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I have a bag full of old Federal Pacific Stab-Lok breakers. A quick Google search says one out of four of these are a fire hazard, and this question/answer corroborate the fact that this is a low-quality residential brand that should be avoided.

Several years ago my licensed electrician brother and I replaced the load center in our house with a brand new GE panel and brand new breakers in accordance with NEC 2011. This was primarily because the old FP panel was out of space and we wanted to bring our kitchen and baths up to modern code (i.e. not one circuit for two baths, kitchen, and exterior outlets) thus avoiding nuisance tripping every time my wife fired up the hair dryer. Anyway, that was all just so nobody worries that we did something wrong and burnt the house down. The house is fine, actually, better off now with each bathroom and the kitchen on separate circuits per the NEC's requirements.

What should I do with this old bag of FP Stab-Lok breakers? Should I sell them, knowing that they lasted 31 years (house built in 1980) without any problems? Or, is selling them just encouraging someone to risk damaging their house?

I know many SE sites frown on ethics/subjective questions, but the help center does not forbid them, in fact it says "questions you would typically ask a home contractor" are on-topic and this is definitely something I would ask. In case you are curious, my electrician brother would say "sell them, not your problem" but obviously he does not care as much as I do.

the breakers

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Tester101 May 2 at 9:48

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Sell 'em. Caveat Ember. (Couldn't resist.) –  OrganicLawnDIY May 2 at 3:33
    
Buyer beware... fair enough (and the correct Latin is "caveat emptor"). –  John Gaughan May 2 at 3:39
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I spelled it correctly. Caveat Ember is latin for "let the buyer catch fire" –  OrganicLawnDIY May 2 at 3:58
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This is actually an important question. As many of you here on SE know, I am a home inspector. We have known for over 15 years that FPE breakers posed a serious safety hazard. I ALWAYS write up pre 2000 FPE panel equipment as a SERIOUS SAFETY HAZARD on my inspections. I advise potential buyers, lenders etc to insist that they be removed/replaced prior to closing on any property. Even insurance companies that do inspections will take note and demand replacement. Do not sell them, destroy them so they do not find their way back into a panel to harm someone else. –  shirlock homes May 2 at 11:46
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@OrganicLawnDIY, I can't find any reference to caveat ember. In any case, wouldn't that really mean "let the fire person beware" or something like that? Just asking... –  alt May 2 at 11:58

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I do not think that you load tested all your breakers. If you sell them, do not advertise that they "worked fine for me" since you do not know if they trip at the appropriate load. And do let the buyer know what you know about the reliability of these breakers.

This video may convince you to put them in the trash. http://www.nbcbayarea.com/Federal-Pacific-Circuit-Breakers-Investigation-Finds-Decades-of-Danger-171406921.html

The best thing I can think to do is to hold on to them in case the gov does a buy-back or exchange program to get them out of circulation. Or a class action suit pays out.

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I watched that video and read the other information at that link, and that has solidified my resolve. I cannot in good faith sell or even give these away. If anyone complains about a Federal Pacific load center for any reason, I will point them this way. I will throw out that bag of breakers and take the effort to hide them inside another trash bag to discourage trash pickers. That investigative journalism made me feel this strongly that it would be a severe ethical failure to provide these to anyone under any circumstances. –  John Gaughan May 2 at 4:12

The fact that you are asking suggests that you are uncomfortable exposing others to a risk they may not be aware of. Your diligence is commendable, but many people mistakenly believe that if a product is offered for sale, it must be reasonably safe and effective. Obviously not always so.

This site is dedicated to helping people do things well. Selling less than satisfactory items (that you would not use yourself) seems not in keeping with what we are trying to do.

I think your gut says "Junk 'em". I recommend following that instinct.

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Deleted my previous comment - yours is a good answer, but the accepted one puts the nail in the coffin. My "real" comment is attached to that answer. –  John Gaughan May 2 at 4:14

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