You have got to be kidding me!

charlie b

Moderator
Staff member
That is what I said. But he insisted it was true, “he” being a field engineer at one of our facilities.

Decades old SquareD distribution panel in site’s main electrical room (separate building on its own). 225 amp breakers provide power to nearby small buildings, including a maintenance shop that is scheduled for a major renovation. Every attempt to open the breaker results in, (1) no loss of power to the shop, and (2) the breaker spring-returns to the fully closed position. Same thing happens on all breakers in this panel. I am astonished. Has anyone ever encountered this before?

Obviously all the breakers in this panel need to be replaced. The electrician’s first attempt to find replacements showed a cost of $4,000 each. I will ask a follow-on question or two after the field engineer sends me make and model numbers.
 

jim dungar

Moderator
Staff member
Onesie-twosie breaker failures are not unheard of (that's why they should be exercised regularly), but not an entire panel all at one time.

Definitely need model numbers for pricing.
Is this an I-Line panel/switchboard? Currently available breakers can be used in panels from as far back as 1965ish. If it is older than the mid 60's, good luck finding reliable breakers.
 

ptonsparky

Senior Member
Yes, we've ran across a few that won't open or stay there. IDR whose or what.
Sounds like a new is in the future.
 

Cow

Senior Member
When sourcing breakers we start with some of our breaker surplus dealers before pricing them from the factory for the reason you've mentioned.

Common breakers are generally in stock at a much lower price than factory.
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Cutler Hammer has a ton of panels with 200 amp main breakers that either could not be manually turned off as the handle sprung back or when the handle did move to the off position the breaker was still energized. We have replace at least 6 and I know of a few other ec's that have had the same issue.

CH was replacing them for free but then they decided to start charging. Maybe when their first lawsuit happens they will begin to come around and pay for the breakers to be replaced. Hopefully it won't come to that
 

roger

Moderator
Staff member
Obviously all the breakers in this panel need to be replaced. The electrician’s first attempt to find replacements showed a cost of $4,000 each. I will ask a follow-on question or two after the field engineer sends me make and model numbers.
Tell them to design a full panelboard with all the breakers included and put it out for pricing. I have literally bought 8 large frame breakers for less than the price of one this way.

Roger
 

charlie b

Moderator
Staff member
The field engineer sent me a few photos and a description of the offending breakers. They are SquareD, and the one feeding the maintenance shop is type FA36225. I gather that the FA is a breaker type, the 3 means 3-phase, the 6 means 600 volt rating, and the 225 is the ampere rating. They also have single pole 20 amp breakers, two-pole breakers rated from 20 to 100 amps, and three-pole breakers with ratings from 100 to 200 amps. They are having difficulties finding suppliers. I have no certain knowledge about this, but I suspect the breakers and the panels are at least 40 years old.
 

roger

Moderator
Staff member
Charlie, go to SQ D's (Schneider) website and look at the online catalogue or better yet,PM Jim, he use to work for SQ D.

Roger
 

roger

Moderator
Staff member
BTW, FA frame breakers are still manufactured and SQ D is not hard to get.

Roger
 

Todd0x1

Member
FA breakers are EOL, replaced with powerpact. My guess is the $4,000 is coming from the sqd catalog list price. You'll be able to get suitable replacements either new or on the secondary market for not a ton of $. I personally would only buy new through authorized distribution. Have a rep quote the package of breakers and you should be able to get them for a reasonable price...
 

jim dungar

Moderator
Staff member
The field engineer sent me a few photos and a description of the offending breakers. They are SquareD, and the one feeding the maintenance shop is type FA36225. I gather that the FA is a breaker type, the 3 means 3-phase, the 6 means 600 volt rating, and the 225 is the ampere rating. They also have single pole 20 amp breakers, two-pole breakers rated from 20 to 100 amps, and three-pole breakers with ratings from 100 to 200 amps. They are having difficulties finding suppliers. I have no certain knowledge about this, but I suspect the breakers and the panels are at least 40 years old.

