God was with me !

goldstar

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
I had to relocate a main lug panel at a residence under renovation yesterday. When I got there the carpenters were installing siding and needed power. So, the first thing I did was to get them temp power out of the main disconnect outside. This house also had solar panels on the roof. I shut down the disconnect for the solar power and then opened the main breaker disconnect - it was a Sq. D 200A main breaker. I know it's dangerous and I had to work on the line side LIVE. I pulled the handle down and shut the main breaker off (I thought). While I was loosening one of the the lugs on the line side, the breaker handle snapped back on. I tried several times to get the handle to stay in the off position and finally succeeded. After getting a temp power receptacle installed I was about to go inside and relocate the panel but then I said to myself "I'm not going to take a chance that the breaker may snap back on" so, I disconnected the load side SER cable inside the disconnect.

I then went inside and relocated the main lug panel after which I went outside to re-connect the SER cable. While I was tightening the lugs on the load side with my Allen wrench my left arm hit the side of the meter pan and I got a jolt. I started thinking, why am I getting hit ? Is the solar back-feeding ? No, that's not possible - the disconnect was shut off and the inside wiring was disconnected. It turned out that the main breaker NEVER shut off. Yes, God was with me yesterday and I am thankful. I would have tested the wiring in the main lug panel for voltage anyway before removing the SER cable but, I didn't want to take a chance that the switch might snap back on unexpectedly. My instincts were correct.

I'm sure we all try to be as safe as possible in our trade, but occasionally we let our guard down. Let this be a lesson to all, think about what you're doing every minute you're out there doing work, especially if you're working live - no matter what the voltage is.
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
I bet it was a Cutler Hammer breaker. We have many of them like that that were installed in the 90's I believe. CH will not make it good as you know it was probably like that when bought
 

goldstar

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
I bet it was a Cutler Hammer breaker. We have many of them like that that were installed in the 90's I believe. CH will not make it good as you know it was probably like that when bought
No - not CH. It was a Sq D like this one :
Not sure how old it is.
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
We have had CH do exactly what you had happen there. Switch the main off and power was still there. The more common problem was trying to turn it off the handle would just spring back up. It wasn't catching inside to throw the parts to disconnect the power. The handle moved with no effort and shot back.

I bet there are hundreds out there from that time. We had both panels of a 400 amp service do the same. My hope is that the breaker will still trip but IDK.
 

growler

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,GA
I bet it was a Cutler Hammer breaker. We have many of them like that that were installed in the 90's I believe. CH will not make it good as you know it was probably like that when bought
This is interesting. I wonder just how many bad breakers are out there like that.

I'm surprised there hasn't been a class action law suit over there not being a recall.

Maybe everyone that has a bad breaker thinks it's the only one.
 

growler

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,GA
We’ve ran across a few that won’t trip off or stay off when the handle is moved.
I can live with a breaker that wont shut off because I always test the circuit after turning off the breaker ( got bit many years ago and learned my lesson).

How can you deal with a breaker that will turn it's self back on because it's not locked in the off position?
 

Fred B

Senior Member
Location
Upstate, NY
Occupation
Electrician
We’ve ran across a few that won’t trip off or stay off when the handle is moved.
Just wondering and concerned, will that breaker reset even if a LOTO applied? That could be a real danger. Are they all the same mfg? If so, are they aware?
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
CH is aware as I have had to replace 5 or 6 and I know of a few more out there that have not been changed. The first few my suppliers were replacing for free then Eaton told them they will not reimburse for it. I am sure if someone went around and tested them there would be tons of them with this problem. There were a few people either on this forum or on Electricians Talk that had the same issue with CH.

I don't know anyone who turns on a main then shuts it off to test it when it is new. I am sure there are some that do it.
 

ptonsparky

Senior Member
Location
NE (9.06 miles @5.9 Degrees from Winged Horses)
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
Just wondering and concerned, will that breaker reset even if a LOTO applied? That could be a real danger. Are they all the same mfg? If so, are they aware?
IDR the mfg. Usually they are old enough we just replace them with the thought that stuff happens.

I learned my lesson after removing a POCO meter and finding one load leg was still energized. ( A short in the up down loop.) I checked for voltage out of habit not expecting to find anything.
 

hillbilly1

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,Ga
I bet it was a Cutler Hammer breaker. We have many of them like that that were installed in the 90's I believe. CH will not make it good as you know it was probably like that when bought
Is an actual CH breaker? Or BR style? (Westinghouse) So far I haven’t had any issues with the CH model. Quite a few around here because that was all that was sold around here for years.
 

jim dungar

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Wisconsin
Occupation
Retired Electrical Engineer - Power Systems
How can you deal with a breaker that will turn it's self back on because it's not locked in the off position?
Most likely the breaker never went to the OFF position at all. The handle may have moved, but the contacts never separated. UL standards require the contacts to not be tied to the handle position, they must be trip free.
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
Is an actual CH breaker? Or BR style? (Westinghouse) So far I haven’t had any issues with the CH model. Quite a few around here because that was all that was sold around here for years.
It is a CH breaker and I believe the era that these panels were installed was around 1990 maybe late 80's buit I am not certain. The problem is how many people turn off there mains..
 
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