of Anthony Electrical Service in Middletown.

Depending on the size of the box, Horn said it could cost between $1,500 and $2,000 to replace because of the various checks of circuits and wiring as well as ensuring everything is grounded.

Experts also said that when a breaker box is being replaced, there should be a check of the wiring as some poorly made and inexpensive aluminum wiring was used with these boxes.



That commission final press release in 1983 that the manufacturer and some Commission members were of the opinion that these unique conditions wouldn't occur in a real world scenario.
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