Yes the original I-Line breakers, like KA breakers are now obsolete. However your part number is wrong, it should be KA36225. F frame breakers only went to 100A, after that they went to the K frame upto 250A. They are replaced (directly interchangeable) with the HD (upto 150A) and JD family lines up to 225A (e.g. JD36225 in your case).

Your single pole breakers may have been FY or FA style. The replacement might still be an F family, but it could also be a type BD (125A max for wye systems only) or HD(150A max).

As I said, I have never heard of a whole panel going bad at once. Regardless, do as Roger suggest, buy a new panel full rather than piece by piece.
 

electrofelon

Senior Member
I have had a similar issue with circa 70's square d P frame breakers, 1000-1200 amp. I had a client that had the the same breaker at two of their facilities and they had the exact same problem, the A phase would not open.***. I was quoted 20k from square d field services to retrofit a new breaker as the p frame is obsolete. As others have said, definitely price out new gear. A 1000 amp mlo panelboard with 6 65 k 225 frame mains is only 5k. With a main it will be about 10k. Of course switchboards will be more.

** Funny story, just a week ago one of these facilities that is under renovation ( has not had the gear with the stuck phase replaced yet) was broken into. They tripped a 100 amp breaker while trying to steal a feeder. I don't know for sure, but I think they threw the main but still got a big surprise. There are a lot of 3/0 copper feeders in there they didn't touch. That stuck phase may have saved the day. Unfortunately, no one was killed;)
 

Russs57

Senior Member
If you don't mind "reconditioned" breakers CBS (circuit breaker sales) shows six KA36225 available for $335.00 each. That is about half the going price so I suspect they may be cosmetically challenged.

FWIW I have bought from them.
 

Jraef

Moderator
Staff member
... Every attempt to open the breaker results in, (1) no loss of power to the shop, and (2) the breaker spring-returns to the fully closed position. ...
So is he SURE that the breakers are not mounted upside down and being back-fed, so "down" is On and up is Off? Because if so, when they are Off, the handle is up so they look to be On, then if they move the handle down, they are actually turning it On. Then if there is a dead short somewhere, the breakers immediately trip Off again, meaning the handle moves UP, making them think it turned itself On!. It's a stretch, but "returning to fully closed" is just about as dangerous of a failure mode as you can possibly get with a CB, so something they would go to great pains to avoid, no matter how old. I cannot even imagine how the mechanism could do that.
 

jim dungar

Moderator
Staff member
Once you get new circuit breakers, you can manually trip the KA36225 breaker. The KA, and larger, breakers all have a Push to Trip button, usually located on the C-phase side of the load end of the breaker. this button manually moves the bimetal, so it does exercise the entire mechanism, unlike the Off position. On really old breakers this was a black button, so it was pretty camouflaged, in the eighties they changed the button to yellow colored so it was more noticeable. On some breakers, the button is covered by the wireway cover plate.
 

synchro

Senior Member
So is he SURE that the breakers are not mounted upside down and being back-fed, so "down" is On and up is Off? Because if so, when they are Off, the handle is up so they look to be On, then if they move the handle down, they are actually turning it On. Then if there is a dead short somewhere, the breakers immediately trip Off again, meaning the handle moves UP, making them think it turned itself On!. It's a stretch, but "returning to fully closed" is just about as dangerous of a failure mode as you can possibly get with a CB, so something they would go to great pains to avoid, no matter how old. I cannot even imagine how the mechanism could do that.
Yes, the breaker mechanisms I've seen are like a mouse trap where you store energy in the spring when you set it, which then is released if the trap gets tripped And that's why they call it "tripping" a breaker. Of course the breaker will trip open while the mouse trap trips closed.
 

