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Old 04-12-2006, 07:32 PM   #1
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HOT breakers, need advice....


I live in a 2001 model Fleetwood manufactured home. In the past year, I've burned up at least three breakers. Two of them were "double piggyback" style with double 220 circuits. They were 40/30 amp sets which are for the range and dryer respectively. The other one is a piggyback 20amp circuit which runs various recepticles throughout the house.

These Siemens breakers have been burning up where they make contact with the buss bar. I'm no electrician, but I would think if they pulled *that* much current that the breaker would trip. So, I pulled out my trusty meter and did some testing. I turned everything on the stove on and it was pulling 46 amps for over 5 minutes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't 46 amps trip a 40 amp breaker? The dryer is pulling 24 amps which is obviously less than the 30 that the breaker is rated at.

Does anybody have any suggestions for me? We won't be living in this home much longer, but either way I don't feel like its safe. I don't want to read about the people that move in to my home in the paper after I sell the house.

Suggestions? please? (other than hiring an electrician)

Thanks in advance,

David

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Old 04-13-2006, 06:31 AM   #2
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HOT breakers, need advice....


This is not something A DIY'ER should be doing. You will need to call an electrician.

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Old 04-13-2006, 02:53 PM   #3
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sounds like the wiring must be undersized to pull that kind of current.
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Old 04-13-2006, 04:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crecore
sounds like the wiring must be undersized to pull that kind of current.
The size of the circuit wires is of concern here, but could not drasticly affect the total current draw on the circuit.

What it sounds like is that there was originally one bad breaker. Hey it happens even to the best mfgs. The heating of the original damaged breaker heated the buss bar causing damage that can not easily be seen.

More breakers will keep failing and you are throwing good money after bad. You need to replace not only the bad breakers, but the panel guts as well.

As said above, this is not a diy job. you will need to hire it done.
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Old 04-13-2006, 05:02 PM   #5
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HOT breakers, need advice....


If you have the space just install blanks in those bad spaces and move new breakers to clean spots.
If the buss is aluminum get a small tube of anti-ox and put it into the breaker stabs. DO NOT try to put it on the panel buss.

The range circuit is perfectly fine. A 40 amp circuit is typical for many homes and is code legal for any range 12kw and under. The theory is that you will rarely have every burner and the oven/brioler on all at the same timne for more than a few minutes.
No, 46 amps will not trip a 40 amp breaker for quite a few minutes. Breakers do not trip the instant you exceed the rated current.
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Old 04-13-2006, 07:37 PM   #6
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I appreciate the information. The first breaker that failed was a Siemens QT double pole 40 / 30 amp breaker, part number Q-24030. I removed the breaker and saw burn marks from arcing on the aluminum buss bar. With this obvious damage to the buss bar, I reinstalled the new, replacement breaker in a new location in the panel. I did not use the anti-ox on the breaker when I installed it. A few months later, this breaker (same part number as the original), also began arcing to the buss bar in the new location.

Yesterday, I replaced the breaker a third time with a new one, using the anti-ox goop on the breaker before I put it in the panel. When I did this, I checked the other breakers to see if anything similar had happened to them and found that one of the dual circuit 20amp breakers had the same problem. I believe the part number for this one is Q2020. I'm not sure of everything on this breaker, but I know my deep freeze is for sure. The amp draw was 0.0 on one leg and 2.1 on the other at the time that I checked it.

I'm pretty sure I can diagnose any problem with some help, and would like to get to the bottom of this. I really appreciate the input. What would be the next thing to check knowing that three breakers in three seperate places on the buss bar have done this? I've checked the basic circuits and the voltage between neutral, hot, gnd, etc all seem to be fine also.

Any other ideas?

Thanks!

David
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Old 04-15-2006, 05:37 AM   #7
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one bad breaker can heat the entire buss bar causing damage that you cannot see.

First thing is to stop using piggy back breakers and instead buy two seperate two pole breakers for each circuit.

