Posts Tagged ‘westinghouse breakers’

Circuit Breaker Trash Barrel – Fried Load Terminal

February 28th, 2011 No comments
Blog Barrel of Scrap Breakers

Blog Barrel of Scrap Breakers

This is another circuit breaker trash barrel blog. I went to one of the many barrels of trashed circuit breakers and grabbed a breaker out of one of the barrels. We thought these barrels of discarded breakers would be a gold mine for useful circuit breaker maintenance, testing, and reconditioning blog information. So today’s blog is about a Cutler Hammer ED3200, style number 6610C75G04, 200 amp molded case circuit breaker. The breaker looks great. Looks like it was cleaned up but then thrown out. It was. But the operating mechanism was defective.  It would not latch and it would not close the circuit breaker. The cover had indications of overheating at the center pole of the load side of the circuit breaker. There was a piece of the copper conductor still in the load side center pole terminal. The feeder had been cut off rather than remove. The strands of the conductor and the lug were fried. That’s a technical term for overheated to the point of brown discoloration, corrosive appearance on the surface of the lug and on the set screw holding the conductor in place. The metal tab under the lug surface was brown from overheating. The top view showed the top of the lug set screw was also burned and brown. We know from experience that the lug can’t be removed without damaging the load side center pole tab of this Cutler Hammer ED3200 200 amp circuit breaker. We know the heat has damaged the trip device and dried out the interior operating mechanism. A breaker damaged like this, whether a Square D, GE General Electric, Siemens or Westinghouse circuit breaker, is junk and needs to be destroyed. So into the scrap barrel it goes. Warning, one might ‘fool around’ with this breaker and get the operating mechanism to function and maybe finally get the old piece of cable out, but the breaker is still junk. Put it on the table, come back in a week and I’ll bet you it doesn’t work again. If you removed the cover, you would instantly see why.


Circuit Breaker Trip Device – Hidden Defect

February 2nd, 2011 No comments
Square D PAL362000 Circuit Breakers For Sale

Square D PAL362000 Circuit Breakers For Sale

MIDWEST asked our Switchgear Engineering Technicians for an example of a molded case circuit breaker that had a hidden defect that could only be found by experienced testing.  We find many used circuit breakers that have defects that can be found by a close visual inspection.  Sometimes the defect may not be obvious but an experienced Engineering Technician knows where to look and would find the problem. In the business of repairing and reconditioning circuit breakers, we find about every possible problem that can occur. Whether we are reconditioning a replacement Westinghouse, General Electric or Siemens circuit breaker, many of the problems are the same. But we also frequently find hidden defects that could only be detected using proper testing.



For this example, let’s just use a replacement Square D PAL362000 circuit breaker. The breaker was reconditioned, which involved removing the cover to thoroughly inspect and maintain the interior of the Square D circuit breaker. The technician was immediately suspicious because he detected the slight smell of an overheated circuit breaker. Once you get that smell in your nose, you never forget it in the future. Even a small whiff tells you there may be a problem. In this case everything visible was in very good condition. There were no signs of overheating at the contacts or the line or load side breaker terminals. But the contact resistance test results indicated very high resistance on the center pole. A DLRO, digital low resistance ohmmeter, was used to locate the problem. The usual location is either the contacts, the bolted connections to the trip device, or the line or load side terminals or lugs. In this case the defect was inside the trip device. And a close sniff of the trip element confirmed it. MIDWEST performed an additional test, a high current test, to determine the voltage drop and therefore the resistance in the trip device on the center pole. Even though this replacement Square D circuit breaker looked just great, the trip device was defect and had to be replaced.

Square D MAL361000 Circuit Breaker May Take 5 Minutes 40 Seconds to Trip

January 20th, 2011 No comments


Square D MAL361000 Circuit Breaker For Sale

Square D MAL361000 Circuit Breaker For Sale

MIDWEST had a customer call because they had an old Square D MAL361000 and it took forever to trip when they had a serious overload problem. He bet it took 3 minutes. This brought up a common misconception concerning how circuit breakers provide protection. When we provide Hands-On Safety Training, this is one of the items we are sure to cover. First of all, whether Square D circuit breakers, Cutler Hammer circuit breakers, GE General Electric circuit breakers, or Siemens circuit breakers, they are not designed to protect people directly. They are designed to protect connected equipment, yet not nuisance trip due to a non harmful transient event. By protecting equipment, circuit breakers consequentially protect people. His old Square D circuit breaker may have taken over 3 minutes to trip and it may have performed the way it was designed. Breakers have a performance specification called a “Time Current Curve,” TCC. In basic terms, whether Westinghouse circuit breakers or ABB circuit breakers, they do not trip immediately at the trip setting. A 1000 amp circuit breaker does not trip right away at 1000 amps or even 1500 or 2000 amps. As a matter of fact, an old 1000 amp Square D MA circuit breaker may have a trip range of 45 seconds to 340 seconds when overloaded with 3000 amps, 300%.  In basic terms, it should not trip in less the 45 seconds and may take as long as 340 seconds to trip. This may seem crazy but, again, it is designed to protect the equipment connected to it while not nuisance tripping. The same breaker would have an instantaneous setting which would determine at what current value the circuit breaker would trip immediately. But, if that setting is over 300%, ie 3000 amps, the breaker would cook for a long time before tripping.  By that time you can smell the breaker overheating.

