Replace breakers after damaging surge?

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jjhoward

Senior Member
Location
Northern NJ
I have a customer whose house got hit with a surge that damaged 4 surge protectors, melted 3 receptacles, broke a radio and all of his under cabinet lights.

This was not from lighting, this was from damage to the local utility lines during Sandy.

The homeowner would like an explanation to the insurance company supporting the need for replacing his breakers.
Will such a surge damage the breakers in his panel?

Any info would be appreciated.
Thank you.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
I have a customer whose house got hit with a surge that damaged 4 surge protectors, melted 3 receptacles, broke a radio and all of his under cabinet lights.

This was not from lighting, this was from damage to the local utility lines during Sandy.

The homeowner would like an explanation to the insurance company supporting the need for replacing his breakers.
Will such a surge damage the breakers in his panel?

Any info would be appreciated.
Thank you.
what made the HO think the breakers need to be replaced?

CBs are pretty tough to kill.
 

brian john

Senior Member
Location
Leesburg, VA
Did any of the CBs trip?
Are any of the CBs GFCI or AFCI?
Have you operated any of the CBs?
Was there any damage in the panel?

The biggest issue I would think, would be the contacts in the CBs, they might be welded shut or if the CBs opened the contacts could be damaged beyond use.

For the cost of a single CB I would take one or two from the affected circuits and open them.

Has anyone discussed this with the insurance company
 
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kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Circuit breakers are pretty cheap compared to what damages may be should they fail to perform their duties, I find it hard to believe an insurance company is questioning replacing them.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Circuit breakers are pretty cheap compared to what damages may be should they fail to perform their duties, I find it hard to believe an insurance company is questioning replacing them.

I am curious if the HO wants to replace all the CBs or just the ones on the circuits where there was damage? Given the random nature of damage from this kind of problem, there is no reason to believe that any of the CBs are more or less damaged just because there was or was not damage downstream. I would subscribe to the "replace them all" theory before replacing just a few.

CBs are designed to take and withstand both overloads and short circuits. The equipment they are feeding are not.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
I am curious if the HO wants to replace all the CBs or just the ones on the circuits where there was damage? Given the random nature of damage from this kind of problem, there is no reason to believe that any of the CBs are more or less damaged just because there was or was not damage downstream. I would subscribe to the "replace them all" theory before replacing just a few.

CBs are designed to take and withstand both overloads and short circuits. The equipment they are feeding are not.

I agree CB's are able to withstand some tough conditions. They are mechanical devices and can and will fail. They also are relatively inexpensive compared to what damage may occur should they fail. Any reliable testing will cost more than replacement. If insurance questioned me as to why I wanted to replace them, I would tell them exactly what I just said here. Most of the time when I have run into insurance claims they usually let me do whatever I want to do and generally are acceptable of an installation that is better than what was originally there vs only direct replacement of what was damaged.
 

templdl

Senior Member
Location
Wisconsin
I am curious if the HO wants to replace all the CBs or just the ones on the circuits where there was damage? Given the random nature of damage from this kind of problem, there is no reason to believe that any of the CBs are more or less damaged just because there was or was not damage downstream. I would subscribe to the "replace them all" theory before replacing just a few.

CBs are designed to take and withstand both overloads and short circuits. The equipment they are feeding are not.

Even thought it would be a waste of time and money if it makes the homeowner feel better simply replace the breakers as is requested. Should the breakers not be replaced and on the very rare occurance that an event occur that a finger can be pointed at you for not replacing the breakers as requested you be certain that you will be held accountable. Remember that fact reason and logic are not in the scope of the homeowner.
If the homeowner insists on replacing the breakers just do as he/she requested.
 

cowboyjwc

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Simi Valley, CA
We had a situation like that here also. The only damage it did was to a couple of GFCI receptacles, and some of the electronics in the house that were plugged in at the time (phone, cable box, microwave, etc), like I said some but, not all. The TV plugged into the same receptacle as the cable box was fine. The panel wasn't damaged at all.

Also depending on the cause of the surge, here a 4000+ volt transmission line fell onto the neutral span wire, sending all of that voltage through the panel. If I was really going to check something I would have the wiring meggered out since the insulation is only rated at 600 volts. You'll know pretty quick if the breakers don't work.
 
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petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Interesting that no one wants to answer the questions I actually asked.

I am not opposed to changing out the CBs. If someone is willing to pay you to do it, I say take their money and do it. I would guess most insurance companies will just go along with whatever the electrician suggests, as it is just too costly to send someone out to look closer.

However, my first question was how did the HO get the idea they needed to be changed?

Second, is the plan to only change them on the circuits that showed some kind of damage? My argument would be that if any of them get changed all of them should be changed, including the main. I would be suspicious that if the CBs are damaged, the wiring might also be damaged. So to me just changing out the CBs is unlikely to be a good answer.
 
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brian john

Senior Member
Location
Leesburg, VA
Interesting that no one wants to answer the questions I actually asked.

I am not opposed to changing out the CBs. If someone is willing to pay you to do it, I say take their money and do it. I would guess most insurance companies will just go along with whatever the electrician suggests, as it is just too costly to send someone out to look closer.

However, my first question was how did the HO get the idea they needed to be changed?

