Main Breaker Meltdown

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Old 12-14-08, 04:43 PM
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Main Breaker Meltdown

Tenant called today and said there was a problem with the breaker box, constantly tripping. Went down and noticed right off the bat that there were space heaters in every room. Pulled the cover of the box and noticed main breaker was melted down and there had been a small fire in the box. Well $700 bucks later I have a new panel installed. My question is do you think the failure of this box has to do with the space heaters and constant resetting of the breaker?
 
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Old 12-14-08, 05:17 PM
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do you think the failure of this box has to do with the space heaters and constant resetting of the breaker?
No, I think the most likely cause is it was a very old panel and there definitely was some older breaker panels that were of sub-standard quality. It may have had breakers installed that were not rated for that particular panel; there may have been moisture problems that caused this, it is just very hard to say without a lot more details.

and constant resetting of the breaker
If the breaker is constantly being reset that circuit is overloaded and it would be a good idea to have a few dedicated circuits installed for the space heaters.
 
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Old 12-14-08, 05:47 PM
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Was it a Federal Pacific box?
 
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Old 12-14-08, 06:47 PM
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No it was a GE box. Replaced it with another GE product, hopefully have better luck with this one.
 
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Old 12-14-08, 06:49 PM
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Now that you have solved one problem, I would figure out why your tenants are using so many space heaters, which should only be used for temporary supplemental heat.
 
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Old 12-14-08, 07:02 PM
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Also you are going to need to check all the receptacles for heat damage. I've seen receptacles turn tan and just crumble when you touch them because they were used too long with space heaters. I have also seen older wiring in a ceiling light box burn in two because the receptacle the heater was on was fed from a connection in the Jbox for the light.

The really bad thing about electric space heaters is if not on a dedicated circuit they can start a fire far from where they are being used. Every connection is a potential fire hazard if the connection starts to fail, not just where the heater is used.
 
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Old 12-15-08, 01:03 AM
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A loose connection could also have been the culprit. It could have been loose at one of the main breaker lugs coming in. The lug would get hot and this heat would pass into the breaker, warming up the thermal trip element and causing it to trip. Constantly resetting the breaker might not let it cool enough. At some point the breaker may have simply been unable to trip because of melted plastic jamming the mechanism.

Had this been the problem and detected early enough, it could have been fixed in time to prevent significant damage. It's a kind of problem that could happen to any panel. But once damaged like this, certainly the breaker needs to be replaced, and possibly the whole panel. At $700, you had it easy. You're lucky it didn't start a major structure fire and injure someone or worse.
 
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Old 12-15-08, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Buzz View Post
No, I think the most likely cause is it was a very old panel and there definitely was some older breaker panels that were of sub-standard quality. It may have had breakers installed that were not rated for that particular panel; there may have been moisture problems that caused this, it is just very hard to say without a lot more details.



If the breaker is constantly being reset that circuit is overloaded and it would be a good idea to have a few dedicated circuits installed for the space heaters.
That will be good idea to run new deicated circuits for space heater however the OP mention tentent so therefore it possiblty a apartment complex not only one box it will affect it may show up with other panels as well { see that happend before }

Originally Posted by BrentTurner View Post
No it was a GE box. Replaced it with another GE product, hopefully have better luck with this one.
Maybe ., Maybe not depending on the setup if you allready have 100 amp main breaker normally the main breaker don't useally fail by melting unless connections go bad or major malfuction that one of the two most common cuprits.

I deal quite few Apartment complexes and I did see few ugly aftermath with damaged conductors due consting overloading and damged recpectales.

That why I always have to check the circuits very carefully before I put it back in service to make sure they are safe to use.

Merci.
 
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Old 12-15-08, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by BrentTurner View Post
My question is do you think the failure of this box has to do with the space heaters and constant resetting of the breaker?
No, but space heaters make a bad problem worse. You probably had a bad breaker or loose connections in the main which were then pushed to the edge by the extra load from the space heaters.

Look at it this way. One electric range with oven is equal to about 6 space heaters so the box should be able to handle the load. Running those heaters is about the same load on the box as cooking a big dinner.

The space heaters are definitely a symptom of a bigger problem though. You should fix the central heating system or change the utility payment policy so that the space heaters aren't necessary. Anything more than temporary use and they are a house fire just waiting to happen.
 
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