200A main breaker HOT & tripping

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  #1  
Old 01-30-07, 08:12 PM
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Question 200A main breaker HOT & tripping

Hello - I need some advice. I have a Federal Pacific 200A main breaker in the main panel in my house and it trips intermittently in the winter. It seems to happen when the heater (electric heat pump) has been running for a while.

Here is one just like mine:

http://cgi.ebay.com/Federal-Pacific-FPE-200-amp-circuit-breaker-type-2B_W0QQitemZ290078072633QQihZ019QQcategoryZ104232QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

I have to wait for it to cool off before it will reset. It works fine for a while sometimes for days at a time. I took the front cover off the panel and inspected the cables - they are 4/O and looked good. I checked the allen screws holding the cables into the breaker and they were tight. I noticed the cable coming into the right side of the breaker was HOT. I also found that this cable was a little loose even though the allen screw was tight. This cannot be normal can it? The cable on the left was tight and I could not feel any movement with it.

I cannot take an amp reading easily but I know I need to do that. My concern is really about the loose cable connection at the main breaker.

Please share your thoughts with me.

Thanks for your time.
Ernie
 
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  #2  
Old 01-30-07, 08:17 PM
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If you're in the U.S., and if your panel is more than 20 years old, then you have a panel generally regarded as defective and a fire hazard. Get is replaced as soon as feasible.

It could also be a loose connection in the panel.

It could also be an overload.

It could also be a faulty main breaker.

Do not delay. Get professional help soon. Don't wait for the fire. Unless you are extraordinarly experienced in electrical work, this is probably not a DIY job.
 
  #3  
Old 01-30-07, 08:23 PM
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If the metal of the screw, or the screw shell has been heated and cooled alot, the screw may not turn even though the screw is not tight.

IMHO you have a fire waiting to happen, and you need to call someone tomorrow morning first thing, and get this breaker fixed.

Since these panels are known for failure, you may need to replace the entire thing.

Sorry for the bad news, but this is my honest opinion.

DO NOT WAITE ... Fix it now.

Edit:::: I meant to say that the screw can be siezed while the wire is not tight....
 
  #4  
Old 01-30-07, 08:37 PM
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Exclamation Asap.

ALL of the above.


You got a TRIFECTA. Get this replaced (not fixed) Very soon.

What jumped at me,was the fact that a terminal was tight yet the mount was loose. This creates heat and is not good. Get 3 prices.

You don't need a "service change". You need a panel upgrade.

This entails a permit, notification to the power co., to disconnect the meter.A new 200 Amp panel and associated breakers. Some small amounts of new wire. This depends on the config of the existing cables and new panel.

Again, Please don't delay. Get on it what ever it takes.

Let us know if we can help more.
 
  #5  
Old 01-30-07, 08:43 PM
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as i will speak for others i will recomoned to replace the breaker box asap.

don't wait too long on this one because it might catch on fire without warning.


FPE breakerboxes are very nortious for bad connection and few other defect along the way.


It will be much wiser to get new breaker box installed and then you will have peace and quiet along the way


Merci , Marc
 
  #6  
Old 01-31-07, 04:04 AM
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Well that is what I thought I needed after searching this forum and reading thru some of the old posts. What hurts is how much it is going to cost to repair!

Can anyone give me a rough estimate of how much this should cost for a panel upgrade?

I appreciate your help!

Thanks,
Ernie
 
  #7  
Old 01-31-07, 04:09 AM
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Ernie: Not as much as the deductible on your insurance policy you will pay when it burns. Not to consider all the things you will lose that are irreplaceable. All the posters are professionals and know what they are talking about. It is not a "tomorrow" thing, it is a "right now" thing. We can't emphasize it enough.
 
  #8  
Old 01-31-07, 06:52 AM
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Since you already have 200 amps, and since you don't need a larger panel nor a relocated panel, this upgrade is relatively simple as upgrades go. It should cost in the neighborhood of $1000, more or less depending on circumstances and location. But it's not really an optional expense.
 
  #9  
Old 02-01-07, 12:25 PM
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OK I had a licensed electrician look at the panel and he recommended that the whole panel be replaced. He found 90A draw on one side and 97A on the other and said the problem was caused by the main breaker. Since they are not available and not reliable he is replacing the whole panel with a new one.

FYI - the rough estimate was $1000.

Thanks everyone.
 
  #10  
Old 02-08-07, 11:29 AM
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Thumbs up

Hello again.

I just wanted to post again and let everyone know that I have a new Cutler Hammer 200A service panel it works perfectly. The total cost was $1050 installed.

Oddly enough it also corrected a strange odor problem we have always had in that area of the house. It smelled foul - almost like something had died. I can only assume that the feed cable being so hot was causing this.

We are safe and sound now and I REALLY appreciate your advice.

Thanks!
Ernie
 
  #11  
Old 02-08-07, 12:07 PM
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I love a happy ending!
 
  #12  
Old 02-08-07, 05:57 PM
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Just curious, but why is it so expensive for a panel upgrade? Is it the labor to turn power off, loosen the cable clamps, and remove the panel and install? I know it must take some time rerouting all those circuits, but wow.
 
  #13  
Old 02-08-07, 06:13 PM
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Installing a panel is labor intensive. The grounding of the panel must be brought up to code, if it is not there already. The wires from the meter to the panel may need replacing.
 
  #14  
Old 02-08-07, 06:22 PM
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Thanks racraft! I'm sure there is alot more involved then what I was picturing.
 
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