jusme123

Senior Member
The field engineer sent me a few photos and a description of the offending breakers. They are SquareD, and the one feeding the maintenance shop is type FA36225. I gather that the FA is a breaker type, the 3 means 3-phase, the 6 means 600 volt rating, and the 225 is the ampere rating. They also have single pole 20 amp breakers, two-pole breakers rated from 20 to 100 amps, and three-pole breakers with ratings from 100 to 200 amps. They are having difficulties finding suppliers. I have no certain knowledge about this, but I suspect the breakers and the panels are at least 40 years old.
Breakers and panel are 40 years old, and your only replacing the breakers? I hope your kidding.
 

electrofelon

Senior Member
Breakers and panel are 40 years old, and your only replacing the breakers? I hope your kidding.
There really isnt anything wrong with just replacing the breakers, the rest of the stuff doesnt really "go bad" unless there is excessive corrosion from moisture or other stuff. I could see just replacing the circuit breakers in some situations, however due to several factors, I find usually the entire gear has to go. First is the pricing structure of breakers. It is generally cheaper to just buy whole new gear with the breakers included. Granted replacing the entire gear can get into big labor costs. IF there is a metering section, then the POCO has to be involved and they could easily charge thousands to rework the metering, but one thing I have done is kept the existing metering section of a switchboard and come off of that into new gear to save the hassle and cost of dealing with the POCO. I did that with a three section switchboard once. Kept the metering section and went to two new panelboards.

The big problem arises if anything is obsolete, then the only choice is to get used or "refurbished" stuff which is questionable IMO as you may very well be replacing garbage with garbage.

Another potential issue with just replacing circuit breakers is AIC ratings. AIC was often ignored decades ago, and series ratings were not a thing 40 years ago. For example, this square D switchboard I mentioned in my previous post with the bad P frame: the main is rated 65k, but the distributions are rated 22k and there is no series rating. I could get new distributions, replace the obsolete Q2 with QGA which is 65k, but there is not bolt on replacement for the P frame.....so, it is time for the whole thing to get shredded and made into cheap Chinese filing cabinets.
 

RD35

Member
This brings back memories of when I worked for a big electrical contractor several years ago. Every time we needed a batch of replacement Square D breakers, I'd create a panel schedule and we'd order the entire panel with breakers installed. Way WAY less expensive than buying the breakers loose. We had several brand new 600 and 800 amp panelboards laying around the shop empty where we had gutted them right out of the box just for the breakers.
 

kwired

Electron manager
There really isnt anything wrong with just replacing the breakers, the rest of the stuff doesnt really "go bad" unless there is excessive corrosion from moisture or other stuff. I could see just replacing the circuit breakers in some situations, however due to several factors, I find usually the entire gear has to go. First is the pricing structure of breakers. It is generally cheaper to just buy whole new gear with the breakers included. Granted replacing the entire gear can get into big labor costs. IF there is a metering section, then the POCO has to be involved and they could easily charge thousands to rework the metering, but one thing I have done is kept the existing metering section of a switchboard and come off of that into new gear to save the hassle and cost of dealing with the POCO. I did that with a three section switchboard once. Kept the metering section and went to two new panelboards.

The big problem arises if anything is obsolete, then the only choice is to get used or "refurbished" stuff which is questionable IMO as you may very well be replacing garbage with garbage.

Another potential issue with just replacing circuit breakers is AIC ratings. AIC was often ignored decades ago, and series ratings were not a thing 40 years ago. For example, this square D switchboard I mentioned in my previous post with the bad P frame: the main is rated 65k, but the distributions are rated 22k and there is no series rating. I could get new distributions, replace the obsolete Q2 with QGA which is 65k, but there is not bolt on replacement for the P frame.....so, it is time for the whole thing to get shredded and made into cheap Chinese filing cabinets.
Agree. If one does just replace breakers you can still get them cheaper by purchasing complete with a panelboard. If you then run into problems with your old panel when you start to disassemble things, you still have a new panel ready to replace it with.

Interrupt ratings is something maybe one should consider when making selections. Though they didn't pay as much attention to that long ago, is also possible the available fault current has changed since original install as well.
 
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