From the 1950s to the 1980s, Federal Pacific Electric was one of the main companies on the forefront of manufacturing circuit breaker panels in North America and millions of FPE panels were installed in homes across the United States. However, over the years these panels have failed to provide proper protection for homeowners and their families. Experts have found that, although the panels appear to work well for years, after just one short circuit or overcurrent they can overheat and become a potential fire hazard. For this reason, insurance companies in Florida and across the country are advising their clients to have these panels replaced or risk losing their insurance coverage.
A circuit breaker panel is a crucial part of a home’s electrical system. It constantly receives and distributes electricity and protects the home from power surges and other risks. When a circuit breaker fails to trip, it causes an enormous amount of power from the outside electrical supply to surge into the panel and circuits of a home that cannot be shut down manually. When this happens the electricity will carry on until it runs out or the wires melt. When a panel overheats it can catch fire, causing serious damage to property and the occupants of a home. Although many FPE panels and breakers operate for years without problems, when they do malfunction it could have devastating results.
Federal Pacific Electric panels are causing countless house fires in Florida and all over the country. In a recent class action lawsuit in New Jersey, the State Court ruled that Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) had violated the Consumer Fraud Act by knowlingly and purposefully distributing circuit breakers that did not meet UL standards. An expert stated that, under UL 489 test conditions, failure to trip was much higher with FPE panels than standard ones.
Keeping outdated FPE panels in a home to save money can be extremely dangerous. An electrical contractor located in a local community can advise homeowners on the specific risks involved with FPE panels and how to reduce these risks by having them replaced. A licensed electrical contractor familiar with the potential hazards and dangers of FPE panels will inspect the circuit breaker panel and provide an In-Home Safety Analysis to ensure that it is capable of adequately protecting the safety of occupants.
Homeowners should also check with their insurance providers whether they will be covered in the event of a fire caused by an outdated circuit breaker panel that malfunctions.
Despite the risks and possible dangers, many homes in the Florida area that are 15 years or older still have FPE panels installed that could prove to be a fire hazard. According to a report, nearly 60% of FPE panels tested failed to operate properly in the event of a power surge. If too many electrical devices are plugged in at the same time it could require more electricity than a circuit can provide, causing the wiring to overheat. Normally the circuit breaker will trip to cut off the electricity supply but it has been found that FPE circuit breakers often do not operate properly, resulting in overheating and the possible outbreak of a fire.