I'm often asked "What is the most-costly defect in a home?" That's a tough call because there are several areas of concern that could lead to expensive repairs, but just a few that might result in loss of life and limb. One of those is a particular electric panel manufactured by Federal Pacific Electric, and is known as their Stab-Lok model.
Millions of these were installed between the 1950-1980. Subsequent to numerous in-the-field failures, they were removed from the market, but tens of thousands still exist in homes.
According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, these circuit breakers may fail to trip properly with overload and short-circuiting, making them ineligible to be listed as acceptable by Underwriters Laboratory (UL). And since the National Electric Code (NEC) requires all electrical components to be listed by UL or other registered testing agency, they are deemed unacceptable for installation and use.
Studies suggests that FPE Stab-Lok breakers may be responsible for as many as 2,800 fires, 13 deaths and $40 million in property damage every year.” Even if the circuit is in the ‘off’ position, FPE Stab-Lok has been known to still power the circuit causing an electrocution hazard.
Considering these statistics, we recommend replacement of this panel in all instances. In this case, an ounce of prevention is certainly worth it!
The home inspection involves the use of multiple instruments, but one of the most overlooked, yet critical, is Thermal Imaging.
A thermal imaging camera pinpoints differentials in temperature, rendering the differences in various colors. For instance, dry carpet is a different color than wet carpet because the wet area is a cooler temperature. Likewise, a cold breaker in an electric panel is a different color than a hot one.
The point is this: the naked eye cannot differentiate temperatures, so its absolutely critical that your home inspector use a thermal imaging camera to identify potential areas of concern. The equipment can be expensive but insist that your inspector use one, because with out it, they are only doing a partial inspection. And the areas they miss may result in thousands of $ down the line in repairs, or worse, an electrical fire.
Actual Image Thermal Image
The first photo is what the human eye sees. The second image is what the thermal camera sees, which is a dangerous hotspot in an electric panel.
Actual Image Thermal Image
The first photo is what the human eye sees. The second image is what the thermal camera sees, which is a carpet with 40% moisture. If this went undetected, it could lead to a serious mold issue.
As a home inspector, I'm often asked: "Should I test for radon?" My answer is always a resounding yes. Why? Because when you consider these three facts, radon is one of the most important health issues in any home today.
Radon is a gas that you can't smell, see or feel. It is truly the "Silent Killer."
Have your home tested today. It's fairly inexpensive, usually between $75-125. Consider it an investment in the health and well-being of you and your entire family!