Power distribution and switchgear equipment are critical to the operation of your business, and the heart of every power distribution system are circuit breakers. These devices are responsible for protecting your crew from injury and your equipment from damage, so it’s easy to see why spotting signs of trouble is critical. Here are three signs it’s time to repair your industrial circuit breaker.
1. Frequent Tripping
Frequent tripping may be annoying, but it’s a good sign as it means the circuit breaker is doing what it’s designed to do: cut off the electric supply when excessive current is detected. Of course, you’ll still need to get to the bottom of the problem and there are several common reasons why an industrial circuit breaker is repeatedly tripped.
First is a short circuit fault, or a fault that occurs when there is contact between a neutral and live conductor. The result is a current that may be higher than the rated value which trips the mechanism to clear the fault to avoid fire or damage to the equipment. Another cause may be a ground fault that occurs when a live conductor touches a conductive surface outside the circuit. Lastly, the wrong breaker may be installed for the application.
A breaker that has been repeatedly tripped can become worn and weak and may trip before it needs to. Or, if a breaker continues to trip once the fault has been fixed, it may also need to be replaced. While all of these problems may not point to a problem with the breaker, you’ll still need an industrial circuit breaker repair expert to find the root of the problem to prevent future outages.
2. Burning or Scorching
Any time burning or scorching is visible, or a burning smell is detected, this should be considered an emergency. These signs may be visible on the breaker itself or on the device being used, and power should be disconnected immediately as wiring could be damaged and continued use could lead to a fire.
There are many causes of a burning smell or evidence of scorching around a breaker. In some cases, the cause is simply a defective breaker that can be replaced. Corrosion and moisture can also cause a breaker to overheat, as well as overloaded circuits, power surges, and arc-faulting. Regardless of the cause, any visible signs of damage to a circuit breaker should result in de-energizing that breaker immediately to avoid a dangerous situation, and an industrial circuit breaker repair expert should be contacted for help.
3. Hot to the Touch
Circuit breakers are all rated to operate within a specified temperature zone, but none of these zones include temperatures that would feel hot to the touch. There are several reasons why a breaker may heat up, including loose connections, undersized wire, a damaged breaker, or a damaged bus. Regardless of the cause, a hot circuit breaker must be resolved immediately as continued use could lead to fire, damage to the system, or injury to workers.
In some cases, a hot circuit breaker may be improperly installed or otherwise defective and it can be pulled and replaced to solve the problem. In other cases, you’ll want to get in touch with an industrial circuit breaker repair professional to diagnose the problem as it may be broader than just the breaker. For example, if the bus is discolored or there is evidence of arcing damage, there may be other factors contributing to the failing breaker that need to be discovered and solved. Another example would be an overloaded circuit, which would require a more detailed solution to reduce the load on the current.