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Posts Tagged ‘old circuit breakers’

Important Circuit Breaker Maintenance Tool – Wasp Spray

March 21st, 2011 1 comment

On a field service project, the customer was amazed at how much equipment we had on the large service vans. Besides the test equipment for old and newer circuit breakers and for oil filled power transformers and switchgear, we had the equipment and tools to maintain the switchgear and make many potential repairs. Plus generators, fuel and lights and much more. The customer asked, kind of as a joke, if we had anything on the trucks that was very important but wasn’t technical. This was a shutdown project where the power was turned off at 5:00 AM and had to be back on by 11:00 AM. A lot of work in six hours, including replacing one of the circuit breakers.

 

The immediate simultaneous response from two Engineering Technicians was, “Hornet Spray.”  Each truck has at least one can of hornet, actually wasp spray, in a can that will spray a stream 10 to 15 feet. We learned decades ago that it can be painful if you have a short shutdown project and open up the switchgear to access your favorite Square D circuit breakers or Westinghouse circuit breakers or new Siemens circuit breakers and you find the switchgear to be a hotel for a bunch of wasp nests. Hard to find a volunteer to take the bite clearing out wasp nests so you can replace circuit breakers. Instead, a little stream of spray here and there and you’re ready to go. No customer wants their project put at risk because of a few bees, even if they are mad. The bees that is. It’s a magic solution for a non technical problem.  So that’s something non technical but extremely important for an outdoor project to inspect, test and maintain circuit breakers and electrical switchgear. Don’t leave home without it.  

100% Rated Square D 2000 Amp Circuit Breaker

December 15th, 2010 No comments

MIDWEST lost a battle with the maintenance dollar.  A manufacturing plant had a 2000 amp Square D circuit breaker that was loaded to over 1800 amps, sometimes hitting 1900.  We detected the heavily loaded breaker during an Infrared Scan of the facility.  This was an old Square D circuit breaker mounted in a tap box feeding a 2000 amp bus duct. The local contractor recommended they just replace the breaker with a 100% rated breaker. He said they could use Square D, Cutler Hammer, or General Electric, whoever was cheapest and would fit. Because of the bus configuration, it only made sense to use the same Square D circuit breaker. The customer bit on the idea that just replacing the old circuit breaker would solve their problem and save them a lot of money. We strongly disagreed. Replacing the circuit breaker would make zero difference, in this case. The old Square D molded case circuit breaker was an 80% rated breaker.  More recent replacement Square D circuit breakers, same frame, model number, current rating, were 100% rated, ie 2000 amps. The 100% rated replacement circuit breaker was specified 100% if it was in an enclosure with a much larger volume than the old breaker. In other words, to achieve the 100% rating, the breaker must be in a much larger enclosure so as to properly dissipate the heat generated from 2000 amps. This all makes sense. But to just replace one breaker, whether GE General Electric, Cutler Hammer, Siemens, or Square D, with a 100% rated breaker and not address the installation requirements to achieve the higher rating can be a waste of dollars.  A quick check of the old and new circuit breaker specifications, will tell what the installation requirements are. This is the technical added value that is often ignored, or just not known, in too many facilities, as experienced personnel disappear.

            This facility decided to replace the circuit breaker, but later transferred load off the bus duct.

Circuit Breakers in Switchboard Buried in Sand

December 6th, 2010 No comments

Sometimes MIDWEST runs into switchgear and circuit breakers in such harsh environments that you would wonder how they don’t blow up, much less work properly.  An example is some switchgear and old circuit breakers found in foundry environments. The condition of electrical equipment in foundries is 100 times better than 25 years ago. But there is still one thing that has not changed for some foundries and that is sand in electrical switchgear. Some foundries still have their main panel boards and some switchgear in open foundry areas, rather than in clean positive pressure rooms.

