Important Safety Bulletin

The Federal Pacific circuit breakers that were originally installed in Lakes of Bent Tree homes are believed to increase the likelihood of a home fire by 20%. If you have these in your home, you should have them replaced.

These breakers were popular because of their low cost. Twenty-eight (28) million homes in the US have them. The most authoritative analysis of the risk is published in this 2017 summary of a presentation to the American Society of Home Inspectors. It estimates that every year failures by these breakers lead to 2,880 electrical fires, 13 deaths, 116 injuries, and $40 million in property loss. It further states that the likelihood of a home fire is 20% higher in homes with these breakers.

The highest failure rate has been reported with the double pole high amp breakers - the breakers that are serving high voltage (220 volt) appliances like the stove, oven, heater, dryer, and AC at LBT. The failure rate of these breakers increases with use.

The problems with these breakers have been well known for at least 30 years. The LBT board emailed a bulletin to owners in August of 2016 to bring attention to these circuit breakers and related wall panels.

Recent information suggests that some homes in the community may still have Federal Pacific circuit breakers in place. This has implications for every homeowner.

A circuit breaker is designed to trip during an overload or short circuit, thereby cutting off the flow of electricity and preventing a fire. But if the breaker doesn’t trip, the increasing current can cause the wires to overheat, similar to the way the wires in a toaster heat up, and in some cases will ignite the home. Also, if the breaker doesn't disconnect the power when you shut off the breaker to replace a switch or light fixture - you could unknowingly expose yourself to live line voltage and a shock hazard.

According to one fire chief, Vince Colavitti of Clifton, N.J., "The Federal Pacific Electrical panels are notorious for malfunctioning. Many of these circuit breakers fail to trip during an overload condition which causes the house wiring to overheat and to ignite combustibles in the area. There’s millions of these breakers out there. It’s a ticking bomb waiting to happen” 

Failure to trip  Electrical engineer Jesse Aronstein has been testing these breakers since the 1980s, when he was hired by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. He reports that three laboratory studies found failure rates of 40%, 51%, and 74% for the double pole breakers. In a field study of a 63 unit condo, there was a 70% failure of the double pole breakers. 

Fraud by the manufacturer  A New Jersey court found the Federal Pacific committed fraud. The Pacific Electric Company cheated on testing and inspections to achieve approval from Underwriters Laboratories, the nonprofit product safety testing and certification organization that tests nearly every item using electricity and sold in the United States. According to Aronstein, representatives of Federal Pacific Electric would use a remote control to “trip” breakers if it didn’t trip properly during UL testing.

Loss of UL approval  After purchasing the Federal Pacific (the company), Reliance Electric discovered the fraud and noted it in their 1982 Security and Exchange Commission filing that, “UL listings on circuit breakers made by Federal Pacific had previously been obtained through the use of deceptive and improper practices.”  Around the same time, Reliance Electric was acquired by Exxon. Reliance/Exxon and UL collectively agreed to remove the UL listing for the breakers, but at that point millions had been sold from the 1950s to the 1980s.

NACHI and ASHI recommend removal and replacement   Home inspection certification organizations NACHI and ASHI recommend that Federal Pacific Electric breaker panels be replaced.

US Consumer Product Safety Commission  In a 2011 statement, the Consumer Product Safety Commission  (CPSC) said it closed its investigation of Federal Pacific circuit breakers without enough information to make a determination regarding their safety. In 2012, an Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers-published study confirmed the fire hazards from FPE Stab-Lok breakers and called for the CPSC to take appropriate action. The breakers were never recalled.

How do I determine if I have Federal Pacific circuit breakers?

Go to your circuit breaker box and look for the brand name "American, Federal, Federal Pacific, Federal Pioneer, Challenger, UBI, NoArk, or Stab-Lok" stamped on the box or breakers.

Are there any safe Federal Pacific circuit breakers?

