Breaker Overheating w/ Bert

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Good news! Another video w/ Bert. He finds a breaker tripping periodically in the field and has reason to believe that it’s a case of the breaker overheating. He explains how to diagnose and repair that type of situation.

If you find a point of high temperature in an electrical circuit, keep in mind that those are points of resistance. Those single points don’t cause the entire circuit to overheat. However, undersized wires have higher temperatures over a length of space, and the heat is a bit more widespread. Overheating happens where the increased resistance is, but that doesn’t increase the overall current of a circuit. The voltage drops, and there’s less current overall in the entire circuit.

When a breaker trips periodically, Bert checks for poor connections due to loose or corroded connections. In those cases, the amp draw may be normal, but the wires will run hot, and the breaker will pick up heat. Bert removes the breaker and checks connection points; in this case, he notices discoloration on one side. That indicates a loose connection or a pitted contactor, both of which cause overheating and intermittent breaker tripping.

Only licensed electricians should do work on electrical components like breakers; the Kalos techs are licensed electricians and can do that type of work inside panels.

Read all the tech tips, take the quizzes, and find our handy calculators at https://www.hvacrschool.com/.

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Comments

Akroppoli says:

Happy BERTday 🎉

Mithilesh Ramteke says:

Thank you sir

Hector Escobar says:

My unit was low on refrigerant by 2 lbs over a 4 year period. It was recharged recently, but I'm beginning to wonder the impact on the heat pump. I hear new systems like Trane can heat without auxiliary heat when the outside temp is still 15 degrees. Should I invest on a 3 ton new unit? The unit is a Westing House installed in 2008.

Joshua Via says:

My OCD has kicked in seeing screws directly on the washer. Like nails on a chalkboard. Eeek

Whites heating & air & appliance repair says:

I hope you all are ok from ian devastation. I'm finally taking a vacation in 14 years. Out of all places Florida. We're good where we are staying. You all take care.

JK Brown says:

Somewhat related. Those breakers on indoor units that are mounted through the panel fail when the unit is installed in an unconditioned space, such as a crawl space due to corrosion. Mine has failed twice now about every 4 years. This last time in July I changed it so had the failed breaker to open up. (Heat wave and several days to get a service appt) With the breaker in the cool cabinet, unconditioned air is draw in around the switch lever. Moisture condenses on the actuating spring, corroding it. This allows the contacts to loosen and eventual arcing failure. But it also means that that leg of power cannot trip open even though the rest of the breaker is unharmed. L2 which didn't have a switch lever, just a connecting bar, was unaffected by any corrosion.

When you come across one of those breakers mounted through the cabinet panel that has failed, open it up. you'll see the condensation has corroded the spring to failure and the contacts arced out. My long term plan is to have an external disconnect installed and seal/insulate the hole in the panel.

Jesse Testerman says:

@Bryan if heat stays in area of the poor connection and arching, then why does the breaker get hot when there’s a poor connection at condenser. (Like contactor or compressor terminal )
I remember hearing there is a build up of voltage and then higher surges of current??

James W says:

And for safety reasons, with breakers that are tripping intermittently because of loose connections or internal failure its best to kill the main when changing because of arc flashing.

Supreme Ruler of the World says:

use a torque screwdriver.

hinspect says:

You are exactly right! I had a breaker supplying a condenser unit that wasn't working properly. I was reading the proper Voltage but the Current wasn't being supplied. It turned out that a 40 Amp breaker was overheating where it connected to the buss bar. I had to install a new breaker and re-locate it to a different position in the breaker panel because the buss bar conection was burned as well as the breaker. I was getting proper Voltage but not the Current

twoninecav says:

I pray you and your KALOS family are safe and y’all have weathered the storm ⛈

Jamie Atkinson says:

Hey all, can we talk about ULTRASONIC LEAK DETECTORS!?!?!? Please?!!!? 🙏🏼

Ali Alhamaly says:

I had a GE 3-pole TED 480V breaker doing the same for me, tripping intermittently and it drove me nuts. breaker rated 100 A and current was not more than 70 A. I noticed that the breaker body is a little bit hot but I didn't think it was a big deal. finally decided to retighten the cables going to the breaker, then the problem was solved and tripping is gone
lucky there was no damage to the breaker nor the cable end termination. it was a loose connection

thanks for sharing, the fundamental is the same whether small residential panel or large commercial one!

timrob0420 says:

At my shop we are an electrical contractor and some of the service technicians are also licensed residential electricians

timrob0420 says:

Bert is the man

Danny says:

Stay safe with the incoming hurricane!

HVAC tech want to be says:

Thank you Bryan and Bert good stuff

michael bishop says:

3:10, that is only true for purely resistive loads

modern switching power supplies for things, and anything that supports 120/240 automatic switching, is likely going to pull extra current to make up for the lack of voltage, because its intelligently trying to maintain a constant wattage

Straycurrent says:

Bert's right – The ol' sniff test can tell you a lot.

Will Althen says:

Thanks Bert

Will Althen says:

I think that all Liscensed HVAC contractors are certified electricians

Richard Ostrowski says:

The use of a thermal imaging camera will find an overheat condition immediately. I use one for automobile diagnostics all the time.

Bernard Oduro says:

Thank you sir

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