I have come across a few FPE Stab-Lok electrical panels in my home inspections, most of these houses were built in the 1960’s. I use Home Inspector Pro software for my reports and the following is their narrative concerning these panels.
“I have observed a Federal Pacific “Stab Lok” panel in the house. Federal Pacific Stab-Lok model panels are known to have a high rate of failure of circuit breakers. Failure of circuit breakers can result in a fire and/or electrocution. I strongly recommend the Federal Pacific “Stab-Lok” main electric panel be replaced by a qualified electrical contractor.”
Another narrative from http://InspectAPedia.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm. is as follows
“*** Safety Warning*** I have observed a Federal Pacific Electric "Stab-Lok" service panel in the house. This panel is a latent fire hazard: it's circuit breakers may fail to trip in response to an overcurrent or a short circuit. Failure of a circuit breaker to trip can result in a fire, property damage, or personal injury. A circuit breaker that may not trip does not afford the protection that is intended and required. Simply replacing the circuit breakers is not a reliable repair. The panel should be replaced, and significant expense may be involved. “
I did some further research on these panels form the experts , this is what I found. In a class action lawsuit, a New Jersey State Court ruled that the Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Company “violated the Consumer Fraud Act because FPE knowingly and purposefully distributed circuit breakers which were not tested to meet UL standards. An expert who investigated the potential hazards of Federal Pacific Electric panels stated under UL 489 test conditions, that FPE panels fail to trip at a much higher rate than standard panels. Using UL 289 test conditions, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that Federal Pacific Electric panels may be unfit for homes. The materials used to construct the breakers may be weak. As a result, the breakers may not trip, and the panel could be susceptible to catching on fire.
Most breakers in a home are never called upon to trip, and the homeowner's perception is that ‘the breakers work fine.’ The same observation could generally be made if there were no breakers (or fuses) at all, just a hardwired system. In the event of an electrical malfunction, however, our safety may depend on proper operation of the circuit breakers.
The presence of a Federal Pacific panel in a home should be classified as a ‘Safety Defect.’ The Federal Pacific breakers are primary safety devices of questionable operating reliability. The breaker's function is to stop certain electrical sequences that could, if allowed to proceed, lead to fire in the building. If an electrical fire hazard develops somewhere in the building, the breaker is supposed to trip and minimize the possibility of fire ignition. If the breaker is defective, fire is more likely to result.
“There is no question but that the Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® panels should be replaced. There is no practical and safe alternative.”
Dr. Jesse Aronstein, BME, MSME, PhD Consulting Engineer Specializing in Mechanical and Materials Engineering
There appear to be two options for correcting the hazards of having this panel in your home, First is total replacement and second is an Adjustable Retrofit Kits produced by Eaton Corp., Cutler Hammer Products (E-CH) are a patented design new electric panel interior designed to replace aging electrical panels in residential and light commercial applications.
Here is a website with lots of information on the Federal Pacific / Stab-Loc panels .