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The Dangers of Overloading Circuits

"Karen and Floyd Clardy remember hearing a giant pop from the garage. The lights in their Lake Highlands home went out, and suddenly there were flames."

This national news article highlighted the demise of one unsuspecting family's tragic ordeal when their home's circuit breaker "was shooting flames and sparks" which destroyed much of their property; $160,000 structural damage to their two bedroom home. Thankfully there was no loss of life.

The culprit behind this home fire was suspected to be the overloading of a certain kind of circuit breaker used. [Circuit breakers are designed to interrupt the electrical current when circuits become overloaded and overheated.] "Experts first began saying in 1980 that a high percentage of the circuit breakers failed to trip; only 1,200 out of 3,000 according to a former Federal Pacific engineer. But after testing the devices for about two years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said the government lacked sufficient data to warrant a recall. No warning was ever issued." And surprisingly there are an estimated 20 million homes in America still using this exact model.

In light of this incident, and with today's new technologies and demanding electrical home appliances, it's strongly recommended that we all take time out to check our homes' circuit breaker boxes. We can save not only our properties, but even more the lives of our loved ones.

Check your breaker box.

Here are some practical steps you can take to ensure your safety:

  • This week(end) be proactive and take a few minutes to personally check if your home's electrical panel contains the Federal Pacific Stab-Lok circuit breakers or Zinsco model. -- So how can you tell if your home has a Federal Pacific Stab-Lok circuit breaker (FPE)? The faulty breakers would be inside a box in a wall of your home, probably in a closet or in the garage. Inside the panel door would be a label that says "Federal Pacific" or the letters "FPE." The flaws in the breaker are not visually apparent.
  • What should you do about it? -- Experts say any Federal Pacific Stab-Lok breaker should be replaced (just as an a Zinsco panel and aluminum wiring materials of an older home should). FPE breakers that have a white dot on the handle were manufactured after a redesign by Federal Pacific. Testing shows they are statistically less likely to fail, but experts still recommend replacement.

Having seen this type of tragedy strike is unfortunately not new news for us at Mr. Electric of Portland. Our desire as a local business is to be an active voice in our community as well as consumer advocate. Take the time to protect your family and home investments with a simple phone call. And know that we are here to provide you with excellent and incomparable service. At Mr Electric of Portland, we have the power to make things better!

Quotes sourced from

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