Published on April 29, 2024

Circuit breakers are essential in protecting your facility’s electrical circuits from damage resulting from overloads or short circuits. In working order, these safety devices activate automatically to shut off the current flow when protective relays detect a system fault.

Like most mechanical objects, LV and MV circuit breakers require timely maintenance to function correctly. The failure to maintain breakers can lead to equipment damage, fires and arc flash hazards that pose significant safety risks.

Why Circuit Breaker Maintenance Matters

There are several key benefits of scheduling routine circuit breaker maintenance, including:

Maximizing Service Life

Proper preventative maintenance performed by a NETA-certified technician can extend the working life of your electrical infrastructure and reduce the likelihood of expensive repairs.

Well-maintained circuit breakers, relays, and other components can help prevent costly breakdowns by catching potential issues before they become major problems. For example, lubrication and cleaning will remove potentially harmful debris and ensure the bearings and other mechanisms operate smoothly.

Technicians will conduct visual and mechanical inspections to detect signs of trouble and various electrical tests to determine whether the circuit breaker responds appropriately.

Check out our quick guide to circuit breaker testing for commercial buildings for more on what to expect if you’re due for testing.

Handling Issues Proactively

Staying on top of breaker maintenance allows you to take action early—before a disruptive or potentially dangerous failure occurs. A routine check can reveal issues like miswiring, the potential for arcing, or the root cause of humming noises that may indicate a breaker isn’t tripping correctly.

Verifying Trip Relay Performance

A breaker should trip whenever the circuit overloads or a short circuit occurs. Regular maintenance, including testing, will verify that the trip relay is functioning properly and will perform in the appropriate situations.

How Often Should Circuit Breaker Maintenance Occur?

The appropriate frequency for circuit breaker preventative maintenance depends on the type of equipment.

For example, a molded case breaker features a relatively simple design; it should be cycled annually, with trip testing by primary injection performed every three years. Low-voltage breakers, which are draw-out breakers are also to be trip tested triannually by primary injection.

More frequent circuit breaker maintenance may be required due to factors like:

  • Aging equipment
  • Dusty or corrosive environments
  • Frequent switching or fault operations
  • Electric current that’s near its rated capacity or experiences frequent interruptions
  • Exposure to high moisture levels or excessive ambient temperatures

Always refer to NFPA 70B—now a standard—for information on maintenance intervals for electrical equipment in the absence of manufacturer guidelines. It’s also essential to adhere to the standard on electrical safety in the workplace as outlined in NFPA70E.

Schedule Breaker Testing at Your Facility Today

Give us a call at 704.573.0420 or contact us online to schedule breaker testing or preventive maintenance on your facility's electrical equipment.

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Preventative Maintenance Steps for Circuit Breakers

A NETA-certified technician will typically perform one or more of the following maintenance steps for breakers depending on your needs:

  1. Inspection: A comprehensive visual and mechanical circuit breaker inspection can reveal issues like loose connections and inadequate lubrication. The process involves an evaluation of multiple components, including arc chutes, contacts, housings and the operating mechanism.
  2. Testing: Various tests like current tripping, dielectric, and ground-fault trip can provide insight into a circuit breaker’s general condition.
  3. Insulation resistance: A circuit breaker’s insulation resists the electric current flow and contains it within the conductor. Insulation can wear down over time, so testing is key to ensure it maintains the appropriate resistance level.
  4. Contact resistance: Ductor testing measures the degree to which the electrical connections contribute to the overall resistance in a circuit breaker system. This information can indicate the health of the system’s contacts.
  5. Over-potential: Technicians typically perform this maintenance process on medium—and high-voltage circuit breakers. The testing process entails running high AC voltage through an insulation system to identify dirt, moisture, and inadequate insulation.
  6. Timing: A circuit breaker’s timing indicates whether it performs open and close operations according to the manufacturer’s specifications. For low-voltage breakers, determining timing involves a primary or secondary injection test to trip the breaker. Medium- and high-voltage breakers employ the same methods using different test equipment.
  7. Cleaning: The accumulation of rust, dirt and grime within a circuit breaker can disrupt the power supply and increase the risk of blown fuses, current interruptions and fires. Trained technicians use specialized tools to complete cleaning tasks, such as grounding mats, antistatic wristbands and nonabrasive cleaning materials.
  8. Reporting and certification: The technician should prepare and issue a detailed test report regarding the circuit breaker’s performance and condition. Certification provides third-party confirmation that the breakers will perform to expectations and meet all applicable safety requirements.

Contact Power Products & Solutions for Circuit Breaker Maintenance

At Power Products & Solutions, our team is here to help you test and maintain circuit breakers and other electrical equipment anytime. We bring the knowledge, field experience, and testing equipment on-site whenever needed.

Our customers appreciate our attention to detail, in-house PEARL-certified breaker shop, NETA-certified technicians, and 24/7/365 emergency response to Charlotte, Western North Carolina, and Upstate South Carolina.

Contact us online to schedule preventative maintenance for your circuit breakers or if you have any questions.