220 Breakers overheating

Old 07-26-04, 12:33 PM
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220 Breakers overheating

My next door neighbor's 220 breakers are overheating. Most, if not all, of her 220 appliances are on separate breakers, but if 2 are running at a time, i.e. air conditioner and water heater, some of the 220 breakers are getting hot to the touch. She has been shutting off all 220 breakers she is not using just to run one item at a time. Turn off all to heat water for baths, for example. Then turn off the water heater and flip back on the AC.)
All of her connections were checked, I assume by her husband, in the breaker box. They look to be okay. Would changing the main breaker fix the problem? They have switched most, if not all, of the 220 breakers that are getting hot, but the problem is still there. She even says she was flipping off breakers one day and saw sparks from one of the breakers. (As she is just my neighbor, I really don't know much specifics about what she has. I just know that you guys and gals helped us fix some outlets last year with the great advice you gave. I just don't want her house to be on fire some night and see them lose their home.)
Old 07-26-04, 01:27 PM
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The voltage should be checked, line to line and each line to neutral. Is the main breaker hot also? Should also check amperage of each 220 appliance and the amperage ahead of the main breaker with all 220 devices operating.
Old 07-26-04, 01:31 PM
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If there are sparks while flipping breakers, then either the breaker is broken (sparks from the internal arc chamber getting out) or loose (either where the wire attaches, which I understand was checked, or in the stab behind the breaker. With all power off, these need to be pulled out and checked for damage. But this is getting into the realm where an electrician should be doing it.

If you can get some more details like how old the box is and what brand and model (or series) it is, that might help to get an idea of the situation.

What worries me more is that the breakers get hot, or not, based on whether other breakers are on or off (as you seemed to describe, or as the neighbor seens to have assumed). If this is the case, there may other underlying problems in the panel bus itself. Any time contacts are loose resulting in arcing, the resultant melting can just make things worse until either the power just doesn't come on, or worse.
Old 07-26-04, 01:57 PM
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Could be a bad bus bar, in which case flipping breakers on and off constantly is going to exacerbate the problem. This could become serious quickly and needs a professional opinion. Just out of curiosity, how is it that the neighbor discovered this problem? Most of us don't routinely touch our 220 breakers to see how hot they are. Was there another symptom that led her to the panel?

Doug M.
Old 07-26-04, 03:14 PM
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I agree with the others. Find out the brand and model of the panel. Perhaps it isn't the highest quality panel. Or perhaps the breakers in the panel are not ones specifically designed for that panel. So find out the brand and model of the breakers too.

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