Why Do Circuit Breakers Become Obsolete?

Electrical Industry

The electrical industry is responsible for the most important section of our country’s infrastructure. While the principles of electricity and current, even wiring techniques, have changed very little over the years, breaker styles continue to evolve.

There are many examples where large arrays of breakers have been installed in an industrial setting, and they have performed well for decades. On occasion, one of these breakers will fail and require replacement. Depending most on its age, you may discover that the breaker is no longer sold by the manufacturer, it has become discontinued or obsolete.

The Square D QE3200VH molded case circuit breaker is one such example. So, while this former mainstay component is still in use and going strong in many installations, picking up a replacement at the local electric supply store can be impossible.

Enter the prospect of purchasing a used or refurbished circuit breaker.

The used electrical market is thriving thanks to savvy industry experts who know how to obtain these still valuable and much-needed parts. Used and refurbished circuit breakers are thoroughly tested and warranted just like a newly manufactured component. You can be assured it will operate to the exact specifications it is rated at.

You’ve identified the bad breaker at a job site

Perhaps this particular breaker has been tripped way too many times. It may have been working right at the peak of its load threshold for years, become overheated, internally scored by arcing when reset with a full load passing through it. Maybe it just failed mechanically. Either way, it’s got to go. You discover the size it has occupied in the box is incompatible with any replacement breakers you have on hand. You wouldn’t want to have to replace the entire electrical array, would you? The client might not like that either.

So, this is the perfect situation for a used or refurbished breaker to come to the rescue.

Another advantage is price. Used electrical parts are less expensive than new ones, often by as much as 70%. Remember, these products have been gone over by a highly trained technician and fully tested. If they receive any parts, they get installed and reassembled with the same kind of precision a machine shop might use restoring a classic car engine.

The replacement part you receive will be like brand new, and the only difference you will immediately recognize is the lower cost!

How are used parts tested?

Each used breaker is placed on a table. The technician has a focused light on the unit and a magnifying inspection lamp available. They check the mechanical action of the breaker while wearing a cotton glove. They investigate for smooth operation and examine the outer surface for any cracks or electrical arcing. The screws are moved in and out, and the screw holes are examined to assure there is no evidence of cross-threading. Compressed air is used to make sure the unit is free of dust. Now, it is time to perform some load testing on the breaker. In some cases, heavy-duty alligator test clips are attached to the breaker. In other cases, depending on the shop, the breaker will be installed in a test box.

First, a load equal to 50% of the breaker’s rated value is applied. After a prescribed period, the breaker is checked for warmth. Some warming is typical. Excessive warming can indicate undesirable resistance under load, and the unit will be rejected or disassembled for a more intense refurbishment. If the breaker passes this test, it goes through a stress test of its maximum rated value. It is then analyzed to see when it will trip.

This action is timed and must take place within the specified range for the specifications of the unit. If the unit functions within all parameters, it goes in a box with a label. It is then sent into inventory just like new stock. Your clients will be happy to get up and running again!