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Thread: FIRE! Red FPE Breakers please help!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
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    FIRE! Red FPE Breakers please help!

    I am working on this job with RED Fpe Stablok breakers. When closing a metal j box "power on" an old nicked wire made contact with the side of the box but did not trip the breaker, it literally blew the wire in half! So for knowledge I went back to the panel and directly connected a piece of wire to a different RED Fpe breaker in the panel and shorted the other end on purpose to ground to see the result. That breaker did not trip either. It blew the end off the wire!

    I really need input on this when if I encounter more of the panel.

    Is the black handle Stablock different? or the same problem. I was told black handle pink label are ok. Is this true?

    The grey cased Canadian Replacement is that better?

  2. #2
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    They are all JUNK!
    Why take the liability of working on / in them. Just replace it or move on.

  3. #3
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    At my age, I'm accustomed to restaurants asking me to pay in advance, but now my bank has started sending me their calendar one month at a time.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by markebenson View Post
    I am working on this job with RED Fpe Stablok breakers. When closing a metal j box "power on" an old nicked wire made contact with the side of the box but did not trip the breaker, it literally blew the wire in half! So for knowledge I went back to the panel and directly connected a piece of wire to a different RED Fpe breaker in the panel and shorted the other end on purpose to ground to see the result. That breaker did not trip either. It blew the end off the wire!

    I really need input on this when if I encounter more of the panel. Don't short things to ground first of all!

    Is the black handle Stablock different? or the same problem. I was told black handle pink label are ok. Is this true?

    The grey cased Canadian Replacement is that better?
    Upgrade the service. Replace the panel and sleep well, otherwise toss and turn for eternity. Or walk away if they can't/don't want to afford your service. Easier said than done on some occasions.
    Tom
    TBLO

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Texas
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    845
    Replace them with UBI breakers. You can buy them at HD.

    They are ETL listed devices. Connecticut Electric, look at "Overview."

  6. #6
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    Replace the panel if possible, which is far and away the best option. I would push hard for that, if you have any influence in that process. Otherwise use the replacement breakers recommended above.

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Pink label/white dot were supposedly made to UL standards. The black "cross" breakers are original, perhaps made while FPE was reputable. Those breakers I doubt are available as NOS and could be pushing 65 years old if used. I do not know when they started making the red label ones; there is one of those in the panel.

    I know nothing of the UBI replacements but given the track record of FPE, I dont suppose they could be any worse.

    These were single pole breakers that didnt trip with a dead short? wow. The double pole ones were much more notorious for failure. I have a single pole 15A in this FPE panel (ca 1953) that has probably tripped 500 times over its lifespan. It is apparently original to the panel. A tripped double pole would go right in the trash. I would not reset it and try to failure test it lest wire melt behind a plaster wall (fun stuff; not).

    eta: that 15A breaker will not carry 20A more than maybe 30 seconds. 1500W space heater on high, a few light, and the TV, and you're in the dark pretty quickly. I dont know how it would react to an instantaneous short; I try to avoid doing that when possible. and FPE doesnt have a lock on breakers that dont trip with dead shorts; Ive actually seen more CH CH breakers (tan handle) hold under extreme fault conditions than anything else. They are what taught me to respect 120V, because before then I'd never seen such a fireball come from a 20A breaker and 12ga wire.
    Last edited by JFletcher; 01-25-17 at 08:22 PM.
    Electricians do it until it Hertz!

  8. #8
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    My friend was doing some demo in his basement (old 70's basement going in the dumpster.) He had an FPE panel and when he was demoing, he caused a few short circuits in various places. He found out directly just how bad FPE is.

    Yes, I did replace the service.

  9. #9
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    I'm not going to defend FPE breakers, but I think this needs to be said.

    Purposely grounding a circuit to test a breaker's functionality is not only an invalid test, it's extremely dangerous!

    I'll be that if you take any given breaker and do that, some will trip, some will not. The amount of resistance to ground that takes place in your "touch test" will vary greatly and although it may vaporize the end of the wire, it may not be enough actual current to trip the breaker (unless it was GFCI or AFCI).
    __________________________________________________ ____________________________
    Many people are shocked when they discover I am not a good electrician...

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jraef View Post
    I'm not going to defend FPE breakers, but I think this needs to be said.

    Purposely grounding a circuit to test a breaker's functionality is not only an invalid test, it's extremely dangerous!

    I'll be that if you take any given breaker and do that, some will trip, some will not. The amount of resistance to ground that takes place in your "touch test" will vary greatly and although it may vaporize the end of the wire, it may not be enough actual current to trip the breaker (unless it was GFCI or AFCI).

    It may not be the official method of testing and I am not recommending to do this as normal practice but I would rather know now if a shorted appliance is going to burn this building down. I cannot think of a reason that any functional 20 a circuit breaker would not trip when shorted directly to ground.

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