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Old 04-11-2013, 09:26 AM   #1
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Heat in panel


I have 4 panels that each house several large double pole 240V breakers, anywhere from 30-100amp. During periods when all of circuits are drawing, the panel gets pretty hot. Everything works fine, however, there is what appears to be a plastic piece surrounding the bus bar in panel and that has melted away over time. Is this something that needs to be fixed, or is that plastic piece unnecessary? Hope you can see what I'm referring to in pics. Thanks!


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Old 04-11-2013, 09:27 AM   #2
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Heat in panel


Sorry about pic size, don't know why they are showing up so big.

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Old 04-11-2013, 09:47 AM   #3
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Heat in panel


I can't really see where the damaged plastic was, but it sounds serious.

What type of panel is this?

Do you have an ammeter?
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:21 AM   #4
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Heat in panel


I see it, just about dead center on the first pic. Something is getting hot. Possibly a bad contact between the breaker and bus bar.
Some of the other connections in the panel look poor as well, specifically the lines connected to breakers 8 and 12.

Call in a licensed electrician. That panel needs a good going over, possibly replaced.

Is that bailing wire securing some of the wires together, to the right of #9 and #12?
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:22 AM   #5
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Heat in panel


I'm not sure about what kind of panel it is. I have 4 of them on the exterior of two concrete, open-air, buildings which house electric kilns. Each panel is fed from a very large box at bottom of two main service poles which I believe are fuses.

The plastic piece is behind the breakers and surrounds the bus bar in center of panel. You can just make out the good edge of it in lower left corner of my first pic.

I have a multi-meter.
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:26 AM   #6
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Heat in panel


With high a amperage connection, the connection can become warm or hot if the screw or lug is not torqued
to the panel or breaker manufacturer's specifications.

So the lug tightened to what some people think is tight enough - Connection gets warm or hot.
Tightened a bit more to the specified inch pounds - connection remains cool!

And important to use a torque wrench because some "king kong" men will tighten too much and strip the lugs.

Also there are the connections from the breaker to the panel bus bars. And connections inside the breakers.
Those can get hot too. Best to use a non-contact thermometer to see where the heat is coming from. Then
try tightening the connections to spec.

Note the main lugs at the top and bus bars are ALWAYS live!!! Be sure you know what has power and what
does not or call an electrician if not certain.
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:28 AM   #7
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Heat in panel


The heat is definitely originating at connection between breaker and panel bus bar - that is where this plastic piece is that is melting.
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:34 AM   #8
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Heat in panel


Yes, there is some kind of twisted wire securing those two monster wires to back of panel.
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Old 04-11-2013, 11:40 AM   #9
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Heat in panel


The problem is that the heat, beside melting that plastic, likely damaged the bus bar itself. If it gets hot the metal can oxidize.

Are those circuit breakers the correct ones for the application? Incorrect breakers may not seat fully into the bus, creating heat.

This is truly a job for a professional.

I've never seen wire used to anchor wires in a panel before. If that insulation ever fails you now have a short to ground.
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Old 04-11-2013, 12:34 PM   #10
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Heat in panel


is the neutral large enough???
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Old 04-11-2013, 12:47 PM   #11
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Heat in panel


Don't know, it seems pretty big though. Don't think it really matters because everything is 240v only.
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Old 04-11-2013, 12:48 PM   #12
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Heat in panel


I think I'm just going to put new breakers in all the panels and see if that helps some.
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Old 04-11-2013, 01:05 PM   #13
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Heat in panel


Quote:
I think I'm just going to put new breakers in all the panels and see if that helps some.
Wrong answer.

The panel needs to be inspected. From what I see in the picture there may be some damage to the bus. If that happens it creates resistance, which means heat. You'll ruin your new breakers. It's also a fire hazard. Those other wires need to be examined too. I see many loose strands that are not under the lugs. Again, heat.
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Old 04-11-2013, 01:20 PM   #14
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Heat in panel


Oh, I'm definitely going to inspect the bus bar good once I get the breakers out. And I see what you're saying about some loose strands, so I will also make the new connections to the breakers proper. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I just don't think the panel is bad just because of that melted plastic, but if the metal bus looks melted or discolored badly I will definitely call in an electrician for a closer look. Just trying to save a bit of money, I've already spent an ungodly amount on this set-up (close to 100k on wire alone) and think I'll be okay to inspect and put new breakers in and see if problem gets better.
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Old 04-11-2013, 02:19 PM   #15
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Heat in panel


You also have a combo of at least 2 different breakers.
One is a GE and the other is a square d.
You need to identify the panel brand and install the correct breakers.
This may or may not be contributing to the problem.

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