Preventing Electrical Fires; When Should You Call an Electrician…

Safety Tips for the Prevention of  Electrical Fires

♦Work on Home electrical distribution or lighting equipment should only be conducted by a qualified electrician.  When you are buying, selling or remodeling a home, have it inspected by a professional electrician.

Call a qualified electrician or your landlord if you have:

♦recurring problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers,

♦a tingling feeling when you touch an electrical appliance,

♦discolored or warm outlets,

♦a burning smell or rubbery odor coming from an appliance,

♦flickering lights,

♦sparks from an outlet.

Arc Fault Breaker, Shuts off electricity when a dangerous situation occurs.

♦Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are a type of circuit breaker that shuts off electricity when a dangerous condition occurs.  Consider having them installed in your home.

http://parkinelectric.com/products/arc-fault-protection/

Parkin Electric has qualified electricians available 24/7 for electrical repairs and service.   503.657-4958

Smoke Alarms Save Lives

Hard Wired Interconnected Smoke Alarms Provide the Best Protection:

The winter months bring an increase in home fires with more indoor activity and an increase in lighting, heating and appliance use.   Your best defense against these tragedies is a working smoke alarm.  Smoke alarms should be connected to your home’s wiring system, so you can be sure they are always working.  In the event of a power outage they are equipped with a battery for back-up.  It is also a good idea for smoke alarms to be inter-connected so when one goes off, they all go off.  RF (Radio Frequency), wireless, units are capable of this and are now available and do not require interconnecting wiring.  They require one detector to be hardwired and the rest work off of radio frequency and will all sound together no matter which ones senses smoke.  Interconnected smoke alarms increase your chances of escaping a house fire before it spreads out of control.  If you are unable to install smoke alarms using your house wiring, you should at the least install the battery operated type and install more than one.  No matter what type of smoke detector you choose, be sure to test it monthly and replace the battery at least yearly.  The smoke detectors themselves should be replaced every 8-10 years.   For more information contact us at 503-657-4958 or by email at info@parkinelectric.com.  Parkin Electric provides free estimates and free home safety inspections.

View attached links for more information:

http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/559.pdf

http://m.usfa.fema.gov/campaigns/smokealarms/alarms/index.shtm

FPE…. Fact or Fiction?

Possible Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Breaker and Panel Hazards

fpe1This brief report is written in response to questions we are frequently asked regarding Federal Pacific Electric breakers and panels.  Two of the most frequent questions we are asked are:

  • Has there been any recall notices on FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers or panels.
  • What is our opinion as to the safety of FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers and panels.

FPE Stab-Lok Product Recall
In answer to the first question, in our research, we have not been able to verify any official product recall on the Federal Pacific Stab-Lok circuit breakers or panels.  However, on March 3rd 1983 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a report basically stating that commission testing confirmed that certain FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers failed UL calibration test requirements.  However their limited testing was insufficient for the commission to accept or refute whether the breaker failures lead to a hazardous situation.  We can provide the complete CPSC report for your review.

Our Opinion
To the second point regarding our opinion of the breakers in question, we believe that based on our personal experience, and the vast amount of second hand anecdotal information, these circuit breakers are less reliable than other comparable products produced by other manufactures, and may pose more of a failure and safety risk over other comparable products.

The primary problems associate with these breakers is that they may not trip in an overload situation, and that the breaker may not make proper contact with the panel buss.

While it is not quite correct to call a non-tripping breaker a “fire hazard”, the FPE Stab-Lok breakers (as are others) are primary safety devises whose function is to stop certain electrical sequences that could, if allowed to proceed, lead to fire in a building.  By their own (FPE) admission, the breakers in question do not fully comply with UL requirements, and there is some evidence that FPE falsified testing procedures and results.  It is important to note that UL itself did not actually perform the compliance testing on the breakers, but only monitored the production and testing done at the FPE factories.  As UL standards and listings are intended to provide evidence that the product is “suitable for the purpose” under the provisions of the National Electrical Code (NEC) this is troubling to us.

The table below which illustrates the frequency of failures of the subject breakers.

FPE STAB-LOK CIRCUIT BREAKER TEST RESULTS

FPE Stab-Lok Circuit Breaker Testing

Breakers Tested

Trip Failures @ 135% of Rated Current

Safety Failures @ 200% of Rated Current

CPSC – Single Pole

14

4 (28%)

1 (7%)

CPSC – Double Pole

27

20 (74%)

5 (19%)

Wright-Malta Corp. – Double Pole

122

62 (51%)

12 (10%)

Independent (J. Aronstein) – Single Pole

345

61 (18%)

4 (1%)

Independent (J. Aronstein) – Single Pole GFI

5

3 (60%)

4 (80%)

Independent (J. Aronstein) – Double Pole

120

42 (35%)

14 (12%)

Another issue to consider is the fact that many FPE Stab-Lok panels are “split bus” type panels.  These are panels which do not have a main circuit breaker.  Eliminating a main circuit breaker also eliminates a safety factor in the event a branch circuit breaker jams with the contacts closed on an electrical fault.   A main breaker would provide a measure of protection at a higher current trip point.  A main breaker also provides a measure of protection when servicing or adding down stream branch breakers in an active (“hot”) panel.

The final points we would like to make is that without extensive and costly testing (not practical for individual cases), we can not confirm with a visual (“looks alright”) and mechanical inspection (“clicks on and off okay”) whether certain breakers are, or are not, defective internally.

And finally, because production of these products ceased in the mid 1980’s, the age of many of these products is now exceeding 20 years of operation (they are getting tired) and availability of replacement parts will become increasingly difficult and costly, and possess no product warranty.

Summary and Solution
Based on our research, personal knowledge, and the associated failure rates found, and because there is no safe or practical way to verify correct product operation, we believe it prudent to replace all FPE Stab-Lok panels currently in use when practical.  While we do not necessarily believe (in normal situations) that this is an “emergency” situation, replacement should be strongly considered if any panel repair or modifications are made or required.

In conclusion, we believe that keeping these panels in operation for the long term could constitute an increased risk over other products on the market, and it may be well worth the $1000 -$1500 * average cost for replacement.

If you have any questions, or need further clarification on this issue, please feel free to contact us at any time.

* Replacement cost is based on a normal panel only replacement, and is approximate.  Individual installations may vary.