Breaking Old Breakers and juggling what's left

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  #1  
Old 01-28-20, 05:29 PM
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Breaking Old Breakers and juggling what's left

My house was built in 1959. It has a Push-matic Electri-center service panel with Push-matic circuit breakers (originally manufactured by Bulldog Elec Prods) which are unusual, expensive and must be special ordered.

See attached images below.

QUESTION ONE
I need to add a new 15amp circuit for ceiling fans. Can I install a new 15amp Pushmatic breaker (LIKE THIS ONE) to one of the open positions between the 30amp DRYER breaker at top and the 50amp MAIN breaker at the middle of the panel?

I ask because the orange strip to the right of the upper half of the panel says breakers in that section are MAIN SERVICE disconnects. It seems to me I can count a new 15 amp breaker at any mount point on the bar... If so, will I leave the DRYER and MAIN breakers where they are?

QUESTION TWO
Two existing Push-matic breakers stopped working today. All appear to be sixty years old, and I’m guessing nobody’s touched most of them in decades. Unfortunately, I’ve been turning them OFF and ON a lot this week. My GB Instruments “Circuit Tracker” is not working with this old Push-matic service entrance, so I’ve been putting considerable strain on these old breakers turning them OFF and ON in the process of updating old two-prong outlets to grounded. Several of the push switches get stuck in the OFF position (button up) and can be difficult to turn ON again (button down/in). Is it likely the old breakers just gave up under the strain?

QUESTION THREE
The two 15amp breakers at the bottom of the panel, marked “MT” appear to be unused – no wires attached. I ask because breakers “C” and “D” stopped working today.

Can I simply move the wires from breakers C and D to the two breakers marked "MT"? The refrigerator is on one of the non-working circuits, so I’d like to get everything running ASAP.
 
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Last edited by TomOverthere; 01-28-20 at 07:33 PM.
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  #2  
Old 01-28-20, 10:50 PM
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That is a split-bus panel which means the top 5 spaces are always hot and the bottom section is switched by the "MAIN" breaker. The top section is all considered service in that to cut power to everything in an emergency all breakers in the top section need turned off. If you don't have a disconnect between the meter and the panel then doing anything in the top section is risky as it is always hot. You need insulated screwdrivers at a minimum.

1 - Yes you can mount a single pole breaker in the top section. Need to keep the total to 5 disconnects. You can not move the MAIN. Leave the dryer as is.
2 - Yes, likely they broke under the strain. Common for these.
3 - Yes, you can move C and D to the MT breakers (assume they still work). Note D is 20 amp bathroom (assume 12 gauge wire) so you should change breaker to 20.
 
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  #3  
Old 01-28-20, 10:59 PM
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1.
You have a split bus panel. Breakers above main does not have main breaker (unless this is a sub panel) and each breakers installed in upper breakers are considered main disconnect. You can have maximum of 6 breakers, so technically you could install a single pole breaker in that position, but I would not recommend. You are really supposed to connect 2 pole breakers there.

2.
This is common problem with Pushmatic breakers and one of the reason it is discontinued. Sometimes handle gets stuck. New replacement from Connecticut electric (the one you linked) has even more problem in my experience. Apartment complex my company has been remodeling for past 3 years has Pushmatic I had quiet a few of new Connecticut electric breakers get stuck, unable to reset right out of the box. Since I switched over to tested used genuine breakers, no problem. If you can get your breakers to reset without forcing it too much, I'd say it is ok to continue to use. They will still trip when overloaded. If you feel high resistance and require a lot of force to reset, then something inside probably broke or dislocated. Then you should replace the breaker.

3.
I'm not sure what MT stands for, but those breakers are regular 15A breakers. Use those breakers for new circuit.
To get non working breakers to work again, move the breakers instead of wires. That will be much easier.
Bus bar below main can be disconnected by turning main breaker off. You should turn it off before removing/installing breakers since you have to unscrew these breakers.
Bus bar above main has no means of disconnect (unless this panel is a sub panel) and you may have to work on a live circuit unless you have your power company pull the meter out. This is not too dangerous if you are careful, but I wouldn't recommend doing this to inexperienced person.
 
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Old 01-31-20, 01:05 PM
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Thank you, Astuff, for your very helpful reply. .

Please see my follow-up questions two posts down.
 
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Old 01-31-20, 01:19 PM
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Thank you, Iambition, for your very helpful reply. .

Please see my follow-up questions in my next post.
 
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Old 01-31-20, 01:43 PM
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I moved the load wires from the obviously dead circuits C and D to other working circuit breakers. All the C and D outlets are now working, so logic suggests the C and D circuit breakers have stopped working. FWIW, one of the unused "MT" circuits at the very bottom of the panel does work. The other "MT" does not.

