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Expensive Small Replacement Circuit Breakers

May 28th, 2010

How is it possible that a very small replacement circuit breaker, weighing only 2 pounds, would cost over $500 when a large replacement power circuit breaker weighing 200 pounds might be less than $1000?  MIDWEST frequently gets questions similar to this one.  The basic answer is economic supply and demand, the most fundamental law of a market driven economy.  A crude paraphrase would be “If the supply of a product goes down and the demand for the same product goes up, the cost of the product will increase.”  There are more people chasing fewer available goods, or circuit breakers.   In the world of supplying replacement circuit breakers, there are some small breakers that are no longer manufactured and are very rare, very difficult to find in the secondary market of used, reconditioned, and obsolete replacement circuit breakers.  For example, there are small molded case circuit breakers that you can hold between two fingers, but they cost over $500.  These breakers are no longer made. They are fairly common in some manufacturing facilities, but they are just not available. There are very few of them for sale and they are becoming scarce.  This is classic low supply and high demand.  On the other hand, there are large circuit breakers that are so common that they are not worth much more than scrap value.  A zillion of them were made.  Although they are no longer manufactured, they are a “dime a dozen,” so to speak. The supply is so large that it far exceeds the demand.  

 

The high cost of rare replacement breakers is supported by the fact that they are still far less expensive than replacing an entire power panel.  The high cost may seem unreasonable to someone purchasing an item for the first time. However, human nature would tend to look at the cost of a rare item as being too high, but not think of the cost of an abundant item as being too low.  

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