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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, first post, be gentle.

My 1960 electrically-heated house has a 200A GE TRX2820 split-bus panel. It is in fine condition, lugs tight, plenty of room, stays cool under load.

The main disconnects are pairs of single-pole breakers with handle ties added: two pairs each of 50A (sub-mains), 40A (dryer and range), and 30A (water heater and one baseboard circuit). These breakers are original GE Type TQL, and are now over 50 years old.

I read a post that made me nervous. The author wrote that old breakers had inadequate short-circuit current capacity - 5000A or less, while today's models are at least 10KA. GE's present-day replacements for the TQL are Types THQL (10KA), THHQL (22KA), and TXQL (65KA). Moreover, as of at least 1999, although a few TQL's were still on the books, the datasheet says that most weren't even UL listed!

Should I upgrade? Or am I worrying about nothing?

Thanks,
Dave

By the way, these handle ties are two-piece; that is, a piece fits over each single-pole handle, and the pieces have meshing projections. Why did GE make these, when they also make solid ties? They're not exactly confidence-inspiring.
 

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What is the actual AIC of these breakers? Do you have any pics of the panel?

Replacing the breakers would be easy and relatively inexpensive compared to other brands.

The handle ties sound like the trip indicating versions, but a pic would confirm.


BTW, some of those 240 volt circuits might be a code violation without common trip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Here are pictures. (Don't get sidetracked by the double-lug; I'm going to fix that.) The panel photo is rotated clockwise; top is on the right.

By the way, this panel seems to be an oddball among split-bus designs, with the main disconnects in the center and the subs above and below.

The datasheet I referred to is at https://www.platt.com/CutSheets/GE Breakers/THQP.pdf .

TQL 10A has a "not UL listed" AIC rating of 5KA. 15A and 20A are "not UL listed", period, and I guess the 30, 40, and 50 were obsolete by 1999, because they're not mentioned at all.

What's a "trip-indicating" handle tie? Trip is indicated by the handle being in center position, isn't it? Or is this type of tie for the special case where only one pole sees overcurrent? I sure hope both shut off!

<reads another datasheet>

I think I get it. And I don't like it. None of my six main disconnects has common trip. The difference between a trip-indicating handle tie and a solid handle tie is merely that with the former you can tell which one of the ganged breakers has tripped, because of the displacement of the tripped handle. But in either case, a trip leaves the other pole live. When would you want that, other than the degenerate case where you're using the breakers as switches only, not as OCPD's?

If code requires common trip on main disconnects, how did this panel pass inspection? Or was it okay on 1959 code?

Thanks,
Dave
 

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Generally speaking, available fault current isn't much of an issue on a basic residential service. It's pretty rare to see one that even comes close to 10,000 amps, the vast majority are less than 5000.

It's also very rare to see a bolted fault (dead short) in an operating system, they're almost always arcing faults. Even if the system is capable of more that 10KA, it's pretty hard to get that amount of current with an arcing fault.

With breakers that old, I'd be more concerned that they wouldn't trip at all, regardless of current. This is usually because the springs get weak and simply don't have the mechanical strength to trip the contacts open.

As far as I know, new GE breakers will fit that panel. They're not very expensive.

50s are ok for the two subs (60s might be ok, if so, it'll state on the label), 40 is ok for the range (#8 or larger wire), 30 is ok for the water heater (#10 or larger wire), but since the dryer uses a 30 amp receptacle, it's limited to a 30 amp breaker.
 

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Lot going on for eighteen circuits.

I'd toss a coin.

Leave it alone (but you'll always be thinking about it).
Or replace the panel.

With the panel replacement, you will probably have to deal with the lines in and grounding also.

If you leave it alone, you can go out for a hamburger.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks, I wondered if I was spending energy worrying about an unlikely case. For what it's worth, my street is served by a single thin phase wire that's tapped off a thicker three-phase line at the end of the block. The wire feeds two or three pole transformers with secondaries paralleled via service cable strung at lower height.

My dryer uses a 50A receptacle, don't remember the NEMA number, but it's the big crowfoot. The wire is #8, same as the range.

The label in the panel says the subs can be 50A or 70A, depending on the wire size used for the link. I can't remember ANY overload trips in the ten years I've lived here, so I'll stick with 50. I'll start exercising them (5 on-off cycles) once a year. Got any suggestions for a cheap temporary load bank an HO like me could use to simulate overloads? I can do three hair dryers to pop the 15's, but I can't think of anything good for the bigger breakers.

Do you think I should just go ahead and replace the main breakers anyway, on account of sheer age rather than AIC? THQL2130/40/50 are pretty cheap, but when I exercise the old ones, they feel like new, and I hate to throw out stuff that works. Not that I'm certain that smooth feeling means anything, trip != operate.
 

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Was it code compliant in 1959 to gang single-pole breakers (no common trip) as double-pole main disconnects? I can't imagine that being permitted today.
If the load is straight 240 volts like a water heater code still allows it. However, if both 120 and 240 is served a common trip is required.

The dryer should be 30amps and a NEMA 10-30 unless the dryer does indeed pull over 30amps.


Replacing those breakers would be a breeze. GE breakers are amongst the cheapest available at home Depot. Common trip is a really good idea for all 240 volts circuits and code when dealing with 120/240 circuits like a dryer.