Circuit Breaker Large Over Current Time Delays

December 29th, 2010 4 comments

In MIDWEST’s training classes for qualified personnel, there is a segment where we explain the long time delay range within which a Square D 1000 amp circuit breaker should trip due to an overload. This information is received with anything from amazement to skepticism to outright disbelief, even though we show the Square D circuit breaker characteristic trip curve.  The overload time delay information is not restricted to Square D circuit breakers. It’s the same with Cutler Hammer, GE General Electric, Siemens, ITE, Westinghouse, Merlin Gerin, or Federal Pacific circuit breakers.


In our training example we use an old Square D 1000 amp MA type circuit breaker.  If we tested this circuit breaker at 3000 amps, that’s 300%, the minimum to maximum trip range is about 45 seconds to 340 seconds. It might trip in 45 seconds or it might not trip for 340 seconds.  This is an old thermo-magnetic circuit breaker, which typically works by heating a bi-metal in the over current trip device. Many newer breakers use electronic over current devices which have more repeatable overload time delay test results.


The illusion is that these Square D, Cutler Hammer, Westinghouse circuit breakers are designed to directly protect people. They are not. The breakers protect the equipment connected to them and they protect the electrical system. They are designed for the characteristics of the equipment connected, such that connected equipment will not be damaged by an overload or fault. This is a basic limited explanation. So, when you think of molded case circuit breakers, power circuit breakers or air circuit breakers, it’s important to know these breakers don’t just trip right at the breaker trip device rating.       

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.

Old or New Circuit Breaker Hearing Test

October 13th, 2010 No comments


PAL36200 Square D Molded Case Circuit Breaker

PAL36200 Square D Molded Case Circuit Breaker

How would you feel if you were an Engineering Technician and you had just spent over an hour maintaining and testing a Square D PAL362000 circuit breaker and the Engineer walked up, operated the PAL362000 one time and said “It’s junk, throw it out?”  You might think the Engineer should be thrown out. But actually, the Engineer was just confirming what the technician already knew. In this case the circuit breaker had been inspected for any deficiency. The cover had been removed, yes, carefully, and the contacts, arc chutes, operating mechanism were all checked and maintained. The line and load side terminals of the old Square D PAL362000 were clean and in good condition. There was no sign of rust, worn main contacts or arc damaged arcing contacts. The operating mechanism visually looked in good condition. There was discoloration to the movable contact fingers of each pole piece. 


Tests were performed on the PAL362000 over current devices.  The test results were all good.


The contact resistance test results and the insulation resistance test results were all good.  The reset tests were all good.  So what was wrong with this expensive PAL362000 Square D circuit breaker?  There were two things wrong with the breaker. One deficiency was suspected based on the inspection and test procedure. The other was determined based upon our experience servicing Square D PAL362000 and PAF362000 circuit breakersFirst of all the movable contact fingers, ie pole pieces, were discolored.  We have seen this before and it usually means the circuit was heavily loaded.  In this case the circuit breaker was on a feeder that routinely hit 1800 amps and occasionally the breaker had tripped due to the load.  The other thing that told us the breaker was defective was also based on experience.  The experience of operating Square D PAL361000, PAL361200, PAL361600, PAL362000, PAF361000, PAF361200, PAF361600 and PAF362000 circuit breakers has taught us to listen carefully to the closing and opening of the three pole pieces, the moveable contact assemblies. Circuit Breakers that have been in very harsh conditions or operated under continuous heavy load, have a tendency to not open and close all three pole pieces simultaneously. When the breaker is defective, you can hear two or more poles close or open at different times. You will hear two separate distinct contact closings or openings. We know, if the difference is very obvious, repair attempts tend to be very temporary. With proper cleaning, lubrication, and exercising, the breaker may seem to operate properly. But we know from experience, the following year, or even in a few months, the breaker will again not close or open properly.  In these days of real concern for arc flash hazard protection, this defect can not be ignored.


In the example discussed here, the Engineer just confirmed what the technician already knew. The Square D circuit breaker failed the hearing test. In this case experience rules. And it applies to Westinghouse, Cutler Hammer, GE General Electric circuit breakers also.