Breaker Burned Up

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Forum topic by jbay posted 08-19-2017 08:48 PM 1182 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2667 posts in 1043 days

08-19-2017 08:48 PM

I use(d) this (20 amp) breaker every day to turn on and off the lights. (after 4 years)
Today the lights didn’t come on and I found this.
I thought the breaker would fail before going this long and burning up the way it did.
I’m running 3- 400 watt halogens, 2- on a 16’ cord, 1- on a 50’ cord.
(Too Much?) Any insight appreciated.

13 replies so far

View MrUnix's profile


6926 posts in 2342 days

#1 posted 08-19-2017 08:52 PM

Breakers are not designed to be used as a light switch :)


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Gilley23's profile


489 posts in 526 days

#2 posted 08-19-2017 09:10 PM

I can’t tell by that picture, but that breaker probably isn’t rated for switch use. However, there are breakers rated to be used as switches and the one that you replace that one with should be just that.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5089 posts in 2637 days

#3 posted 08-19-2017 09:10 PM

I stand corrected about the switching function….still learning.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View becikeja's profile


925 posts in 2957 days

#4 posted 08-19-2017 09:39 PM

Actually 10, 15, and 20 amp breakers used in your home are designed to be used as a switch. You will notice on the side SWD rated. This means the device is switching duty rated and must pass 10,000 operations. Larger breakers are not. The 10,000 on the side of the breaker represents AIR rating so don’t confuse the two. These are different ratings.

Looking at your breaker, you obviously had an over current situation. Most likely caused by stresses over time in the connection to the bus caused by the switching. The breaker only senses current on the load side not the line side. This fault was on the line side. I hope the main breaker feeding the bus tripped, if not, you escaped a potential fire, and I would I get the main replaced quickly.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View William Shelley's profile

William Shelley

587 posts in 1613 days

#5 posted 08-19-2017 11:19 PM

Fun fact: you can use an infrared camera to find breakers that are potentially going to fail soon. They will be much warmer (assuming relatively equal loads on all circuits)

-- Woodworking from an engineer's perspective

View TheFridge's profile


10283 posts in 1629 days

#6 posted 08-19-2017 11:41 PM

Bad connection to the bus and/or contact in breaker. Will cook itself out over time. A hot breaker is the first sign. Not coming back on losing continuity across it is obviously the last.

An overload of the breaker can make it burn out faster but it doesn’t really matter if it has good contact.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View jbay's profile (online now)


2667 posts in 1043 days

#7 posted 08-20-2017 12:20 AM

I think it was a little of everything.
I did notice it being warmer the last couple of weeks.
I also noticed it being loose when switching off and on.

I’ll replace it with a SWD rated breaker.

Thank you all for the responses.

View Redoak49's profile


3523 posts in 2132 days

#8 posted 08-20-2017 12:23 AM

Why would you continue to use a breaker that was getting warm and loose??

I think you are very fortunate.

View firefighterontheside's profile


19051 posts in 2000 days

#9 posted 08-20-2017 12:32 AM

I would say it’s a good time to switch to LEDs.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View jbay's profile (online now)


2667 posts in 1043 days

#10 posted 08-20-2017 01:00 AM

Could be Bill

View Bluenote38's profile


379 posts in 532 days

#11 posted 08-20-2017 02:29 AM

I would say it s a good time to switch to LEDs.

- firefighterontheside

Ditto on the LED suggestion. I just swapped 150W incandescents for 30W LEDs and boy what a difference! So worth the price just in light output not to mention the power savings. And reduced circuit load.

-- Bill - Rochester MI

View Sparks500's profile


199 posts in 474 days

#12 posted 08-20-2017 12:51 PM

Thats a constant high load and the heat weakened the spring. Hope it didn’t damage that panel bus.
Ditto on LEDs.
Using them as a switch usually won’t wear out that part of the breaker, but will the actual switching mechanism.

-- A good day is any day that you're alive....

View Kelly's profile


2089 posts in 3088 days

#13 posted 08-21-2017 03:27 AM

I use my infrared thermometer and it detects differences between an open breaker and one running a load. It or the camera is a great way to monitor cable temps and such.

Fun fact: you can use an infrared camera to find breakers that are potentially going to fail soon. They will be much warmer (assuming relatively equal loads on all circuits)

- William Shelley

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