QUESTION 4
The terminal lug on each non-working breaker is loose. WIth the breaker mounted on the buss I can wiggle the lug so it sort of rotates on whatever fastener attaches it in the breaker (as if a screw is loose). On the working breakers the lug is stationary/rigid. So is there a mechanical repair I can make that would "tighten up" the terminal lug and get these dead breakers working again?

QUESTION 5
My voltage meter registers zero "0" when I touch red probe to breaker terminal and black probe to any Neutral bus terminal (or vice versa). I'm looking for a reading of around 120 volts, but no dice. This applies to the breakers on the lower half of the panel. On the other hand, the only breaker on the upper half, a 30amp Dryer circuit, registers 120v.

I need a way to TEST every circuit breaker. The outlets for refrigerator and clothes washer are not working now, so whatever breaker they're on must be dead, but I cannot seem to test any of the breakers on the lower bus (controlled by Main breaker) What am I doing wrong?

QUESTION 6
Per your comments, Iambition, and per other sources online, the best approach in the long run is to replace the entire service entrance. But my research indicates that'll be complicated, expensive and time-consuming. Instead, I found a source for NEW OLD STOCK original Pushmatic 15amp breakers, which appear to be unused. I take your point regarding the unreliability of Pushmatic breakers and especially new Chinese replacements, but if these are actually unused originals, do you think it's a good 5-year move to replace all ten (10) of the existing with these?

QUESTION 7
Can I pay an electrician to install a BREAKER between the power company's meter and my existing service entrance panel? That way I could shut the power OFF to the panel when it suits my schedule, and replace the service entrance panel later when it makes best sense to do so.
 
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Old 01-31-20, 02:08 PM
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I replaced main load centers in my two lived-in homes. Power was off about 4 hours. They had 25 to 35 active circuits. I reconnected the reefer and other high value circuits first.

Circuit breakers are hard to test. No way would I live with 50 y/o breakers. Internal corrosion and insulation breakdown, and contact erosion.
btw; I work with circuit breaker monitors, design side, for the biggest circuit breakers made. The ones installed with cranes.
 
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Old 01-31-20, 03:22 PM
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QUESTION 4
Are you referring to the terminal that is screwed to the bus bar? That should be tight. Tighten the screw. It is possible there is corrosion under the terminal and caused bad connection. Remove the breaker and inspect to be sure.

QUESTION 5
Did you check with the main breaker on? Lower half gets power only if the main breaker is on.
Only test you can really do is continuity test. Either you can check for 120V between neutral and terminal of the breaker or with main breaker off (or breaker removed) check resistance between bus bar terminal and wire terminal. It should read 0 or near 0.

QUESTION 6
How long your breaker will last is impossible to estimate. New old stock will be better than Chinese copies so long as they were stored properly. Even used ones are better in my experience. If they ever got wet, they are no good.

QUESTION 7
You could, but might as well as just replace the panel in that case. If you install a disconnect switch or breaker before your main panel, that disconnect becomes your main panel and your existing panel becomes a sub panel. In a sub panel, you have to separate ground and neutral. This means the electrician has to pull wire main feed wire to your existing panel.
It is not that complicated to replace the breaker panel. Especially with low number of circuits like in yours.
 
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Old 02-01-20, 08:08 PM
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Thank you for your help, Imabition.

QUESTION 4
Are you referring to the terminal that is screwed to the bus bar?
I'm referring to the metal part to which the breaker's terminal screw is threaded. See image below. The yellow arrow points at the part I mean. On the breakers known to be not working, that metal part (supporting the terminal screw) rocks/wiggles toward floor and ceiling. On known working breakers it seems rigid / solid.

QUESTION 5
Did you check with the main breaker on? Lower half gets power only if the main breaker is on.
Only test you can really do is continuity test
.
The main breaker to lower panel is ON/closed. I don't know how to set up my cheapie HF voltage meter to test continuity. I'll read the instructions and see what I can come up with...

See THIS LINK at 0:47. That's what I've been trying to do--with Main Breaker engaged--but none of the lower-panel breakers register anything. Only the 30amp DRYER breaker at top of upper section registers 120 volts.

I have several outlets that are dead now, so I really need to find a way to test all breakers. I must be missing something obvious...


QUESTION 6
How long your breaker will last is impossible to estimate. New old stock will be better than Chinese copies [...] If they ever got wet, they are no good.
The one's I may buy seem to be new and from (what appears to be) a reliable source. The few user reviews online said the breakers were exactly as advertised. I expect to be in this house for 5 years or less, and a buyer at that time will likely upgrade the whole shebang. So I think the NEW Old Stock breakers option makes pretty good sense.