I agree with Micromind, he is spot on as always. Breakers that old are at much higher change to fail, so new ones will be a great investment.

FWIW, that panel looks to be in really good shape, and not a bad vintage either :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you, gentlemen! Sounds like the contractor got a deal on single-pole breakers.

I will replace all the main disconnects with common-trip model THQL2150 and so on. Christmas present for the house.

The dryer nameplate is 25A at 240V. The receptacle is a NEMA 10-50, used with both dryers and ranges for decades prior to the split into 10-30 and 14-60. Since the wire is #8 in both cases, a 40A breaker is okay in both cases, isn't it?

Then I'll do the branches. Several are 240V heating loads.
As for testing the 120V circuits... let's see, I have a space heater, a hot plate, two vacuum cleaners and two hair dryers. That should pop a 20 in a couple minutes.
 

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The deal's done. All new breakers (except for the two branches that were already new), less than one hundred bucks. Thanks again.
Good work........you'll sleep better at night........lol.

Yes, I know how difficult it is to throw out things that may be perfectly fine, but considering what can happen if one of the old breakers fails to trip during a fault, it's worth it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I got all the new breakers in, except one that hasn't arrived yet.


They don't quite fit! :furious::censored:

Although they seat firmly and make excellent, positive contact to the stabs, they don't appear to accept the stab as deeply as the old TQL's. This tilts them slightly, which "lifts and separates" to the point where the cover won't seat over them.

I've sent a query to GE Customer Support.

I thought THQL is the approved replacement for TQL.
By the way, I see two different styles of THQL. Different plants, different date codes? Anyway, one kind is worse than the other. Unfortunately, that's what I mostly got.

What's the received wisdom? Enlarge the openings? File down the stabs? Choke and die?

Here are some pictures. I'll get better ones in the daylight tomorrow if you need them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
GE changed the way they set the breaker's seating height. In my panel, you push the breaker down until the top of the molded slot rests on the stab. TQL breakers, THQL Issue UOxxx (probably MJxxx, NExxx and others too), and also Siemens QP and Eaton BR, can work this way, because they all have the same slot profile.

Recent panels have a ridge of insulating material next to the stab; the bottom of the breaker's case rests on the ridge. The stab is not as tall. It doesn't penetrate the breaker as deep. All the above breakers (except TQL which somehow doesn't quite fit) can be mounted. Also Issue RT-xxx of THQL, which doesn't fit the old bus because it can't accommodate the tall stab. Issue RT-xxx is all you will find in retail stock.

So what do you think I should do? I want to cut down the stubs, but my wife is afraid she will find a crispy critter in the garage.
 

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GE changed the way they set the breaker's seating height. In my panel, you push the breaker down until the top of the molded slot rests on the stab. TQL breakers, THQL Issue UOxxx (probably MJxxx, NExxx and others too), and also Siemens QP and Eaton BR, can work this way, because they all have the same slot profile.

Recent panels have a ridge of insulating material next to the stab; the bottom of the breaker's case rests on the ridge. The stab is not as tall. It doesn't penetrate the breaker as deep. All the above breakers (except TQL which somehow doesn't quite fit) can be mounted. Also Issue RT-xxx of THQL, which doesn't fit the old bus because it can't accommodate the tall stab. Issue RT-xxx is all you will find in retail stock.

So what do you think I should do? I want to cut down the stubs, but my wife is afraid she will find a crispy critter in the garage.
Don't do that.

Replace the panel .. looks to me like your up to it. Might have to hire an electrician if local codes require it. If you are allowed to do it yourself and prefer to save a buck come back here and we will help you through the process.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Huge success

[Moderator: Can you change the thread title to "New GE breakers in old GE panel"? Thanks.]

Sorry, Stubbie, I already did it. I woke up in the middle of the night knowing how. Next day... my breakers are sitting pretty!

1. Put a nonconducting shield around the stab being worked
2. Double-glove and wear thick long sleeves
3. Mask and goggles
4. Stand on an insulated pad or riser
5. Run tool and work-light through an isolation transformer

The shield doesn't have to be anything fancy. Mine was scraps of wood paneling. It covers the breakers below the work to prevent falling-debris surprises. I covered the stab above the work with a pair of single-pole breakers. Since this is a split-bus panel, I only had to work "hot" with the six main stabs.

I used a Dremel with a cutoff wheel to remove exactly 1/8" of height off each stab. This leaves 5/8", more than enough for full contact, even with the old TQL's.

I'm not going to urge other owners of old GE panels to do this... but... if you have a burning desire to put in new GE breakers (as opposed to QP's or BR's), this approach is dirt-cheap, and not as difficult or scary as I thought. Just keep respecting that 240V non-stop.

A side note. I had been waiting for one last breaker, and it arrived this afternoon. It wouldn't go in! Turns out this panel has a mis-aimed spot weld which changes the spacing between these two mounting hooks. No problem until you try a genuine double-pole breaker. A few more minutes with the Dremel and Bob's your uncle.
 

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Sawing off parts of the stabs might cause problems down the road. like a melt down. Also wood can dry out and catch fire because the trickling current through it literally dries it out turning it into charcoal.


At this point replacing the panel is the only option. Its not expensive either as a new 200amp GE panel can be acquired for $150.
 
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