Hot Main Breaker


Old 05-01-05, 04:42 AM
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Hot Main Breaker

There is a hot smell coming from my breaker box and the area around the main breaker is hot to the touch when the smell is present. I've taken off the cover and the wire coming in from outside going to the main breaker is very hot. I am of course concerned. Is this a problem with the main breaker being overloaded? It is a 200 amp breaker and is original to the house that was built in 1977. I purchased the house last september and added a heat/cooling system, but haven't had this problem until recently. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 05-01-05, 05:13 AM
HandyRon's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: New York
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Probably a loose connection. Since it is the main, and portions of it will remain energized, have an electrician come out with insulated tools and torque the terminations.
Old 05-01-05, 05:19 AM
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Exclamation Do Be Worried!

The incoming feed wires should not be hot! You may have a loose connection at the breaker, or there may be some other issue. You need to kill the incoming power before you can check this. Your Utility company should be able to come out and do this out for you (most will do this for free). They will probably pull the meter so the wiring can be inspected. The person pulling the meter may be willing to quickly check the connections for you and make a quick assesment or repair. If the condition can be corrected then and there, the utility person will reinstall the meter and everything should be okay. If there is some other problem the utility company may not be willing to re-install the meter until the problem is fixed.
Old 05-02-05, 02:42 AM
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To add to Adam......the person checking this should throw a AMP meter on the lines to see what is being drawn in the way of amps on the main lines.....without knowing your system and house loads or if you all added something down stream....

But Adam is should not be hot as that is what the insulation on the wire should control.....Here is how we do it here in VA

1.) Homeowner calls the electrician ( us ) and we visit the job with a Ideal Suretest 65-155 and to check the systems and then a AMP Probe on the main lines....each one in different tests.

2.) We would contact the Utility Company and meet them at the jobsite just in case they need us to do some more testing as in our area they do very little from the supply side in the way of testing.

3.) and yes we would SNUG down all the terminals in the panel......but we would get the readings from our AMP Probe before tightening and then after for a reference point to narrow that out.

Then we would look at the panel itself, the circuits on it and so on but most certainly check those main lugs but you need to be careful...I dont know how many people stick a Allen Wrench in it to tighten them....hello as most like we use are metal careful......if you are not aware of these things just call an electrician in your area to help work through the process.
Old 05-03-05, 07:52 AM
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Angry Federal Pacific

I just found out that I have a Federal Pacific box and breakers manufactured in the 1970s and that this is a major problem. I will be replacing my entire panel. If I use my heating system, the main breaker gets hot enough to melt the insulation on the wire coming in from the meeter and only kicks off after the house fills with smoke. Is there any recourse in recovering funds from Federal Pacific? If they made such a poor product, shouldn't they be liable?

Old 05-03-05, 08:29 AM
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Here's a bunch of info about FPE panels. It looks like there's a class action suit currently in the works in New Jersey. Maybe your could call your state attorney general office and ask if your state has similar proceedings.

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