QUESTION 7
...If you install a disconnect switch or breaker before your main panel, that disconnect becomes your main panel and your existing panel becomes a sub panel [...] In a sub panel, you have to separate ground and neutral [...] the electrician has to pull main feed wire to your existing panel.
Ahhh, I see your point. Not a good option then. And thanks for explaining my reasoning over in my other thread that deals with this specific topic - Install a Main Breaker Between Meter and Service Entrance Panel.

It is not that complicated to replace the breaker panel. Especially with low number of circuits like in yours.
I hear you, and I think that'd be the best option. Been watching YouTube videos (this guy is funny) and I'm sure I can do it, but having never tried it before, unexpected issues could bite me and the work might drag on for days. It'd make better sense to try it in the Spring, but I need to get things up and running now.

I much appreciate your advice.

 
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Old 02-01-20, 11:46 PM
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4. Some play at that terminal is normal with these breakers, but I'm not sure how much of play you have.
5. That makes no sense. If that was the case, that would mean none of your circuits other than dryer works. But, that is not the case with yours. What do you get between bus bars on the left and on the right? You should get 240V.
6. So long as you can get the breakers at reasonable price, I'd say go ahead. I'm not aware of any issue of breaker not tripping when it is supposed to or causing fire with pushmatic. It just has high failure rate (not able to reset) and not as easy to tell if breaker is on or off compared to other breakers.
7. Biggest problem in your case is that power company has to pull the meter in order to kill feed wire to your panel. If your county allows, you can pull owner permit and have power company pull the meter so you can replace the panel. However, most power company will not restore electricity until you pass the inspection and this usually will take at least a day. When electrician works on it, most power companies let electrician pull the meter themselves and put it back when done.
It is best to replace the cable between meter and your panel as well.
 
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Old 02-02-20, 03:21 PM
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Starting to make sense

(my comments from before) See THIS LINK at 0:47. That's what I've been trying to do: Main Breaker ON. Red lead to breaker terminal, Black lead to Neutral bus. (It seemed like) none of the lower-panel breakers register anything. Only the 30amp DRYER breaker at top of upper section registers 120 volts.

BUT I WAS WRONG.

Reply by Iambition
That makes no sense. If that was the case, that would mean none of your circuits other than dryer works. But, that is not the case with yours. What do you get between bus bars on the left and on the right? You should get 240V.

I agree. It made no sense.
The service entrance is in the garage and today is the first day it hasn’t been freezing out there. Maybe that’s why I discovered something new. The following refers to the LOWER bus bars fed by the MAIN BREAKER at the top of the lower section (see image 1 below):


1. The whole right bus bar appears to be dead. When I put the red probe on any terminal screw on the RIGHT bus bar (B), and the black probe on the Neutral bus (C) I get no readout from the voltage meter. That applies to every breaker on the right bar.

2. The left bus bar appears to be functioning properly. When I put the red probe on any terminal screw on the LEFT bus bar (A), and put the black probe on the Neutral bus (C) I get 120v. I didn’t realize that before. So maybe the circuit breakers on the right bus bar are not dead. Maybe the Main Breaker is the problem(?)

4. See image 2 below. It shows the 50amp Main Breaker at the top of the lower section. See the CORROSION on the metal piece surrounding the terminal screw. That's the dead right bus bar. I thought maybe the left terminal would look better than this one because the left bus bar is functioning properly. But no, the 50amp breaker’s left terminal is even more corroded.

So what’s your diagnosis?
Is the Main Breaker failing?
Or is the problem maybe just corrosion?
Can I pull that breaker, clean the corrosion from both its terminals and reinstall the breaker?

 
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  #12  
Old 02-02-20, 05:04 PM
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It could be main breaker. It also could feed coming into the panel.
Check voltage on the bus bar itself (where the breaker is attached). If you get 120V on the bus bar above the main, but not below the main, then your main breaker is the problem.
Check voltage on the screw of the main breaker. If you get 120V at the screw on both sides, then all that needs to be done is to remove the breaker, clean corrosion then reattach. Otherwise, you would need to replace the main breaker.


If it is problem with feed wire, problem probably is in the meter box. Your power company can test this for you.
 
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Old 02-03-20, 03:30 PM
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I'm not stupid, but...

I forgot to answer this question, "What do you get between bus bars on the left and on the right? You should get 240V." On the LOWER rails fed by the 50 amp Main Breaker: One probe on the left rail, other probe on the right rail - I get 87.4 volts. Yesterday I was seeing 88.5 volts.

