What Is Circuit Breaker Testing and How Is It Done?
Circuit breaker testing is a vital practice to ensure the reliability and safety of an electrical system. As a best practice, you should implement routine testing processes for your circuit breakers to maximize safety at your work site. Learn more about how testing works and how often to test your circuit breakers to ensure they’re ready to work as intended.
What Is Circuit Breaker Testing?
Circuit breaker testing evaluates individual switching components’ performance and the overall tripping system’s effectiveness. Essentially, it works by analyzing the current the trip coil consumes while the breaker is in operation. This test can help pinpoint mechanical or electrical issues that could impede the overall function and safety of the breaker.
There are a few primary types of circuit breaker tests:
- Connection tests: This type of test checks that the breaker has a proper electrical connection and shows no signs of overheating.
- Overload tripping tests: In this process, the operator applies 300% of the breaker rating to see if it opens automatically.
- Contact resistance tests: By measuring the resistance across each breaker pole, this technique checks for unusual wear and tear of the components.
- Instantaneous magnetic tripping tests: This routine test ensures that the magnetic feature is operating properly and will trip the breaker as needed.
How to Test Circuit Breakers
The best way to ensure optimal performance from your circuit breakers is to continue regularly testing them and completing the prescribed preventative maintenance procedures. You can opt to use several different devices to help with testing, including a current tracer, an electrostatic wand or a clamping ammeter. Check routinely for circuit overloads and electricity flow measurements.
It’s also wise to inspect the breakers visually, looking for any signs of damage or burning. If you can feel heat or smell burning, immediately shut off the main power.
How Often Should You Test Circuit Breakers?
Generally, you should conduct a full inspection of circuit breakers every one to three years. Check each breaker’s operation annually. Depending on how old your facility is, you may want to complete tests more frequently to help manage risks. You’ll also want to consider whether your breaker is low-, medium-, or high-voltage, as higher-voltage components may require more frequent testing as well.
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