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My mom's house (close to Detroit, MI) has a Federal Pacific panel and we want to replace the existing kitchen circuit breaker with Stab-Lok GFCI breaker. I want to add that I do understand and read all the questions/articles on Federal Pacific panel / buss bar / breaker issues. While we do understand that replacing a panel is the best & safest option out there, she is cash strapped at the moment and plans to upgrade the panel next year or so. Currently, she is in the middle of a small renovation that requires GFCI protection for more than one outlets. Also, the house was built in 1983 so we believe we have the 'safer' FPE panel.

Am I better off using a bunch of GFCI receptacles instead? Please advise on whether it is a good idea!

  • Is your question about where to find the breakers, or about how to install them? If the former, shopping questions are off-topic; if the latter, please edit your question to be more clear. – mmathis Oct 4 '17 at 18:57
  • Is your mom's house in Canada using a Canada version of Stab-Lok? That one's OK... – Harper Oct 4 '17 at 19:04
  • Thanks for the comments. Very useful. It is more about understanding if new ones are available in stores (I have not seen them). My mom's house is in Detroit, but the CA home dpot is very close by. – NotVeryDIY Oct 4 '17 at 19:22
  • Are all the outlets that need GFCI protection on the same circuit? Can you find the first receptacle on that circuit, or a place to cut a box into the circuit ahead of the first outlet if it's not a receptacle? – ThreePhaseEel Oct 4 '17 at 22:26
  • @ThreePhaseEel - good question and I am not sure I know the full answer to it. I believe all the outlets that need GFCI are on the same circuit. But I cannot find the first receptable on that circuit. Could you please tell me why you ask? – NotVeryDIY Oct 5 '17 at 4:22
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Don't go there

The Stab-Lok GFCI-breaker is a two-pole half-width Stab-Lok, mechanically speaking, with one of the handles removed and one of the poles connected mechanically to the GFCI trip solenoid instead of having a normal trip mechanism. This is a problem because it renders them quite vulnerable to the infamous Stab-Lok common-trip jam defect -- either an overcurrent trip or a GFCI trip could cause the breaker to jam up, utterly defeating its utility as a protection device.

Instead, fitting a GFCI-receptacle at the first receptacle on the circuit, or cutting into the homerun and adding a box for a deadfront-type GFCI, would be recommended, if you are not replacing the panel, that is.

(Note that new-build Canadian Stab-Loks may or may not be any better than their crappy USA counterparts, still are vulnerable to bus burnups, and are not listed for use in the USA anyway, so don't make the trip across the border either.)

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As I read your question which is better GFCI outlets or breakers. With this panel I would GFCI outlets for 2 reasons. First the reset will be in the location of the the appliance or device that caused the trip. 2nd I won't work on FPE panels except to replace them. Yes they are available but I think you could buy 4 top of the line latest design gfci outlets for what 1 breaker cost. I won't work on those panels as I said if you have ever seen the back plane of an fpe panel melt down scary. Use the outlet type then you won't disturb the panel and it will be cheaper and you can save by being able to use these outlets when you replace the panel in the future.

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