You wrote, ďCheck voltage on the bus bar itself (where the breaker is attached). If you get 120V on the bus bar above the main, but not below the main, then your main breaker is the problem.Ē I donít understand where exactly to place the probes. It looks to me like the main breaker is attached to BOTH sets of bus bars, upper (11, 12) and lower (13, 14). See pic below.

I labeled various locations on the panel (see pics). If you tell me where to locate my voltage meter probes Iíll follow your instructions and report the results. If you say ďRED-5 BLACK-6Ē Iíll test at those locations and tell you what I get.

ANOTHER POSSIBILITY
The man in this YouTube video (see 0:40 to 1:51) is an older experienced electrician who says before you turn off the Main Breaker you have to remove the load from all the individual downstream breakers, then turn those breakers OFF Ė and only THEN can you shut off the Main Breaker. Otherwise, he says the Main Breaker might never reset properly.

I didnít do any of that... I switched the Main Breaker (for the lower bus bars) OFF and ON several times. Could that have damaged the Main Breaker? If so, is there any way to restore it?

And if CORROSION on the Main Breaker terminals (terminals?) might be the problem, how do I clean that up?
Thanks
 
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Old 02-03-20, 06:04 PM
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1 and 2 are the same. 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 are the same. 3, 8, 10, 12 are the same. 13 and 15 are the same.

Check voltage between 7 and 8. You should have 240V. Also check between 1 and 7 and 1 and 8. You should get 120V in both cases.

Check voltage between 13 and 14. It should read 240V.
Check voltage between 15 and 16. It should read 240V. If you have 240V between 13 and 14, but not between 15 and 16, then corrosion is suspected at 13 or 14.

Red or black on the probe is meaningless for AC voltage. You can reverse probes without any issue.

You do not have to remove the load in most cases. It is necessary only when you have a very big load. Your main breaker is only 50A anyway, so you are very unlikely to have any issue video is referring to.
You generally don't want to switch on/off breakers with very large load because it could cause an arc. With residential circuit, it is very unlikely that this arc will harm the person operating the breaker, but this may degrade contact points of the breaker.
 
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Old 02-04-20, 08:16 AM
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You are a very patient person.

Thanks for your excellent instructions and clarifications. I will work on this later today and will report back. I'm beginning to think I might just get this mess sorted out.

Thanks a LOT.
 
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Old 02-05-20, 06:29 PM
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I tested as you instructed. See pic below.

Probes on 7 and 8 = 240 volts

Probes on 7 and 1 = 120 volts
Probes on 8 and 1 = 120 volts

Probes on 11 and 12, Main Breaker upper screws on upper bus bars = 120 volts
Probes on 13 and 14, Main Breaker lower screws on lower bus bars = 007

Probes on 15 and 16, Lower bus bars = 007

Does voltage reading '007' mean anything to you? If I read your previous post correctly, these results suggest I should pull the main breaker and try to remove the corrosion. Am I right?

Any tips for how to remove corrosion?

Also, I'm kinda worried. Should I be? When I reinstall that Main Breaker what are the chances of it not resetting? If that happened I'd have NO ELECTRICITY. No furnace, the pipes would freeze. No internet to order a Chinese replacement, etc.

If my latest test results convince you that the Main Breaker is the problem, maybe I'll order a new Chinese replacement (good reviews online) and just install that. Or at least have it on hand in case the existing one fails to reset. Money's tight so I don't want to spend that $55 unless you're convinced a properly working Main Breaker will solve the problem...

Thanks
 
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Old 02-05-20, 06:36 PM
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Your test does point to a bad main breaker.
Try turning it on/off few times if you haven't already. Sometimes that resets the breaker. You will have to use some force to reset it. 2 pole pushmatic breakers sometimes resets just 1 pole, but not the other if not pushed down hard enough.
If that fails, time to replace the breaker.

Your main breaker is actually regular 50A 2 pole pushmatic breaker with spacer. You will have to remove a lug that comes with 50A breaker to install.

Chances of new breaker not able to reset is slim unless you get a DOA breaker.

You could get that connecticut electric breaker as well, but you should be fine with used ones as well. If you find new old stock, even better.

For removing corrosion on the bus bar, wrap sand paper at the end of wood or plastic stick (something nonconductive) and sand corrosion off.
 
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Old 02-06-20, 02:20 PM
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Thanks for the explanations, Iambition ==.

If the existing Main Breaker fails while I'm pushing (too) hard to reset both poles I'll be in real trouble. So I figure I'll buy a new Connecticut Electric replacement Main Breaker. Once it's here I'll try resetting both poles of the existing Main Breaker. If the existing breaker resets, maybe I'll keep the replacement on hand for when the existing breaker fails...

