Federal Pacific Electric Co. (FPE) and replacement Stab-Lok® circuit breakers do
not reliably meet the functional requirements of the National Electrical Code (NEC)
and should be replaced for fire and electrical safety reasons. Circuit breakers must
satisfy the NEC requirement for over-current protection for the circuits in a building.
They must stop the current flow to wiring and equipment when hazardous over-current
conditions occur. A circuit breaker functions as a switch that opens automatically
(trips) to shut off power to a circuit when the current exceeds a preset level, minimizing
the risk of fire. Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. (UL) establishes and publishes
the accepted performance standard for circuit breakers (UL489) used in the branch
circuits of residential and commercial buildings. When FPE applied the UL labels
to its circuit breakers, they certified that the breakers met the UL performance
standards and were therefore suitable for the purpose as required by the NEC. This
was not true, however.
The defective performance of Stab-Lok® circuit breakers is summarized in the report
Hazardous FPE Circuit Breakers and Panels. This report also provides information
on FPE’s fraudulent testing and UL labeling practices, and on the consequences in
terms of injuries, deaths, and property damage. There are no documented studies that
contradict the conclusion that the Stab-Lok® circuit breakers have a high defect
The defective performance observed in these tests includes jamming, in which the
breaker does not trip at any current, and failure to trip under moderate to severe
electrical current overload. Based on long-established and universally accepted
engineering and fire safety fundamentals, circuit breakers that are abnormally slow
or fail to trip when an overload or short circuit occurs increase the risk of fire
FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers were marketed and installed in buildings in the U.S.A.
from the 1960s through the 1980s. The NEC requires that inspectors determine that
the equipment that is installed is “suitable for the purpose”. The presence of the
UL label is taken as proof that they meet the UL and NEC performance requirements.
Having been misled by FPE’s application of UL labels to substandard and defective
product, local electrical inspectors approved those installations. The fraudulent
testing and labeling practices of FPE thwarted the honest effort of contractors
and inspectors to install safe electrical systems. It was a serious breach of our
electrical safety system.
Defective Stab-Lok® breakers - FPE and other brands - remain in residential and commercial
buildings. Most occupants are not aware that there is a latent problem inherent in
Stab-Lok® circuit breakers that substantially increases the risk of fire and injury
in the event of an electrical malfunction. There is no practical way that occupants,
inspectors, or electricians have to determine whether or not the circuit breakers
in the building will function as they are expected to in the event of an electrical
The Stab-Lok® breakers presently installed in residential and commercial buildings
in the U.S.A. do not reliably meet the functional requirement of the NEC for circuit
protection, presenting a latent safety hazard to the structure and occupants. The
Stab-Lok® panels should be replaced.
A Brief Summary of the FPE Stab-Loc® Safety Issues