Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) was a company that produced circuit breakers and other electrical equipment. The company was founded in the 1950s and quickly became a popular brand in the electrical industry due to its affordable prices and widespread availability. However, in the decades that followed, the company's reputation was tarnished by a series of safety concerns, and it ultimately went bankrupt.
One of the major issues with FPE products was their tendency to fail to trip, or shut off, in the event of an overload or short circuit. This meant that electrical currents could continue to flow, leading to the risk of fire or electrocution. The problem was not limited to one specific model or production run; instead, it seemed to be a fundamental flaw in FPE's design.
Despite these safety concerns, FPE continued to be widely used throughout the 1970s and 1980s, in part due to its affordability. Many homes and buildings were equipped with FPE circuit breakers, and the company was one of the largest producers of electrical equipment in the United States.
However, by the 1990s, FPE's reputation had been irreparably damaged. Numerous lawsuits had been filed against the company, alleging that its products had caused fires and other safety hazards. In 1983, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted an investigation into FPE's circuit breakers and found widespread evidence of design flaws and defects.
Despite these findings, FPE continued to operate for several more years. However, in 1997, the company was acquired by Reliance Electric, a larger electrical equipment manufacturer. Shortly thereafter, Reliance Electric was itself acquired by Rockwell International, which ultimately led to the dissolution of the FPE brand.
Today, FPE circuit breakers are still present in many homes and buildings throughout the United States. However, due to the safety concerns associated with these products, many electrical experts recommend that they be replaced with newer, safer models. In addition, the legacy of FPE serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of quality and safety in the electrical industry.