Circuit breakers: Repair, Refurbish, or Replace?

Older circuit breakers can create problems. Here’s how we at EPC Electric address those problems with modern solutions.

Back to basics

Circuit breakers are electrical switches—designed to protect electrical circuits from damage caused by excess currents. Excess currents often stem from an overload or short circuit. The breaker interrupts the current flow to prevent damage if and when a fault is detected.

Circuit breakers come in all different sizes. In a house, you’ll find small devices that protect low-current circuits or individual appliances. However, in buildings and facilities with high-amperage circuits—like the ones we work on here at EPC Electric—you’ll find large switchgears made up of many breakers.

If the breaker trips and the technician can’t get the circuit reclosed, the building will be running on generator power until the circuit is reset.

An Inconvenient Truth

As with other technical improvements, electrical technology innovation moves at lightning speed (pun intended). While that’s excellent news for increased safety and efficiency, it also means that components like circuit breakers become outdated rather quickly.

Most breakers that are 20 years old or more are effectively obsolete. That doesn’t necessarily mean the breaker won’t work. Instead, it means that the breakers are operating under a tremendous level of strain. As a result, older breakers lead to an increased risk for unexpected power outages.

That leaves building managers with two main options, each with pros and cons. A technician who decides to repair an obsolete breaker or replace it with the same outdated model may find that spare parts or replacements are hard to find, especially if the model has been discontinued. However, replacing the breaker with an entirely new model can be expensive and require an even longer and more costly downtime.

Repair vs Refurbish

Although it is possible to continue repairing a circuit breaker instead of replacing it entirely, cost savings will diminish over time due to the availability of spare parts. Another option is to replace the breaker with the same model. However, this means you may be required to buy a refurbished piece of equipment, which can introduce its own risks.

For example, traceability is lost when the breaker doesn’t come directly from the manufacturer. More importantly, you have no idea where the part has been or how others have used it. In addition, refurbished breakers are not necessarily tested to the manufacturer’s standards, meaning they might lack critical safety features.

The Best Option is Worth the Investment

Undoubtedly the best option is to retrofit the primary breaker cell with an entirely new, state-of-the-art version. For one, new breakers are more reliable and efficient. A new breaker ensures that your electrical equipment complies with the most current safety protocols and requirements. The result is safer working conditions and lower liability risks. Modern breakers also feature monitoring capabilities, which enable predictive maintenance.

The downside of a brand new breaker is the possibility of a sustained and costly downtime. As with all technology, modern breakers are getting smaller and smaller. It isn’t as simple as unbolting the old breaker and bolting in the new one. For example, the busbar on a new breaker could be just six inches short of where it’s supposed to connect, and rectifying the problem will require a longer outage.

Trust the experts

When you have questions or concerns regarding your breaker situation, contact EPC Electric. We service all brands and types of breakers, and our work adheres to the strict guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). At EPC Electric, we follow strict safety protocols to protect the wellbeing of our technicians, our client’s personnel, and the general public.

Since 1984, Emergency Power Controls, Inc. has set the service standard for ensuring power to facilities like hospitals, high-rises, military bases, data centers, and more. When buildings must maintain power, clients rely on EPC for commercial- and industrial-grade power systems. Contact us today.

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