Second, is the plan to only change them on the circuits that showed some kind of damage? My argument would be that if any of them get changed all of them should be changed, including the main. I would be suspicious that if the CBs are damaged, the wiring might also be damaged. So to me just changing out the CBs is unlikely to be a good answer.

I think I addresssed that with my approach, noted above.

Now if this was my job.

I'd meg'd them
ductor them
high curent test

but for residential that is way beyond the cost of replacement
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
I think I addresssed that with my approach, noted above.

Now if this was my job.

I'd meg'd them
ductor them
high curent test

but for residential that is way beyond the cost of replacement

Actually, you avoided the most important question. How would you select which CBs to replace? Or would you just replace all of them in the panel including the main?
 

cowboyjwc

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Simi Valley, CA
Interesting that no one wants to answer the questions I actually asked.

I am not opposed to changing out the CBs. If someone is willing to pay you to do it, I say take their money and do it. I would guess most insurance companies will just go along with whatever the electrician suggests, as it is just too costly to send someone out to look closer.

However, my first question was how did the HO get the idea they needed to be changed?

Second, is the plan to only change them on the circuits that showed some kind of damage? My argument would be that if any of them get changed all of them should be changed, including the main. I would be suspicious that if the CBs are damaged, the wiring might also be damaged. So to me just changing out the CBs is unlikely to be a good answer.

Well here's the thing, if they are just being replaced because the owner wants them replaced and is hoping that the insurance company will pay for it, then just replace them all. But then you don't get to complain when your insurance rates go up because of all of these unjustified claims. If they really need to be replaced then fine, but again I would replace them all, main included, unless you are qualified to tell which breakers have been damaged.

Now again, other people have said, there are probably a bunch of other things that should be looked at besides the breakers that could cause you problems down the line.

Oh and just crossed my mind, is he still going to want the breakers replaced even if the insurance doesn't cover it?
 

brian john

Senior Member
Location
Leesburg, VA
Actually, you avoided the most important question. How would you select which CBs to replace? Or would you just replace all of them in the panel including the main?

I explained in a later post. Look at the circuits affected by the "surge" take those CBs out of service and open them up for inspection.

While I seldom believe in willy nilly replacing components just BECAUSE, I feel this approach (opening the CBs) is second best. Best is to hire me and let me test them, but that cost is more than replacement. Or replace them all if the HO really wants them replaced.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
I explained in a later post. Look at the circuits affected by the "surge" take those CBs out of service and open them up for inspection.

While I seldom believe in willy nilly replacing components just BECAUSE, I feel this approach (opening the CBs) is second best. Best is to hire me and let me test them, but that cost is more than replacement. Or replace them all if the HO really wants them replaced.

Exactly. If insurance balks at whether or not it is necessary to replace them, then tell them it will cost more to verify them than it costs to replace them, and they are likely to tell you to just replace them. If we were talking larger framed industrial breakers it may be worth the cost to test them, but for breakers that are only only cost $3.00 up to $20.00 it is not even worth my labor to open one up and I still don't really know just what to look for, other than really obvious burns or maybe broken components.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
I explained in a later post. Look at the circuits affected by the "surge" take those CBs out of service and open them up for inspection.

While I seldom believe in willy nilly replacing components just BECAUSE, I feel this approach (opening the CBs) is second best. Best is to hire me and let me test them, but that cost is more than replacement. Or replace them all if the HO really wants them replaced.

why would you only look at the circuits that exhibited downstream surge damage? Just how would you know with any certainty that a particular circuit did not get damage that you did not notice?

just how would you inspect a typical residential CB anyway? is there some approved procedure for that?

in any case, what makes you think that the only CBs that might have been affected are the ones where there is downstream damage to other components?

I might buy into the idea of just replacing all of them, but I don't know how you justify only replacing breakers that exhibited damage downstream.
 

brian john

Senior Member
Location
Leesburg, VA
why would you only look at the circuits that exhibited downstream surge damage? Just how would you know with any certainty that a particular circuit did not get damage that you did not notice?
OK perform a complete visual on all wiring and megger the circuits

just how would you inspect a typical residential CB anyway? is there some approved procedure for that?

Take a drill to the rivets

in any case, what makes you think that the only CBs that might have been affected are the ones where there is downstream damage to other components?

You have to start somewhere, if these had problems, jerk the rest.

I might buy into the idea of just replacing all of them, but I don't know how you justify only replacing breakers that exhibited damage downstream.

Experience and common sense?????
 

brian john

Senior Member
Location
Leesburg, VA
Experience and common sense?????

Common sense may not be the best choice of words, experience and gut feelings. If there has been not damage downstream from the CB, the CB opens and closes and meggers OK and the CBs with damage downstream are OK, one could surmise the CBs are OK.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Common sense may not be the best choice of words, experience and gut feelings. If there has been not damage downstream from the CB, the CB opens and closes and meggers OK and the CBs with damage downstream are OK, one could surmise the CBs are OK.

my inclination is open and close all the breakers and make sure they all function and do a close visual inspection with a magnifying glass for any anomalies. if any fail replace them all. otherwise leave them all in place.

I would be more worried about downstream conductors than CBs though. and there is no quick and cheap way to do any inspection or testing of them.
 
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