Home Inspector Knoxville TN Finds Federal Pacific Panel

February 20, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

On a recent home inspection in north Knoxville, I came across a Federal Pacific (FPE) electrical breaker panel installed on the outside of a home.  These panels were popular from the mid-1950′s through the early 80′s.  There are several issues associated with these panels, and I’ll mention a few of them here.

The first problem obvious to a home inspector or electrician is the difficulty encountered in removing the panel cover (deadfront cover).  The FPE breakers are designed so that their handles extend out over the cover opening, making removal of the cover precarious at best.  It’s very likely that an unsuspecting inspector will trip some breakers while removing this cover, and FPE breakers will also tend to “jump off” the bus bar with a little encouragement! 

Secondly, the FPE breaker design often lacks good contact with the bus bars.  The FPE breaker “stab” only touches the bus bar with its edge, at right angles.  This minimal contact area and pressure allows for loose connections between the two pieces of metal, and commonly leads to arcing and overheating in the panel. 

Additionally, FPE breakers have a dismal history of failing to trip when overcurrent conditions exist.  And a breaker is, after all, generically referred to as an overcurrent protection device!  This failure allows conductors inside the home to overheat, and has been the cause of numerous house fires across the country.

In short, Federal Pacific electrical breaker panels may very well be a potential hazard to you and your family.  I’ve found several of these panels while conducting Knoxville home inspections, and they are usually replaced at the seller’s expense before closing. 

Interestingly, this house had a previous inspection conducted by another Knoxville home inspector prior to listing.  The seller showed me the previous report, which mentioned nothing about this dangerous electrical condition.  With a House Scout home inspection report in hand, you’ll be fully aware of dangerous conditions such as this.  You’ll also be in a better position to renegotiate your purchase contract before closing, if necessary.  There are plenty of Knoxville home inspectors around, but none work harder for their clients than The House Scout!

Make sure you don’t get stuck owning a money pit, and end up with a bunch of unexpected expenses after closing!  Send Out the Scout Today!  (865) 591-1121.

 

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