There are UL approved breakers that fit a Federal Breaker Box. After Exxon took over, the breakers were redesigned and received UL approval. These can be identified by a white dot near the word "on" AND a pink UL label (only visible with the cover off).  However, there are still unapproved third party parts on the market. Federal Pacific Electric is no longer in business. Reliance electric was eventually sold by Exxon and is now part of Rockwell International Corp.

If there are approved breakers, why change the whole panel?

In some cases it may make sense to replace the breakers and install the Eaton panel retrofit kit. There is an in-depth discussion on the trade-offs >here<. Four points are raised in this discussion.

  1. Some contend that the newest replacement breakers are not much different than the old.
  2. Circuit breaker replacement does not address the busbar defects in the panel, which are just as dangerous as the breaker defects;
  3. The cost to an Eaton retrofit the panel and replace all the breakers is about the same as replacing the whole system.
  4. Be proactive - don't wait for it to fail.


  1. Please advise who the HOA uses to inspect and replace these if necessary and the approximate cost. Thank you.

    1. The Association doesn't recommend its contractors for residential repairs; it's a conflict of interest for the contractor and it has caused community problems in years past.

      Any qualified electrician can change out a breaker panel. Some homeowners have used RFX Electric to change out Federal panels and they recommend Ryan. He has experience working with the electrical system here. Back then, he worked out a discount for doing multiple panels.
      • Ryan Fisher • • 469.406.3997 •

    2. Do we know how many owners have these electric panels? Do we know which homes?

  2. We had our panel replaced for $1,800. I never fully understood what the issue was. Thanks for sharing this with the community. I hope everyone will heed this message.

  3. I wasn't told about that when I bought the condo and don't know if the owner applied for the repairs with Princeton. He owned the property in March when condo owners were supposed to report their faulty wiring, but he was being placed into a long-term care facility at that time. Now that I own the property as of last Friday, what do I do? The repairs haven't started. (Correct?) I certainly don't want to put anyone (myself included) at risk. Please advise and tell me exactly what the problem is, what to do and who to call to get this fixed as soon and as cost effectively as possible. Thank you! Vicki

    1. I may have misunderstood but I believe the electrical panel concern and the Claim filing are two separate items.

      I believe the intent of the Article was to raise awareness about potential issues. Many owners have upgraded their electrical panels but there may be a few that have not. Since you recently purchased, I imagine your home warranty inspection would have illustrated any potential issues for your condo. Would not be a bad idea to have an electrician double check with a more detailed inspection though.

      There was a storm in February where many pipes burst in a lot of the condos at LOBT. Most individual insurance policies have taken care of those repairs. Several are waiting for official denial answer from the Association’s insurance carrier so their individual carrier will complete the reimbursement process.

      I hope this helps,

    2. Thanks for your email. We can certainly understand your concerns. To specifically answer your questions...

      Question: Tell me exactly what the problem is.
      Answer: We did our best to review the issue in the 1,000 word article above. The 25 words-or-less version is that the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors recommends the replacement of these circuit breakers and breaker boxes. The box is located in your garage.

      Question: I don't know if the owner applied for the repairs with Princeton Insurance.
      Answer: Having a breaker box that needs to be updated is not an insurable event for either the HOA insurer or your homeowners policy.

      Question: The repairs haven't started. (Correct?)
      Answer: Not unless you hired an electrician yo do this work. The dedicated electrical, gas, and water service to each home is a homeowners maintenance responsibility as per your deed (CC&R). For electricity, the individual responsibility is on the residence side of the electric meter and the common property is on the other side of the meter.

      Question: Who to call to get this fixed
      Answer: Any qualified electrician can change out a breaker panel. Some are more expensive than others so you may want to ask for a quote upfront. A few homeowners used RFX Electric to change out Federal panels back in 2016. They recommend Ryan Fisher. Back then, he worked out a discount for doing multiple panels.
      (Ryan Fisher • • 469.406.3997)


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