Not sure about the lug that I'll have to remove, See picture below. If the lug's not obvious when the new breaker arrives I'll ask you some more obtuse questions about that.

I can buy a 60 amp replacement for just $4.00 more than the 50 amp replacement. I'm not sure how the amperage of the Main Breaker relates to the individual breakers and the system overall. Would it be a good idea or a bad idea to replace the 50amp with a 60amp? I'm guessing a bad idea if increasing the amperage would cause the circuit to not trip at 50, and instead wait for 60.
 
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Old 02-06-20, 04:04 PM
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I doubt you will have any more problem then you already have by trying to reset the main breaker. But if you feel better having a replacement breaker in handy first go ahead.

Lug is where the wire attaches to the breaker. You can remove this by unscrewing a screw on the bottom side.

You can upsize main breaker only if your panel allows to do so. Check the label inside and see if it mentions maximum main breaker size. Otherwise, I would just keep it at 50A.
 
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Old 02-06-20, 05:39 PM
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See pic below.
See the existing arrangement (A). Then see the two plastic 'walls' (B) on two sides of the replacement lug. Is that replacement breaker going to fit?

The little metal 'shape' surrounding the existing lug (A) is covered with corrosion. Is part (A) part of the breaker housing, or is it part of the bus bar? If (A) is part of the breaker, then maybe the new one will fit, but it looks to me (untrained eye) like those two plastic walls (B) will keep the new breaker from seating properly on the bus bar.

Do the bottoms of plastic walls (B) sit right on the surface of the bus bar? If so, there will be a big gap between the metal part (below the lug) of the breaker and the bus bar. Does this part attach to the bus bar by way of a screw? It'll take a long screw to engage the bus bar. I know NOTHING ABOUT ANYTHING, but it looks to me like (A) is screwed into the bus bar...

IS THE FOLLOWING RIGHT?
a) I remove the lug, the part with the wire-holding set screw.
b) Then I remove the metal plate just below the lug. That leaves one U-shaped metal component in place.
c) Then what? Run the existing screw (taken from existing 50A Main Breaker) through the remaining U-shaped metal part, and into a threaded hole in the bus bar?

This is starting to drive me NUTZ. How about you? I have to get my ducks in a row. If I don't ask now, and something goes wrong, I'll have no electricity and no way to get online for further (stupid) questions.

ADDED: You mentioned a SPACER in my current arrangement. Is the corroded metal thing at (A) the spacer? Am I supposed to pull that and use it with the new breaker? The rounded shape does not look like it'll fit the new breaker with its SQUARE metal plate and two plastic walls...
 
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Old 02-06-20, 06:54 PM
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Is that replacement breaker going to fit?
Unsure if it will fit without modification. Older original breakers without plastic surrounding will work for sure. With newer replacements, you may have to cut or breaker plastic off. Normally, I wouldn't recommend modifying the breaker, but given the age of these breakers, you may have no choice.


This is what your original breaker would look like.

If you want to replace the breaker without any modification, look for used one with this older design.



Is part (A) part of the breaker housing, or is it part of the bus bar?
That is a spacer and it is not part of the breaker or bus bar. It is just a metal spacer to fill the gap.

Do the bottoms of plastic walls (B) sit right on the surface of the bus bar?
No, that does not seat on top of the bus bar. There are some gab in between. However, that may get in the way of spacer.
You will have to reuse screw form old breaker. Take care not to damage the thread on the bus bar. (Do not over tighten or cross thread)

IS THE FOLLOWING RIGHT?
Yes. With possibility of having to modify the breaker.

In case you cannot get the main breaker to reset and you fail to replace it, you can temporarily move breakers for necessary circuits from bottom half to top half. Maximum number of breakers you can have by code is 6, but you should replace the panel as soon as possible in this case.
What NEC says is you have to be able to disconnect power to all circuits by throwing 6 or less handles. This is the code split bus panel exploited in order to save cost of having to install large 100A or 200A breaker.
 
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Old 02-07-20, 03:12 PM
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Spacer, Spacer Mod or No Spacer?

Thanks for explanations and excellent photo. And your clarification of NEC's maximum number of breakers is really helpful.

If I could get away without using the spacer at all I think the replacement would work. Can I avoid using the existing metal spacer? What if I do the following?
a) Remove the lug and the metal plate below from the new replacement breaker.
b) Scavenge the existing screw from the existing breaker and use it to attach the new breaker. Run the screw through the breaker's U-shaped metal tab, then thread it into the bus bar mounting hole without using any spacer. Would that do?

On the other hand, if I do need the spacer, it might fit if I grind/file off the metal guard/surround portion and leave just the solid metal spacer portion; it would be just a little metal cylinder between the breaker's U-shaped metal tab and the bus bar.. See image below. I think the metal guard portion of the spacer will conflict with the two plastic guards on the new replacement breaker.

