Breaker won't reset

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Old 07-18-11, 09:54 AM
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Breaker won't reset

I know we've dealt with this issue before, so please bear with me if I'm repetitive.
Last night a 50 amp tripped. 99% sure it was overloaded (dryer & a/c.) Now it will not reset, even after a long "cooling" period. It has happened before and I have replaced many receptacles and most switches just because they needed to be replaced. This house is extremely old and the service panel looks pretty old. It has no "main" throw at the top like most panels. The 50 amp is listed as 1 of 3 breakers called "Main Disconnects" (stop laughing) and controls several breakers beneath it in the panel. My question is this:
If i shut down each of the breakers that this 50 amp controls, shouldn't that mean that the only thing that would cause it to trip (instantaneously btw) would be either a bad breaker or one appliance or outlet (i'm thinking the dryer's 220) was inexplicably wired directly to the 50 breaker and is shorting. All of the other breakers under the 50 are off. If the breaker is bad it looks like I have to call someone, which will lead to an enormous expense, as the service panel will have to be moved as well as the utility's service, as they are both installed in locations they are no longer supposed to be. Panel in a closet, service in an enclosed 3 season room. (really, stop laughing) The house is a teardown in 1 more year, i hate continually investing in it.

Thanks so much.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 10:26 AM
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Nobody is laughing. What you have (multiple "service disconnects") is called a split-bus panel. They were quite common in the 1960s and perhaps even in the 1950s. If you turn off all of the circuit breakers in the lower half of the panel then that should indeed remove all load from the 50 ampere "submain" breaker. You really should not have ANYTHING but the connections to the lower bus on this breaker and if you do there is a serious problem.

If possible, please post some pictures of the panel and if you feel confident remove the cover and post some pictures of the interior of the panel.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 10:58 AM
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If everything is disconnected from the breaker, replace it. It should cost 8-13 bucks.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 11:53 AM
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re. pics

Unfortunately, I am unable to upload the pictures I took. Evidently, I do not have the ability to post attachments. Thanks.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 11:57 AM
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Old 07-18-11, 12:35 PM
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The failing breaker

The one that is failing is the breaker in the middle that has the nice black cables, that are hot no matter what is on or off, attached to it.
Thanks
 
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Old 07-18-11, 01:00 PM
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As the other mentioned you have a split buss panel. The mains on the left are hot all the time. The wires are then taped off the busses and back feed into the 50 amp giving you trouble which feeds the rest of the panel.

If you turn off all the breakers on the right (The single poles and the two pole 30) will the 50 amp stay on? IF not you likely have a bad breaker. In your pictures I see you have them all off already so this is likely the case.

If you have no other disconnect that feeds the panel you will likely need to get the power company to come out and pull the meter. That will kill the power to the panel and you can then make the repair.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 02:07 PM
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Thanks, that"s what I think I have to do. I appreciate your help.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 02:31 PM
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Luckily the panel looks to be in good shape. It is a Cutler Hammer CH series and those breakers are widely available at any Eaton/CH dealer including most hardware stores and home centers.

Is the large red wire entering through the left actually split open or (hopefully) am I just seeing something in the camera that isn't there in reality? If it is split open that is a major fire and shock hazard. That wire is live all the time and not protected by a breaker so if it shorts out to the box it will cause an arc fire until the metal burns away.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 02:51 PM
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Nope, you aren"t imagining things. That would be the black insulation showing through the red sheathing. This is out of my depth. I'm calling a pro. Thanks.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 03:41 PM
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That's not so bad as long as there is another layer of insulation under the red coating. If it was bare metal that would be a major issue.

You should still have the power company pull the meter while you replace the failed 50A breaker. If you hire an electrician he may be able to do this without involving the power company (local regulations vary), or he may have adequate safety equipment to do it live.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 07:16 PM
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Luckily the panel looks to be in good shape. It is a Cutler Hammer CH series and those breakers are widely available at any Eaton/CH dealer including most hardware stores and home centers.
The Cutler-Hammer CH series breakers also carry a Lifetime Warranty, your replacement breaker should be free as you hand the Cutler-Hammer dealer the bad breaker.

Till looking at two threads today, I have never seen a single phase panel installed on it's side, is that allowed? It was a long time before single phase panels were allowed to be inverted for bottom feeding, I didn't know they could be turned 90 degrees and layed on their side like that. Does anyone know for sure?

All CH loadcenters and branch breakers come with a lifetime warranty.
CH Loadcenters
 
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Old 07-18-11, 07:43 PM
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That seems to be commonly done in Canada. In the US under the NEC you could only use one half the panel as there is a requirement for UP to be ON. The top half of that panel as shown would be down= on.
 
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Old 07-18-11, 07:54 PM
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Back in the day, single phase main breakers panels had a main breaker that switched up and down and weren't allowed to be inverted for bottom feeding. At one point the manufacturers redesigned their panels to be inverted for bottom feeding and installed a main breaker that would switch horizontally from side-to-side regardless of which end of the panel was the installed top. At this same time, the panel labels were turned 90 degrees so that no matter which way they were installed, the labels were never upside down. Some panel schedules also got two sets of numbers, one set for each direction. If I am not mistaken, all manufacturers in the U.S. make their single phase panels (100 amp and up I think) for inverting. I don't believe there are any 3 phase loadcenters that are allowed to be inverted.
 
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