Does Your Circuit Breaker Trip?

What does it mean when your circuit breaker goes off (trips)?

It’s not fun having electrical problems,  but before you call an electrician, there may be some steps you can take to fix the problem and save you the unnecessary cost of an electrical repair.

When your breaker continuously is switching to the off or middle position (or tripping) while you are using electricity or even if you are not using any electrical current, it can be one of several things:

One, you may have too many electrical appliances plugged into the electric outlet which can cause overheating or a large power surge.   Your breaker is designed as an electrical safety feature to stop power from going to the overheating wall outlet.  This means that this safety feature will automatically shut off when you have too much power going to one specific breaker and it will shut your panel breaker off to that circuit.  You will have to manually reset the breaker to get power.   To reset the breaker, push your breaker to the off position first and then back to the on position.  If you are overloading circuits you want to consider having extra receptacles or GFCI protected receptacles added by a certified electrician.

Second, it could also be a loose wire which only a certified electrician should help you repair..  You should never attempt to do wiring on your own because it would cause injury to you.

Resetting the breaker is ok to do on an occasional basis.  For example if you have plugged too much into one circuit and over loaded the circuit.  However, if you find you are resetting your breaker several times.  You might want to give us a call to take a look. Resetting the breaker too often can cause the breaker to fail and not do its job of protecting you and your home from electrical hazards.

Remember: Safety First , We have Certified Electricians Available 24/7  to solve all of your electrical problems.  503.657-4958 or email us at


Lighting Incentives Available for Businesses

Starting July 14th 2012 the United States Department of Energy requires new efficiency standards for the manufacture of linear fluorescent lights.  Magnetic ballasts most commonly used in T12 fluorescent fixtures will no longer be produced.  Simply put, electrical suppliers will no longer be able to purchase replacement lamps or ballasts for your T-12 fixtures.

The simplest retrofit for T-12 lamps and magnetic ballasts is a T8 or T5 lamp and electronic ballast.  This new technology produces higher quality light and less heat resulting in lower air conditioning needs and can save 30 to 40 percent on energy costs.  Portland General Electric and The Energy Trust of Oregon have more information and incentive offers to help you with this change.

Parkin Electric provides Free Estimates Call 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  Parkin Electric provides free estimates and free home safety inspections.

View attached links for more information:

Parkin Works Lead Safe!

Parkin Electrician’s Work Lead Safe



As a Certified Lead Based Paint Renovation Contractor with Oregon Construction Contractors Board (LBPR35151) Parkin Electric can help you renovate right.  Federal law requires contractors that disturb painted services in homes, child care facilities and schools built before 1978 to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.   The rule applies to disturbance of more than 6 square feet of interior painted surfaces and 20 square feet of exterior painted surfaces or window replacement or demolition.  Lead paint dust is the way most people are exposed to lead and children are at the highest risk for being affected from lead exposure.  If your home or facility was built before 1978 and we will be disturbing any interior painted surface greater that 6 square feet,  Parkin Electric can test the painted surfaces to be disturbed to verify the presence of lead.  We are trained to contain the work area to prevent the spread of dust and in the proper procedures to thoroughly clean the work area.  For more information about the EPA’s Lead Rule visit their website at or call the EPA’s hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).

Parkin in Eaton Spotlight!

Parkin Electric is excited to be featured in the current June 2010 Eaton Corporation ECCN Member Spotlight!

We have been a member of the Eaton ECCN (Eaton Certified Contractor Network) for a little over a year, and have already benefited from this association.   Being a member of this network will pay some long term benefits as we avail ourselves of the pricing, training and technical expertise of this industry leading company.

We were originally interested in furthering our relationship with Eaton because we have had a long and successful history with their people and products, and feel that aligning ourselves with this progressive and innovative company will further enhance the strengths and capabilities ofParkin Electric as we look toward expanding and growing our company.

Thanks for the spotlight Eaton!

Below is a copy of the article content:

June 2010 Member Spotlight

Company Name: Parkin Electric
Location: Oregon City, OR

Much of Parkin Electric’s business comes from repeat customers and referrals and this speaks volumes about their company. What accounts for their apparent success? “Developing strong relationships both with customers and vendors alike” says Wade Parkin, who along with his brother Dave operate Parkin Electric. He also gives credit to Eaton’s strong local presence and the responsiveness of their local engineers. “…they have been responsive to product application questions and, on the rare occasion we have had product deficiencies, the response has been quick and efficient.”

Parkin Electric has 17 employees and 10 service/support vehicles and are a third (almost fourth) generation company based in Oregon City, OR serving Oregon and SW Washington. Their long and positive relationship with Eaton has been a plus for them and they feel that by aligning their company with Eaton and becoming knowledgeable about Eaton products they will reap long-term benefits.

Wade also shared an example of why they feel that their use of Eaton products has resulted in a competitive advantage for them. It had to do with Eaton’s flexibility to customize products to fit specific application needs. The example he gave was of a custom built switchboard designed and built to fit an existing outdoor enclosure in a large high-rise assisted living facility. “By using the existing enclosure we were able to duplicate the exact position of the existing switches and breakers, which eliminated splicing or re-pulling the existing critical circuits. The creativity that the Eaton team brought to this problem allowed us to simplify the installation, thereby greatly reducing downtime and the associated risk to our customer’s facility and systems.”

After attending an ECCN Certification Training Class in Portland, Oregon in May of last year it got them to thinking.  Wade says “the benefit to us with ECCN training is that it really started us thinking about new and innovative ways to advance, enhance and re-shape our business.”

The economic slowdown has afforded Parkin the opportunity and time to make sure their business “foundation” is solid for the coming economic recovery. Part of their game plan is to make sure their technicians benefit from the product training and selling techniques that are available online at the ECCN website. Their advice to others is to avail yourselves of any outside resources which might add to your knowledge base. They felt that “by joining with a company with the resources of Eaton just makes good sense!”

Their involvement with many trade organizations is also a plus for their business in that they have been selected to serve on several national advisory council committees. In this way they have been able to increase their exposure to a wide range of ideas and networking opportunities.

Having successfully built their reputation for the past 60 years they are in the process of implementing a plan for significant growth for their company for the upcoming years. They feel confident that their solid relationship with Eaton will strengthen and enhance their long term goals.


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 Testing

Breakers Tested

Trip Failures @ 135% of Rated Current

Safety Failures @ 200% of Rated Current

CPSC – Single Pole


4 (28%)

1 (7%)

CPSC – Double Pole


20 (74%)

5 (19%)

Wright-Malta Corp. – Double Pole


62 (51%)

12 (10%)

Independent (J. Aronstein) – Single Pole


61 (18%)

4 (1%)

Independent (J. Aronstein) – Single Pole GFI


3 (60%)

4 (80%)

Independent (J. Aronstein) – Double Pole


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.