If we get this spacer issue sorted out I'll order the Chinese Connecticut Electric replacement tonight.
Fingers Crossed


 
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Old 02-07-20, 07:52 PM
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You must have a spacer to have positive connection to the bus bar.
You could try cutting ears off the spacers, but it would be much easier to modify the plastic parts of the breaker and less change of problem.
 
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Old 02-09-20, 03:24 PM
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Okay. See image below and please correct me if I'm wrong.

The plan is:
1. Buy the Connecticut Electric replacement 50A Breaker
2. Salvage the metal spacer with its curved guard wall from the existing Main Breaker
3. Salvage the two long mounting screws from the existing Main Breaker.

4. Modify the replacement breaker so I can avoid grinding the curved metal guard wall from the original spacer. Accomplish this by the following:
a) Remove the lug and the metal plate below it, leaving just the U-shaped metal tab in place.
b) Remove most of the plastic guard wall (B) from the replacement breaker, leaving about 1/8"
c) Remove all of the plastic guard wall (C) from the replacement breaker.
These mods should make room for the original spacer's curved guard wall.

Man.I wish the replacement came with spacers for use as a Main Breaker. All I find is the standard 2-pole breaker intended for attachment to wire leads rather than the bus bars. I found a phone number for the manufacturer, I'll call them tomorrow (Monday) to see if I can purchase the spacers that work with their current 50A 2-pole breaker for use as a Main Breaker.

JUST OCCURRED TO ME: Do you think that METAL LUG I'll be removing can also be used as the SPACER when mounting the replacement breaker as a MAIN? Just relocate it beneath the U-shaped metal tab and run the original salvaged screw through it? If I were the designer, it would work that way.
 
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Old 02-09-20, 08:12 PM
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Your plan will work.

Using the lug may or may not work, but it may not be safe to use even if it works. It is not really designed to pull high current through it.

There are used breakers you can use without modification on eBay if you feel better using them.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/PUSHMATIC-3...R/164046628121

https://www.ebay.com/itm/1-P250-50-a...r/163612752256
 
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Old 02-09-20, 08:48 PM
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That's very good of you do dig up used breakers that'll work. I appreciate it, and might have to use one - though I think used might be no better than what I have. That is, IF mine will reset. If it won't it's toast, and ANY breaker that works is an improvement.

I'll call the mfr tomorrow morning and see if 1) that lug is intended to also work as the spacer, or 2) whether I can buy the spacers to use the current design as a MAIN breaker. I'll let you know what happens. Thanks for helping me.
 
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Old 02-10-20, 05:50 PM
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Spoke with and swapped emails with Tech Support at Connecticut Electric today.
He pointed out how their true Main breakers have a different mounting hole arrangement. Mine has the standard arrangement and he says it appears to be a standard 50A branch circuit breaker. So the mounting holes in the bus bar and breaker should line up.

No word on whether I can get SPACERS that'll fit the replacement. I'll ask tomorrow. Holes in the LUG do not line up with the rectangular hole in the terminal plate (SEE PIC 1 BELOW). But I don't know if he tried rotating the lug 90 degrees to see if the OTHER two holes would work. He does not think the lug will work as a spacer, but I'll ask him to rotate the lug tomorrow.

1. To make the replacement 50A breaker work with the existing spacers he suggests removing plastic ears from replacement breaker with a Dremel tool. I've never seen those spacers anywhere online. Why? Are the two on my installation custom-made?

2. He also suggested swapping in a 60 amp (SIXTY AMP) breaker instead of the 50 amp because the 60A has no "ears" to interfere with the existing metal spacer guards (SEE PIC 2 BELOW). CAN I DO THAT? REPLACE AN EXISTING 50A MAIN WITH A 60A MAIN? My guess is no, but I'd appreciate advice for you who know more than I do.
 
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Old 02-10-20, 06:40 PM
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Oxidation!

My 50A Main Breaker employs two "MYSTERY SPACERS" that nobody sells and no one has ever seen before (see pics in this and earlier posts). Somebody please clue me in on where to buy replacement spacers.

See pics 1, 2 and 3 below. I've been calling it corrosion, but it's OXIDATION, right? The bus bars look like ALUMINUM. Aluminum is prone to oxidation. Oxidation interferes with electrical connections.

There's a lot of WHITE oxidation on the two metal spacers. There's also GREEN buildup where the spacer contacts the bus bar. Is the green stuff oxidation, or is it some kind of anti-oxidation formula applied to the connection between spacer and bus bar back when the connection was made?

