As electricians, we always hear people say “You should get rid of that FEDERAL PACIFIC panel” and replace it with a new one. What is the story behind all of this, and why is it a big deal?
Federal Pacific panels are installed in homes all over America and Canada, and have been since the 50’s and 60’s. The problem with this is that the breakers oftentimes don’t work. There’s actually quite a long history of coverups and lies that occurred over the past several decades, which ended up in fraud charges, and ultimately the collapse of the Federal Pacific Electric Company.
The big thing to take away is that Federal Pacific was caught lying about their adherence to UL standards. They were stripped of their UL listing over the years but continued to print “UL Listed” on the packaging and continued pushing out breakers that had up to a 60% failure rate for decades.
Many replacement breakers are made today, that fit into these older systems such as Zinsco, FPE, Wadsworth, Challenger, and Pushmatic – however, some believe these products should not be used, and rather the entire panel should be replaced. The argument though, is that not everyone can afford a brand new panel replacement. When you consider the cost of adding surge protection, proper grounding, arc-fault, ground-fault, and dual-function breakers, and potentially indoor AFCI protection for circuits that cannot be protected at the panel, simply replacing breakers is a much more affordable solution.