And, even with the additional info you and others have posted I still recommend repacing the entire panel guts. Also look for signs of heating on the wires where they screw to the breaker. If the circuit wire is undersize you should see some heating effect here. Discolored wire or insulation heating up and melting a bit.
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Old 04-15-2006, 10:10 AM   #8
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HOT breakers, need advice....


Quote:
Originally Posted by dsteinke

Any other ideas?

Thanks!

David
Dave,
Your problem sounds like it's with the panel, rather than the breakers or load draw. The burnt breakers are a symptom of a larger problem. Once a panel begins to experience heat stress, the problem compounds itself and gets continually worse. The long term fix for this is to replace the entire panel and all the breakers. I would opt for a Square D QO series, or Cutler Hammer panel. They tend to outlast most other brands in my experience.

If your pretty handy and make sure you know what you're doing before you begin, you can manage a panel replacement yourself. Materials should run less than $300 or so, and I would imagine a DIYer could do the change out in only a few hours.
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Old 04-15-2006, 11:02 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atricaudatus
If your pretty handy and make sure you know what you're doing before you begin, you can manage a panel replacement yourself.
Be sure to schedule a shut down with the utility for your panel change out. And a re-connect when you are done. Most places require an inspection by the local electrical inspector before the re-connect. This must also be scheduled.

Some places requre a permit for this work, and some even require a licenced contractor pull that permit. Check with your local building department regarding the details.

I do agree with the panel (at least the guts) needing to be replaced.

Last edited by jwhite; 04-15-2006 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 04-15-2006, 11:06 AM   #10
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Atricaudatus I am also from new bern. Fancy meeting you here.
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Old 04-15-2006, 11:29 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwhite
Atricaudatus I am also from new bern. Fancy meeting you here.
Small world, JW. :D

What's your trade? Electrician? Are you on Contractor Talk.com also? I only visit this forum every now and then to see if I can be helpful to anyone. Spend most of my time over on CTalk. Learn a lot of good stuff there from some really smart guys in the trade.

Also, on the above panel replacement, this guy lives in a mobile home, so he should have a main disconnect on the pole outside. He should be able to change this panel without involving the power company at all. Of course, I am assuming he will put a wiggy on everything BEFORE taking naything apart. He's changing breakers, so I think it's safe to assume he knows how to safely do it. The inspection is another matter, and he will need to check his local municipality to see if it's required. Not all areas require one for a panel replacement.
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Old 04-15-2006, 01:16 PM   #12
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contractor talk .com is new to me.. I spend my web time on ek forum. I like you try to be helpfull. I am a master electrican. we do most of our work on cherry point ..

I had forgot the mobile home part... very good point.

Jeff
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Old 07-09-2006, 06:31 PM   #13
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HOT breakers, need advice....


I appreciate the info on this. I was going to do this myself, but since I'm still under the extended warranty on the home, they require a letter from a licensed electrician stating the estimated cost plus cause.

I have one scheduled to come out tomorrow to provide me with an estimate. I'll probably end up paying him to do the estimate and then completing the work myself. It sounds pretty simple to me.

Thanks for the info!

David
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Old 07-16-2006, 10:39 PM   #14
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Okay, I had a local electrician come out to the house. He said that he thinks the original problem was that the breaker and bus bar did not have a good connection. The Siemens breakers don't come with the conductive gel in the contacts like the better brands. Once the bus bar got hot, apparently that is why the other breakers started to get hot.

He checked and found that the bus bar is no longer available and said that the box would need to be replaced. He took some measurements and determined that his suppliers don't carry any boxes shallow enough for the wall. (this is in a 4 year old manufactured home) He called around, as did I and we weren't able to find what he said that he needed.

Yesterday, I took measurements of the existing box myself. I looked up some boxes online and found that it is a standard depth box. arg!! Anyhow, I went down to Lowe's since they were the only place open this weekend, and purchased a new SquareD box, breakers, and NM connectors. I did the work myself. I replaced the box and re-wired 22 circuits in about 3 1/2 hours. It may have taken me longer, but at least the work got done!

Thanks for the advice!

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