I would like to try cleaning off the oxidation to test if that's the cause of the non-working right lower bus bar. Two problems:

1) I don't know how to remove oxidation.
Sandpaper? Scrape? Chemical? Wire brush? White vinegar (ZZZAP!)

2) How to remove the oxidation WITHOUT ELECTROCUTING MYSELF.
It's a split bus panel and the upper bus is always HOT. The main breaker is screwed to both buses, upper and lower. Even if I shut off the lower bus, I'll still probably touch that upper bus while attacking the oxidation.

Gotta get this done. It's turning into a career...
 
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Old 02-10-20, 07:33 PM
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They'd HAVE TO sell a SPACER

See the captioned picture below. It's an image sent to me by the mfr's Tech Support rep. I added the caption and sent the image back to him. Waiting for a reply now.

If the terminal on their dedicated MAIN BREAKERS is located up above the bus bar surface (as seen in this picture), they'd have to sell the spacers. Right?

Assuming a spacer is needed to make a proper connection between that raised terminal and the bar, EVERY TIME one of these main breakers is installed the spacers would have to be included...

Right?

 
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Old 02-10-20, 11:12 PM
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I doubt the manufacturer will be able to help with that. It is very unlikely they will have a spacer as pushmatic breakers went obsolete long ago and pushmatic split bus panel is very rare.

Connecticut electric is just a manufacturer of obsolete breakers. I think think they are even licensed from the original manufacturer. Just a UL listed as compatible replacement.
 
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Old 02-11-20, 07:40 AM
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Still waiting to hear from the manufacturer regarding spacers.

What about the OXIDATION on the spacers and bus bar? (see my post, 2 posts up) It seems like that could be interfering with the breaker's contact with the bus bar, perhaps rendering the right bus bar inoperable.

I'll have to remove the breaker, and that means CAREFULLY unscrewing it from the HOT upper bus bars. Then I need a reliable and safe method of cleaning the oxidation from the spacers, and the upper and lower bars. You mentioned wrapping sandpaper (fine grit?) on a piece of wood (non-conductive) and sanding carefully. Is it okay to do that on the upper HOT bus, too? As long as I don't touch the bar with my hands?

Everything was working until I had to turn the Main Breaker ON and OFF several times. I'm guessing the problem is not the oxidation, but is instead a failure to reset correctly. If so, is it a permanent failure or a temporary/intermittent failure that might be corrected by a hard push of the switch/button? No way to know for sure, right?

If it can be done safely, I think removing the oxidation from lower and upper bars should be done before installing a new breaker. Yes?
 

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Old 02-11-20, 07:58 PM
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Is it okay to do that on the upper HOT bus, too? As long as I don't touch the bar with my hands?
Yes. In fact, you only have to do that for hot bus. After the main breaker, you don't have to use non-conductive material as long as main breaker is off.
Good choice of sand paper will be somewhere around 100 to 220. If too fine, it will take forever. Too course, it will take off more than you need.

If so, is it a permanent failure or a temporary/intermittent failure that might be corrected by a hard push of the switch/button? No way to know for sure, right?
No way too know until you try, but this is common problem with pushmatic breakers. Internal parts jam easily.

I don't think oxidation was the issue in your case, although it is good idea to clean them before installing replacement.


 
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Old 02-11-20, 08:48 PM
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Iambition, you are a GREAT resource and much appreciated.

I cannot update my service panel until warmer weather comes, so I must get this Pushmatic panel working in the meantime.

I've been talking with the local building permits dept and they WILL allow me to do the work myself. But I think it'll take several days for me to 1) get the disconnect and have the new service wires installed, 2) do the panel upgrade myself, 3) get the inspector to approve, and 4) get the electric company to turn the power back on. Lot's of potential delays...

I will start a new thread soon, asking "stupid questions" about updating to a modern 150A or 200A panel and breakers. I'll let you know when I do that, and would be very grateful for your input there, too.

I hope to hear from Connecticut Electric tomorrow regarding spacers. If NoGo I'll buy their standard 50A Branch circuit breaker. When I receive it I'll push HARD to reset the existing Main. If that doesn't work, I'll clean oxidation and reinstall. If that doesn't work I'll install the replacement making whatever mods seem easiest. If THAT doesn't work I'll shoot myself and finally get some rest.
 
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Old 02-12-20, 08:50 AM
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Replace 50A Main Breaker with 60A

Another source suggested replacing the 50A Main Breaker with a 60A breaker. He said increasing the amperage of the Main Breaker should not be a problem. TELL ME IF YOU DISAGREE. The existing 50A Main Breaker serves to pass (and shut off) current from the always-hot upper bus bars to the lower bars. Of course, it's intended to trip if the cumulative load of the individual downstream branch breakers exceeds 50 amps.

