Circuit Breaker Retrofitting Shortcut Mistake
For many years retrofitting General Electric circuit breakers and Westinghouse, now Cutler Hammer, circuit breakers was very common. Replacing the old dashpot style over current devices with modern electronic over current protection greatly improved the reliability and the flexibility of the retrofitted circuit breaker. This was particularly true when using the newer generation electronic retrofit kits. We still run into many of these retrofitted circuit breakers today. Typically the retrofits were well done. But sometimes we run across a circuit breaker that was retrofitted in the field, on site. This saved time and was often done quickly during shutdowns or to just save cost. Ignoring the need to maintain a circuit breaker to be retrofitted, MIDWEST never retrofitted circuit breakers on site because of the need to perform complete over current testing and special load testing after the retrofit was complete. Companies that retrofitted breakers on site could test the breaker by secondary injection method. That would prove the new electronic device operated properly and it would prove the old Westinghouse circuit breaker would actually trip, but it did not proof test the complete system. Worse yet were occasions when we might see a General Electric circuit breaker, for example, that had been retrofitted on site and not even tested by secondary injection method by the contractor that did the work. MIDWEST recognizes this when we are troubleshooting a circuit breaker that apparently failed to trip and we discover that it would never trip under any circumstances. We do a positive trip test. Tough test, takes about 12 seconds. We simply confirm that the trip device will actually move the trip bar enough to trip the Westinghouse circuit breaker, for example. And we find out it will not. This is typically just a mechanical adjustment. But you can imagine the anger when a customer finds out that the breaker they paid 2 or 3 thousand dollars or more to retrofit fifteen years ago, was just a switch because the breaker would never trip under any conditions, other than pushing the trip button. Period maintenance and testing would have found this. Experience and knowledge would have prevented it. Shortcuts cause problems. It wouldn’t make any difference if it was an old Allis Chalmers, Siemens, ITE, or Federal Pacific or General Electric or Westinghouse circuit breaker, the problem was with the service company procedure, not the manufacturer.