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GE panel problems


Tom Raymond
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I looked at a buddy's house yesterday with two GE panels, both are configured as subs with the main outside at the meter. In the larger panel the label states only "GE type" breakers are permitted, but most of the breakers are Westinghouse. Except for the switch levers they appear to be the same as the GE breakers, and they fit properly. The feed for the smaller sub is a Westinghouse double pole 120 amp breaker that began buzzing quite loudly after the homeowner vacumed the mouse nest out of the bottom of the panel. The buzz stopped after I removed and reinstalled the breaker and reset it. Obviously the breaker is defective, but my questions are as follows:

1. Is this an approved breaker? If not then there are several others that are wrong.

2. What would cause a breaker to fail like this? The small sub only has a few branch circuits in it, 60 amps would be plenty of over current protection, at 60 amps per pole every breaker in the second panel would trip before there was enough load to pop this one.

3. Both panels have one wire run through openings without clamps or bushings, and both panels are set in finished walls. Is there a split bushing that can be used to fix this or do the wires need to be pulled?

Thanks

Tom

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I looked at a buddy's house yesterday with two GE panels, both are configured as subs with the main outside at the meter. In the larger panel the label states only "GE type" breakers are permitted, but most of the breakers are Westinghouse. Except for the switch levers they appear to be the same as the GE breakers, and they fit properly. The feed for the smaller sub is a Westinghouse double pole 120 amp breaker that began buzzing quite loudly after the homeowner vacumed the mouse nest out of the bottom of the panel. The buzz stopped after I removed and reinstalled the breaker and reset it. Obviously the breaker is defective,

It's not obvious to me. What's defective? The breaker that stopped buzzing when you reinstalled it? Did it start buzzing again?

but my questions are as follows:

1. Is this an approved breaker? If not then there are several others that are wrong.

Probably not. But that rarely makes any real difference. If the breaker makes a good connection to the stab, the breaker works just fine and doesn't really care what panel it's in.

2. What would cause a breaker to fail like this? The small sub only has a few branch circuits in it, 60 amps would be plenty of over current protection, at 60 amps per pole every breaker in the second panel would trip before there was enough load to pop this one.

I've had breakers buzz for all sorts of reasons. They often do it if they're about to trip, but they sometimes do it in reaction to non-linear loads. I have a small battery charger that makes my circuit breaker buzz.

If the breaker isn't buzzing anymore, I wouldn't worry about it.

3. Both panels have one wire run through openings without clamps or bushings, and both panels are set in finished walls. Is there a split bushing that can be used to fix this or do the wires need to be pulled?

There are several types of split bushings that will work.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Thanks Jim,

The buzz was really loud, like a bad ballast. When I removed it it looked pretty clean with no signs of arcing at the stabs so I put it back. When I turned it on it still buzzed, but very quietly. It took several on/off cycles to make the buzz completely disappear, leading me to think the internal contacts were arcing.

I'll tell my buddy to kep an ear out for the buzz, if it's gone he's good to go, if it comes back I'll run over and pop in a new breaker.

Tom

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