Getting the Most from Your Industrial Circuit Breakers

May 5, 2020

Industrial circuit breakers are a necessary component of every electrical system to protect your crew and equipment from danger. When they become damaged or broken, an immediate replacement is required to prevent downtime. Still, the cost to replace industrial circuit breakers can range from several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. In many cases, companies can save a considerable amount of cash over the lifetime of their equipment by reconditioning breakers for reuse rather than replacing and discarding.

What is Reconditioning?

The process of reconditioning is recognized and defined by ANSI/IEEE (C37.59) as “the process of maintaining existing power switchgear equipment in operating condition as recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions, using only the original manufacturer’s recommended replacement parts, without altering the design.”

In other words, if a shop like Quad Plus is to use the term “reconditioning” for any power switchgear equipment such as industrial circuit breakers, then specific requirements will apply. First, any reconditioned part must be in operating condition as supplied by the manufacturer’s instructions. Second, only original manufacturer parts or those directly recommended by the manufacturer may be used. And lastly, no part of the design of the product may be altered. In short, the part must be returned to like-new working order.

The Reconditioning Process for Industrial Circuit Breakers

At Quad Plus, the industrial circuit breaker repair team uses a five-step process for inspecting, repairing, and testing all reconditioned circuit breakers to ensure a superior finished product.

  1. Initial Inspection. The first step of the process is a visual inspection to look for mechanical damage or missing parts. We record the breaker’s trip settings as found as well as test the breaker to find it’s electrical condition.
  2. Disassembly. The second step is to deconstruct the breaker into its component parts and defective components are identified. Any parts associated with a particular serial number are grouped together. Components are not mixed with those carrying a different serial number. During this step, we also:
    • Clean arc chutes and inspect for cracks
    • Clean and inspect all phase barriers, main insulators, bushings, and insulating materials.
    • Clean and inspect the operating mechanism while removing old lubrication.
    • Inspect and clean finger clusters, main contacts, and arcing contacts using a ceramic tumbling process. Abnormal contact surfaces are lapped or polished and replated with silver. If correction is not possible, the contacts are replaced.
    • Clean, inspect, and repaint or replate the breaker frame components.
  3. Reassembly. At this point, the component parts are ready to be reassembled. All bearings, pins, retainers, nuts, bolts, and hardware that show evidence of wear are replaced using OEM or OEM-equivalent pieces. Stationary and moveable contact pivot surfaces, operating mechanisms, linkages, and bearings are lubricated according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Contacts are adjusted and aligned for proper pressure, and finger clusters and control fingers are inspected for alignment, mechanical integrity, and tension.
  4. Mechanical Operation Test. Once the industrial circuit breaker is reassembled, it must be tested to ensure proper mechanical operation. The close mechanism is tested to ensure operation with no binding or slow operation. The trip mechanism is tested, along with verification of the close/trip indicator and closing spring indicator to ensure proper operation. Lastly, a record of the amount of force required to trip the breaker is documented.
  5. Electrical Test.For low voltage breakers, once they are in mechanical working order, they must be tested to ensure proper functioning in working conditions. Insulation resistance is measured at the appropriate test value, each phase to ground, between phases, and across open contacts of each phase, along with the contact resistance for each phase. Then, proper electrical operation is verified, including the spring charge motor, closing operation, and shunt trip, if applicable. Lastly, a primary current test of trip units is performed.

Are Reconditioned Breakers Safe?

In a word: yes. Our industrial circuit breaker team is PEARL certified and we stick to the letter of the process as defined by ANSI/IEEE C37.59. At Quad Plus, we also understand the fundamental role that circuit breakers play in the safety of your personnel and your equipment so we thoroughly test each breaker for both mechanical operation and electrical operation before returning to the customer.

What About Retrofitting?

Low voltage breakers that are decades old may not have the advanced protection features found on modern breakers. Of course, not all old systems are designed for modern circuit breakers, but that doesn’t mean that you’re facing the expense of replacing the entire system. Instead, the Quad Plus industrial circuit breaker team can retrofit modern breakers for existing facilities to provide additional safety and security without the hassle or cost of a complete system upgrade.

Industrial Circuit Breaker Maintenance

The safety and ongoing operation of your facility rely on the proper maintenance of your system. We offer a complete line of maintenance services for your industrial circuit breakers, including reconditioning, retrofitting, and a customized preventive maintenance schedule specific to your operation. We support low voltage breakers and switches, including open type, insulated case (hybrid), and molded case breakers. For medium-voltage breakers, we support up to 34KV, including air break, vacuum, and oil-filled. In addition, we also support SF6 breakers and disconnect devices, and virtually every manufacturer out there.

You can trust the experience and expertise of the professionals at Quad Plus.