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Old 06-01-2009, 11:02 PM   #1
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


Hi All,

I was staring into my main panel (as one is wont to do), and saw this:




Enlargement:




Two dual-pole breaker modules have this problem (one is rated 50A, the other 20A -- CAC compressor and air handler, respectively). Basically the white stuff you see is flaking off as powder. I'm assuming it's sealant of some kind. You can see some if it on the tip of my screwdriver; I knocked some loose, but there was already a bit that had come off.

Only one other breaker in my panel is made this way, and the white sealant (?) above the terminal is shiny and new looking, even though the unit is appx. the same age as the ones above. (The house was completely rewired somewhere between 1997-2002, so all breakers are probably < 10 yrs. old).

Is this deterioration caused by overheating? Is it just natural aging? And more importantly, should I replace the breakers?

Thanks in advance,
Scott


Last edited by ScottR; 06-01-2009 at 11:03 PM. Reason: Spelling.
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Old 06-02-2009, 07:40 AM   #2
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


10 years is not very old.

I would suspect counterfeit breakers.

I know that's not what you wanted to hear. Go google for some other distinguishing marks that counterfeits might have compared to the real ones, and see what you come up with.

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Old 06-02-2009, 08:07 AM   #3
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


There's counterfeit breakers? Big black market for those things? The whole main panel w/breakers can be had for $150. How much could they of possibly saved?
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Old 06-02-2009, 09:59 AM   #4
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


Quote:
Originally Posted by BowDown View Post
There's counterfeit breakers? Big black market for those things? The whole main panel w/breakers can be had for $150. How much could they of possibly saved?
That's the thing, you are assuming that the electrician or builder knew they were counterfeit... Most of the time the supply house, the importer... no one realizes they are counterfeit until after the fact. It comes from the very top. Reputable electronics distributers get burned all the time.

Sixty-four thousand counterfeit square D QO breakers were sold over the last few years. And that's just the biggest story. There could be other, more small scale incidents out there.

Quote:
Silcox added, "Counterfeit circuit breakers have been found that are nothing more than a good looking switch providing no electrical protection whatsoever."
They only need to appear to work long enough to trick people.

Here's a pamphlet from Siemens about counterfeit breakers, they have some contact information you can use and they'll help you figure out whether that was the problem or not:

http://www2.sea.siemens.com/NR/rdonl...phletfinal.pdf

Last edited by Gigs; 06-02-2009 at 10:03 AM.
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:51 AM   #5
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


I've heard of counterfeit breakers before, and that was one of my thoughts. The thing is, they are generic looking. No obvious branding whatsoever. I'd think that counterfeiters would put a big D on them rather than nothing. (They're Siemens breakers, I believe).

I don't want to risk it either way, so I'll pull both units and replace them regardless.

But could someone who's seen a lot more breakers than myself take a look and see if they look real? (Correct font, markings, etc). I'm very curious, and if they are real then I'm still concerned that they overheated at some point.

Fortunately the rest of the panel is filled out with Square D, so if these are fake then they might be the only ones.

And the panel is Murray, BTW. Not sure of the model off hand. Which brings up another question: Why do I have Murray, Sq. D, and Siemens breakers? I can't remember who bought who, but are they even compatible? [EDIT: Answered part of my own question; should have googled first. Murray = Siemens and they look the same from the top. Gotta pull the units to check the side labels. According to information from Siemens and others, they look OK so far.]

Thanks!




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Old 06-02-2009, 12:44 PM   #6
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


Those two breakers look like GE (General Electric) breakers, the main panel at my parents place has breakers that look exactly like that (and its a GE panel). I know the Square D Homeline breakers look identical to the GE breakers in the way they attach to the bus. As far as compatibilty, you'll need to check with the manufacturer of the panel, of course if they are installed in the panel they obviously fit, but that doesn't mean they are listed to be used with that panel.

Personally I don't see where it would be a problem (both in fit and electrical functionality), but if they are not listed for use in that panel and you happen to have an electrical fire of some sort I could see that being a point for the insurance company to question. Of course every manufacturer wants you to use thier product becuase they of course make the money on it.
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Old 06-02-2009, 04:55 PM   #7
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


How to Spot a Counterfeit Breaker
www.necanet.org/pdf/Siemens-How_to_Spot_a_Counterfeit_Breaker.pdf
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Old 06-02-2009, 05:49 PM   #8
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


You are right, you have both Siemens and Square D HOM breakers in a Siemens panel. The Square D ones are technically not supposed to be there in terms of UL ratings, but they fit.

You should try contacting Siemens... these companies are not like retail companies... they will actually listen if you complain. They can either tell you why the potting stuff is coming out, or confirm they are fake. They might ask you to mail them the bad breakers to do their own testing.
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Old 06-02-2009, 07:45 PM   #9
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


Thanks for your replies!

I know Sq. D HOM breakers aren't listed for the panel, but I was trying not to think about it because I have 40 slots filled, with 7 Murray/Siemens, 31 Sq. D and 2 CH (I think the CH units are actually classified for this panel, but the panel markings prohibit them).

I'm planning on adding at least one more sub in the garage, so I guess I could get a Sq. D panel and move breakers over there, replacing them with Siemens in the main panel.

Annnyways, I pulled one of the "bad" breakers, and here is the side label:




The thing that worries me is that everything in the white area of the label is in Spanish. ("Modelo", "2 Polos"). Is that standard, or do I have a Mexican breaker?

I emailed Siemens with pics, so I'll see what they say about it.
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Old 06-02-2009, 07:50 PM   #10
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


Dam Mexican breakers
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Old 06-03-2009, 01:59 PM   #11
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Gigs View Post
You should try contacting Siemens... these companies are not like retail companies... they will actually listen if you complain.
You know, I didn't believe you until I got this back just now from Siemens:

Scott,
We have looked at these pictures with our engineering department. These
are definately our breakers and they are not counterfeit. The flaking of
the sealant can occur from contact from the screw driver or something
similar.
If you are concerned about the flaking, you can also call your local
electrician to come out and check on your load center and breakers
again.
Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Best regards,
Kathrin
__________________________________
Kathrin Mai Vickery
Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc.
Industry Sector, Residential Products Division



So the breakers are real (phew), and I guess I can just blame the flaking on the previous installer hitting all 4 breakers extensively with his screwdriver.. (???) Dunno how much I like that explanation because I was able to unscrew all 4 terminals w/o hitting the sealant.

I guess I'll re-install and turn 'em back on.

Thanks everybody for your replies! And kudos to Siemens on a quick response.
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:37 PM   #12
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


If you poke it and it's still solid and not crumbly, then I think you are probably OK.

Good that counterfeiting was ruled out.
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:47 PM   #13
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


It's still plenty crumbly if I poke at it, but otherwise it doesn't come loose from just moving the breaker around.

My main concern was that the crumbling was caused by overheating. Both breaker modules look A-OK except for the sealant. The buss looks shiny and new also..

You think I should still replace them?
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Old 06-03-2009, 03:08 PM   #14
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Deteriorating sealant on breakers?


It's up to you... I think I probably would if it's what you'd consider crumbly. It's what, $50?

As far as overheating... no, the label would be discolored, and it looks fine to me.

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