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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 rate.

 

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 and injury.  

 

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 malfunction.

 

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