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Replacing the main 200 amp circuit breaker (not upgrading service)

Replacing the main 200 amp circuit breaker (not upgrading service)


  #1  
Old 12-20-10, 10:36 AM
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Replacing the main 200 amp circuit breaker (not upgrading service)

Hello. This note is about our lakefront cottage (summer home). I added a 20A breaker in an empty slot in my circuit breaker. I shut off the main 200 amp breaker as a precaution before adding the new 20A breaker. Everything went well, and all worked when completed.

Then a few days later, the symptoms were that some of the outlets were no longer working (nothing to do with the circuit I added). We found that by pushing the main 200 amp breaker farther (open), this fixed the issue and the outlets and lights that suddently stopped working, were now working again.

All was fine for another week, then the same symptoms appeared... half the outlets were no longer working and by jimmying the main 200 amp breaker a little, all the other outlets resumed working.

None of the breakers tripped during any of these. I am guessing that I need to replace the main 200 amp circuit breaker as it appears something does not stay constantly ON, even though the breaker is slid all the way open. I imagine we had not switched this main circuit breaker OFF for 20 years.

I have a few questions:

1) Does replacing the 200 amp main breaker sound like the correct action?
2) Does this main breaker replace the same way the 15A and 20A breakers are replaced?
3) Do I need to contact the power company to turn power off to my property before doing so?
4) Is this something that a homeowner that is well versed at wiring and adding 20A and 15A circuits to electrical panels should be able to do?

Thanks,

Russ
 
  #2  
Old 12-20-10, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by wennerrm
Does replacing the 200 amp main breaker sound like the correct action?
Maybe, it could also be loose bolts or lugs on the main breaker, on the incoming feeder wires or where the breaker bolts to the panel buses.

2) Does this main breaker replace the same way the 15A and 20A breakers are replaced?
Not exactly, the main is usually bolted in and connects directly to the incoming live feeder wires. The lugs will have a torque specification that is important to follow. If you have aluminum feeder wires you will also need to clean the wires and apply no-ox compound before termination on the new main breaker.

3) Do I need to contact the power company to turn power off to my property before doing so?
If you do the repair yourself, you will need the power company to come out and disconnect power.

4) Is this something that a homeowner that is well versed at wiring and adding 20A and 15A circuits to electrical panels should be able to do?
Yes I think so as long as you have the power company out do the live disconnection. It would be very hazardous to do that part or to pull the meter yourself. Something you should be careful to look for though is any heat damage that may have occurred around the main breaker. If it was a loose connection it can cause arcing which may have damaged the panel. If you find that situation under the main breaker it would be good to get an electrician involved to see about replacing the entire panel.
 
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Old 12-20-10, 04:44 PM
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Breakers are supposed to be "exercised" once in a while but mains almost never get that for obvious reasons. And that is common for a 20 year old one that has decided to fail. They take a lot of abuse especially if you have electric heat. One thing to consider is the cost and availablity of a 200 amp main for your panel as well. Some are no longer available, some can be replaced with another brand as breaker companies have been buying each other out, going out of business etc. and even the big boys like GE, SQD, Siemans etc. change their designs every few years anymore. Twenty years is not bad for a main but you can't touch it without the power company removing your meter. here where I live we can cut the seal, repair it and the local utilty will replace the seal. They would prefer a phone call but sometimes that just isn't and option at midnight.

To add, the cost of the main or availablity (or lack of)could force you to replace the panel as well. Good luck. If you need any help with ID on that main send a pic. I have been a buyer at an electrical distributor for 30 years and can identify most breakers if I can see them.
 

Last edited by JimElectric; 12-20-10 at 05:09 PM. Reason: additonal
  #4  
Old 12-20-10, 06:13 PM
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Who is the manufacturer of the panel? Is there a label on the main breaker that gives the "Type", it's usually on a label attached to the breaker. As has been stated, many main breaker Types have been discontinued and are no longer available, but can be replaced with a different Type. Sometimes you can get used main breakers marketed as "Reconditioned" as well. I hate to use anything used in the way of a breaker, but sometimes it's far less than the cost to replace the panel. Yes, a picture would also be helpful.
 
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Old 12-21-10, 06:27 AM
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Unfortunately I am 300 miles away from the cottage. I know from a picture I had taken a month ago of a few of the breakers (for a different reason), that the panel manufacturer is "Challenger", and although I have a picture of some of the breakers, I do not have a picture of the main breaker. I have a company up there putting in a heater for us this week, so he has agreed to replace the 200 A main circuit breaker for us.
 
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Old 12-21-10, 07:15 AM
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IIRC Challenger is either out of business or has been absorbed into another company. You may have trouble finding the correct breaker.
 
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Old 12-21-10, 05:17 PM
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Yes, Challenger was bought by Eaton and rolled into the Cutler-Hammer family. The old Challenger loadcenter is the basis for today's C-H BR series loadcenter and the old Challenger panelboard is basically the only panelboard Cutler-Hammer sells today, but with the C-H logo of course. I think there is a good possibility a new main breaker can be found for your Challenger loadcenter, if not a used one is surely available.
 
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Old 03-20-14, 11:38 AM
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@wennerrm:
-Have a rule of thumb.
-Served me well over the years.
-If something doesn't work right after I did something to it.
-Remove it and see if the problem is fixed.
Example. Replaced a brake light bulb. I put on the brakes..the dash lights went on!
Remove blub, hit brakes, no dash lights. ergo! Wrong bulb. Fixed.
-Your situation? Shut off main breaker, remove new breaker, see if everything works well.
-If so, replace 20amp breaker with a different one. See if problem is solved.
 
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Old 03-20-14, 02:02 PM
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You replied to a post over three years old I'm sure the original problem is fixed.

Closing thread. If you need help start a new thread.
 
 

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