Prevent Electrical Fires in Bethesda MD
COMMON CAUSES OF ELECTRICAL FIRES IN OLDER HOMES ARE:
- Inadequate and overburdened electrical systems.
- Thermally reinsulated walls and ceilings burying wiring.
- Defeated or compromised over current protection.
- Misuse of extension cords and makeshift circuit extensions.
- Worn-out wiring devices not being replaced.
- Poorly done electrical repairs.
- Insufficient clearance. According to the 2008 National Electrical Code, most residential electrical panels require at least a 3-foot clearance or working space in front, 30 inches of width, and a minimum headroom clearance of 6 feet, or the height of the equipment, whichever is greater. If obstacles would make it unsafe for you to inspect the service panel, you have the right to disclaim it
- Aluminum branch wiring.
- Sharp-tipped panel box screws or wires damaged by these screws. Panel box cover screws must have blunt ends so they do not pierce the wires inside the box. Look for wires that pass too closely to the screw openings inside the electrical panel.
- Circuit breakers that are not properly sized.
- Oxidation or corrosion to any of the parts. Oxidized or corroded wires will increase the resistance of conductors and create the potential for arcing.
- Damage caused by rodents. Rodents have been known to chew through wire insulation in electrical panels (and other areas), creating an unsafe condition. Rodents have been electrocuted this way, leaving an unsightly mess inside the panel.
- Evidence of electrical failures, such as burned or overheated components.
- Evidence of water entry inside the electrical panel. Moisture can corrode circuit breakers so that they won’t trip, make connections less reliable, and make the equipment unsafe to touch.
- Evidence of missing or improper bonding. This may indicate improper wiring, damaged equipment or unsafe conditions.
- The physical contact points of the over current protection device to the contact point of the buss are not making good contact. The sounds of arcing (a cracking or popping sound) may indicate this condition.
- Panel manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electric (FPE). These panels have a reputation for being problematic and further evaluation by a qualified electrician is recommended. Zinsco panels can generally be identified by a blue and silver “Zinsco” label inside the panel, and an embossed “Magnetrip” label at the top of the panel face. FPE panels should include, if they were not removed, one of the following identifying labels:
- Federal Electric
- Federal Pacific Electric
- Federal NOARC
- Federal Pioneer
(Source: U.S. Consumer product Safety Commission.)
CERTAIN FEDERAL PACIFIC PANELS CAN POSE HAZARDS
“We recently inspected a home and found a Federal Pacific Electric circuit breaker panel, once one of the most common panels installed in American homes. Most of these FPE panels have been replaced, but we still run across one every once in a while, and it always puts us in a bit of a quandary. Here’s the problem.
Certain FPE products – “Stab-lok” circuit breaker panels and breakers – manufactured between 1965 and 1980 have been proven to fail under certain conditions when overloaded, creating a fire hazard. The breaker panel itself was poorly designed and has other problems as well. In some instances, the breakers have been known to fall out when the cover is removed, causing arcing.
While these FPE “Stab-lok” products may perform satisfactorily forever, under normal conditions, they have been known to cause electrical fires. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has conducted testing of these products and found significant failure rates. While they stop short of condemning and recalling the products, the CSPC recommends that the consumer should avoid overloading circuits and to turn off and have examined any devices that are causing the the circuit breakers to trip in order to prevent electrical fires in Bethesda MD.
However, in a 2005 class action lawsuit, the New Jersey State Court ruled that FPE “violated the Consumer Fraud Act because they knowingly and purposefully distributed circuit breakers which were not tested to meet UL standards ….” An investigation showed that under UL test conditions, the FPE panels failed to trip at a much higher rate than standard panels.
FPE is no longer in business, but believe it or not, you can still purchase replacement after-market breakers. Confusingly, it appears that there are several newer companies now manufacturing electrical equipment under a Federal Pacific name, but not producing “Stab-lok” products. Concerning the older FPE products, in our experience, the responses from qualified electricians range from “aw, they aren’t so bad” to flat-out refusal to work on an FPE panel. So, you can see our problem. How do we tell a client that the electric panel in the house they are thinking of buying is a safety hazard, when it appears to be working properly as intended, and may be fine forever?
Our position is this: You can prevent electrical fires in Bethesda MD! We urge you to replace any FPE “Stab-lok” products in your home or business, regardless of when they were manufactured or installed. It has been proven that they are a latent fire hazard. The Federal Pacific and “Stab-lok” names should be visible on the panel. We also urge you to have any FPE panel inspected by a qualified electrician.
There is a mountain of information online regarding these old FPE products. Check it out.”