Circuit Breakers

While there are numerous types and variations of circuit breakers, they all have the same function: protecting the distribution system and utilization devices from overloads and short circuits. However, for breakers to adequately perform their intended function, they must be able to trip within the manufacturer's design parameters from the time that they are installed until they are replaced.

10/01/2004


While there are numerous types and variations of circuit breakers, they all have the same function: protecting the distribution system and utilization devices from overloads and short circuits. However, for breakers to adequately perform their intended function, they must be able to trip within the manufacturer's design parameters from the time that they are installed until they are replaced.

To assure this, the breakers should be exercised and tested on a regular basis. At least once per year, breaker handles should be operated to keep those portions of the mechanism operating freely. Every two years the breakers should be tested and tripped using primary current injection. This test will confirm that each breaker is operating within the manufacturer's tripping curves and it will also exercise all internal parts of the breaker, including the unlatching and tripping components that do not get exercised with the aforementioned handle operation.

Circuit Breaker Types

Molded Case Breakers Insulated Case Breakers Current Limiting Breakers Power Air Circuit Breakers Fused Circuit Breakers
Description Molded plastic case, 80% or 100 % rated in larger sizes, interrupting duties from 10 to 100kAIC; commonly used for residential and most branch circuit applications, also used in retail and commercial switchboardsGlass reinforced case, 100% rated from 100 to 5,000 amps; interrupting duties from 42 to 150kAIC, solid-state digital tripping; typical uses are in commercial and light industrial applicationsGenerally molded or insulated case breakers, interrupting duties from 10 to 200kAIC, trip sizes from 15 through 600 ampsRigid, open metal frame for longer life,100% rated, interrupting duties from 42 to 100kAIC, trip ranges from 200 to 5,000 ampsInterrupting duty of 200kAIC, generally molded case breaker
Advantages Smaller size, lowest in costFiberglass reinforced case fully adjustable; limited short time ratingInherently current limiting both for themselves and for downstream devices; same case size as molded case breakers; digital, adjustable trip unitFully adjustable, microprocessor trip unit; may be fully repaired, maintained and adjusted; expected life on the order of 40 to 50 years; depending on usage and maintenance, short time rating allows better coordination with downstream equipmentHigh interrupting duty, small size for maximum interrupting duty
Disadvantages Cannot be maintained or repaired; limited adjustability without selecting operational tripping unit; useful life in the 10- to 20-year range; may not be operational after a fully rated fault interruptionCannot be maintained or repaired; useful life from 20 to 25 years; may not be operational after a fully rated fault interruptionSame disadvantages as other molded case breakers.Large size, highest cost breakerProtects only selected downstream lower rated over-current devices
Options Electronic trip unitMay be electrically opened or closed
Variations Ground fault circuit interrupting, arc-fault interrupting, heating/refrigeration rating DC ratingEvery possible option is availableSame concept can be found on power air circuit breakers





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