I called the local electric company and they checked (by computer somehow; they did not come on-site) and said my service is rated for between 60 and 100 amps. Not sure how reliable that information is, but I assume it's accurate.

Connecticut Electric confirms that their UBIP260 60-amp branch circuit breaker has the same mounting-hole dimensions/locations and should mount where the existing old 50A Main Breaker is mounted. The reason for going to the 60A as a Main Breaker is that it has no protective "EARS" surrounding the lug (see image below) so I can reuse the existing SPACERS without modifications.

If going to 60A is risky I can buy the 50A and probably trim off its protective "ears" with a Dremel tool.

Do you guys see any problem in replacing the existing 50A with the 60A breaker?
 
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Old 02-12-20, 03:38 PM
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It is not the service size, but the rating of the panel that matters. There should be maximum main breaker size written somewhere on the label. It it doesn't say anything, then up-sizing the breaker will be at your own risk as it may or may not be ok..
 
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Old 02-13-20, 08:01 AM
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Iambition wrote:
"It is not the service size, but the rating of the panel that matters. There should be maximum main breaker size written somewhere on the label."

Ha! I searched the panel for information before, but didn't know exactly what I was looking for. Thanks to your clarification in the post above I found the words "AMPS 100" on the old paper label pasted to the inside back of the box. See image below.

So that means the panel is rated for 100 amps, right? And that means there should be no risk in using the 2-pole 60A breaker UBIP260 in place of the existing 50A breaker. Tell me if I'm wrong.

If I'm right, please let me know ASAP so I can order the UBIP260 replacement.

THANKS
 
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Old 02-13-20, 08:24 AM
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That is total size of the panel. Not the main breaker.
There should be maximum main breaker size written somewhere..

For example, I have old split bus Bryant panel and this panel is rated for 125A, but the maximum main breaker size is 70A.
 
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Old 02-13-20, 10:46 AM
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There's no indication on the panel or the cover for "the maximum amperage for the main breaker for the lower section." Can't find anything on Google either.

CAN ANYBODY HERE HELP ME DETERMINE:

THE MAXIMUM AMPERAGE FOR
THE MAIN BREAKER SERVING THE LOWER SECTION
OF A SPLIT-BUS
PUSHMATIC ELECTRI-CENTER PANEL
RATED FOR 100 AMPS

HOUSE BUILT: 1959
PANEL CATALOG NUMBER: X410-150
PANEL PIECE NUMBER: 44655 on panel, and 44659 on the panel cover
 

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Old 02-13-20, 10:26 PM
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Don't tell me what to do. JUST CHECK MY LOGIC.

I have a split-bus panel rated for 100 amps. There's one 30 amp 2-pole breaker for the dryer in the upper section/bus. There's a 50A 2-pole breaker feeding power to the lower section/bus where ten (10) single-pole branch circuit breakers are installed. They're 15A and a couple of 20A breakers carrying light loads.

If I install a 60A breaker in place of the failing 50A breaker (that feeds power to the branch circuits bus) what can happen?

a) Is this how it works? The 50A breaker trips, shutting off power to the branch circuits ONLY when a cumulative load from the branch circuits exceeds 50 amps? If so, see item B.

b) The house is less than 900 sqft. Gas stove. Gas furnace. No air conditioning. One occupant. The only potentially heavy draw is the dryer, which is on its own 30amp 2-pole breaker. That breaker is mounted in the first/upper section/bus. So the dryer does not receive power through the 50A or 60A bus in question. The dryer is not a factor.

c) The only substantial loads on the lower branch-circuit bus (fed by the 50A or 60A breaker) are 1) an 1100-watt microwave and 2) a table saw with a 120V motor rated at 13A. They are on different branch circuits.

There's a basic refrigerator, some CFL and LED lighting, a small flatscreen TV and a couple of computers...

So what chance is there that the cumulative load from the branch circuit breakers (fed by the 50A or 60A breaker) will ever approach 50A? I'd say there's NO chance under these circumstances. And if I'm right about that, installing a 60A breaker to feed the lower bus will have no effect.

I expect to upgrade the panel to 150A later in the year when it's warm. But I need to keep the house functioning until then. Come on, guys. Tell me if I'm thinking about this correctly. If you're unwilling to make a suggestion, just tell me what you think IN GENERAL TERMS.
 
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Old 02-13-20, 10:47 PM
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There is a slim possibility that 60A breaker will cause problem, but since there are no specification regarding maximum size of the main breaker, it is just unknown.

You are unlikely to exceed 50A in your house branch circuits in normal circumstances, but there always is possibility.
 
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