 

We recently were called in to repair a 2000 amp circuit breaker used in an open foundry environment. It turned out the old circuit breaker was not a breaker at all, but rather was a 2000 amp bolted pressure switch. The electrical switchboard had over 6 inches of sand in the bottom and 3 or 4 inches on top. The main horizontal bus feeding the risers for the circuit breakers, was partially buried in foundry sand. The service technicians said they actually scooped the sand out before even trying to use vacuum equipment. Fortunately the sand didn’t carry anything with it that acted as a conductor. This isn’t always true. In this case, the sand was just more insulation.

 

Maintaining the bolt lock switch and the circuit breakers was a nasty job. The covers had to be removed from every breaker to clean the operating mechanism and to get the sand out of the contact and arc chute area. And all our efforts were only temporary since the environment was unchanged. More serious was the fact that foundry dust would be inside the over current trip devices of the circuit breakers. Therefore the operation of the trip devices was unreliable, even unsafe. It wouldn’t make any difference whether these old circuit breakers were Square D, Westinghouse, GE General Electric or Cutler Hammer. Foundry dust and sand doesn’t care who the manufacture is. Even a brand new circuit breaker would be a victim to the sand.

The illusion was the circuit breakers were okay because they didn’t trip. It was only when the owner tried and failed to operate the main switch did they realize that maybe the panel board and breakers needed some attention. This was not the first, nor will it be the last, switchgear, panel board, or circuit breakers that we find basically buried in sand.

Removing Cover from an Energized Breaker

November 19th, 2010 No comments

 

MIDWEST had a customer call and ask if it was okay to remove the cover from an old 400 amp circuit breaker, live. Our Infrared Scan indicated the load side connection was overheating. They wanted to repair it, but didn’t want to turn the power off to the whole panel board. They needed to remove the cover of the circuit breaker to make the repair and thought they could just remove the four screws holding the cover on and carefully remove the cover. We explained politely that they were crazy to try such a thing. This was an old molded case circuit breaker and the arc chutes for this breaker were not fastened in place as they are in some breakers. In addition, the arc dividers were metal and they were held together with an insulated band. On some of these breakers we have to tape the band to hold the arc dividers together or they just fall apart. So the danger would be that you remove the cover with the line side still hot and one of the arc chutes falls out and the metal arc dividers fall apart. It would be almost certain that one of the metal arc dividers would short a stationary contact to a moveable contact and cause a horrific arcing blast, arcing fault.  Depending on the instantaneous, ie fault, setting of the main breaker, the fault might last for seconds and result in tremendous damage to the equipment and expose anyone nearby to serious injury or death from an arc blast. Because the fault is on the line side of the breaker, it wouldn’t take much to create a panel board bus fault. This is a good way to get someone seriously injured or killed and a good way to destroy a whole panel board. To remove the cover off any circuit breaker with the line side hot is a very bad idea. But to remove the cover of some of the older circuit breakers, with the line side hot, is just crazy because of the construction of the breaker. Inside molded case circuit breakers there are other devices that may fall out when you remove the cover. Besides all this, there may be something defective inside the breaker, just waiting there, for the first unfortunate person to take the cover off, and then it falls apart or breaks completely. You could get very unlucky. We call these things incipient failures and they can be some of the most nasty and dangerous defects in electrical equipment, because you are not expecting them. This is true whether it’s a Square D, Cutler Hammer, Westinghouse, GE General Electric, or Siemens circuit breaker or any other breaker manufacturer. Turn the main power off!

High Current Testing Old Circuit Breakers at Low Voltage

October 20th, 2009 No comments

MIDWEST was testing power circuit breakers for a large manufacturer.  The electrician working with us thought we were joking when we said we were putting 6000 amps through his 2000 amp main circuit breakers.  We told him to grab the bus from the test set to the breaker and he could feel the vibration and heat from 6000 amps.  He could hear the loud hum of the test set and the vibration of the old circuit breaker used in their foundry.  He wouldn’t touch it until we touched the bus first.  He had that strange look of “I see it, but I just don’t believe it.”  We told him the output of the high current test set was going into a direct short and the output voltage was only a couple volts.  We had him measure the output voltage with a voltmeter.  Then he understood what was happening.  It doesn’t take much voltage to push a lot of current through a dead short.