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Home / Technical Articles / 6 Adjustable Tripping Settings of a Circuit Breaker You MUST Understand

Basic tripping settings of CB

There are (at least) six basic adjustable tripping settings (functions) you really should understand in order to fully understand how circuit breaker actually works. All these adjustable functions actually shape the time-current curve of a circuit breaker and allows proper tripping according to the network parameters and also the proper coordination between upstream and downstream devices.

6 Adjustable Tripping Settings of a Circuit Breaker You MUST Know
6 Adjustable Tripping Settings of a Circuit Breaker You MUST Know

Note that modern circuit breakers (MCCB, ACB) mostly have an electronic tripping unit which is much more advanced comparing to these explained here, but the basics are the same, very same.

So, let’s start with explanation!

  1. Continuous Amps (Ir)
  2. Long-Time Delay
  3. Short-Time Pickup
  4. Short-Time Delay
  5. Instantaneous Pickup
  6. Ground Fault Pickup
Circuit breaker adjustable tripping functions
Circuit breaker adjustable tripping functions

The below time-current curve reflects one possible setup for a 1200 ampere circuit breaker with a nominal (maximum continuous ampere) rating of 1000 amps. This time-current curve will be the basis for discussing adjustable tripping settings of the circuit breakers.

Time-current curve of a circuit breaker
Time-current curve of a circuit breaker


1. Continuous Amps (Ir)

Continuous Amps (Ir) varies the level of current the circuit breaker will carry without tripping. Ir is a percentage of the circuit breaker’s nominal rating (In). Continuous amps can be adjusted from 20 to 100 percent of the circuit breaker’s nominal rating.

For example, a 1000 amp breaker can be changed from 1000 amps to 800 amps by adjusting the breaker continuous amps setting to 80%.

Continuous current [Amps]
Continuous current [Amps]

Go back to CB tripping settings ↑


2. Long-Time Delay

Long-time delay causes the breaker to wait a certain amount of time to allow temporary inrush currents, such as those encountered when starting a motor, to pass without tripping.

The adjustment is from 2.2 to 27 seconds at six times the continuous amps (Ir) setting.

As shown below, the long-time delay effects the position of an I2T slope. This means that lower levels of current will allow the breaker to remain online for longer periods of time.

Long time delay tripping settings
Long time delay tripping settings

Go back to CB tripping settings ↑


3. Short-Time Pickup

Short-time pickup is used for selective tripping. The short-time pickup function determines the amount of current the breaker will carry for a short period of time, allowing downstream protective devices to clear short-circuits without tripping the upstream device.

Short-time pickup is adjustable from 1.5 to 10 times the trip unit ampere setting (Ir).

For example, a 1000 ampere frame can be adjusted to trip anywhere from 1500 to 10,000 amps. The switch also has an “OFF” position to eliminate short-time pickup and short-time delay.

Short-time pickup used for selective tripping
Short-time pickup used for selective tripping

Go back to CB tripping settings ↑


4. Short-Time Delay

Short-time delay, used in conjunction with short-time pickup, controls the time involved in postponing a short-time pickup trip.

There are two modes: fixed time, or I2T ramp. Fixed time is adjustable from .05 to .5 seconds. The I2T ramp mode is adjustable from .18 seconds to .45 seconds, providing a short inverse time ramp.

This allows better coordination with downstream thermal-magnetic circuit breakers and fuses. A fixed instantaneous trip point of 10,000 amps trips the breaker automatically and overrides any pre-programmed instructions.

Short-time delay, used in conjunction with short-time pickup
Short-time delay, used in conjunction with short-time pickup

Go back to CB tripping settings ↑


5. Instantaneous Pickup

Instantaneous pickup is used to trip the circuit breaker with no intentional delay at any current between 2 and 40 times the breaker’s continuous ampere setting (Ir).

In this example instantaneous pickup has been set to 10 times the continuous amp setting, or 10,000 amps (10 x 1000) with a continuous amp setting of 1000 amps. In this case a higher setting would still trip at 10,000 amps due to a fixed instantaneous override of 10,000 amps which automatically trips the breaker regardless of the instantaneous pickup setting.

If the continuous amp setting had been 300 amps, setting the instantaneous pickup at 10 would make the instantaneous setting equal to 3000 amps, well below the fixed instantaneous override.

Instantaneous pickup - Used to trip the circuit breaker with no intentional delay at any current between 2 and 40 times the breaker’s continuous ampere setting (Ir)
Instantaneous pickup – Used to trip the circuit breaker with no intentional delay at any current between 2 and 40 times the breaker’s continuous ampere setting (Ir)

Go back to CB tripping settings ↑


6. Ground Fault Pickup

Ground fault pickup controls the amount of ground fault current that will cause the breaker to interrupt the circuit. The adjustment can be set from 20 to 70% of the maximum breaker rating. In compliance with NEC® 230-95 (A), no trip point setting exceeds 1200 amps.

The ground fault pickup is divided into three sections; .1s, .2s, and .4s. This feature adds a time delay of .1, .2, or .4 seconds to the breaker’s trip when a ground fault occurs.

Ground fault pickup controls the amount of ground fault current that will cause the breaker to interrupt the circuit
Ground fault pickup controls the amount of ground fault current that will cause the breaker to interrupt the circuit

Circuit breaker coordination

The ground fault pickup time delay feature is useful for circuit breaker coordination. In the following scheme, upstream breaker “A” has been set to .2s and downstream breakers “B” and “C” have been set to .1s.

The ground fault pickup time delay feature is useful for circuit breaker coordination
The ground fault pickup time delay feature is useful for circuit breaker coordination

A ground fault occurring in the circuit supplied by “B” will trip the “B” breaker without disturbing “A” or “C”.

Go back to CB tripping settings ↑

Reference // STEP 2000 – Molded Case Circuit Breakers (MCCB) by SIEMENS

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Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.

45 Comments


  1. Habib
    Aug 07, 2018

    Hi Edvard,
    Thanks for giving information,
    1- what was the difference between Making Capacity and Breaking Capacity?
    2- Can we design our systems according to Making Capacity?
    3- If Maximum Instantaneous Trip set level 15% of rated Breaker than what happened when Short circuit occurred greater than INS trip Set level.
    4- In 3Pole MCCB/ACB without additional C.T Breaker tripped on earth fault what was the reasons?
    5- What is the difference between REF and UREF ground fault?


  2. Ishaq Qamar
    Jul 13, 2018

    Great information.
    I am very thankful to you if you send me the all breaker trip setting level as per different ampare load for data center to fallow the IEC .


  3. CURT
    Jun 23, 2018

    How do the terms, “Ir” and “In” relate to one another in an adjustable breaker? I tested an electronic insulated case breaker the other day and the current setting was adjustable from .5 to 1 and labeled ‘XIn” The instantaneous range was adjustable from 3 to 6 and was labeled “XIr” Is one adjustment based on rating plug and the other based on frame size of the breaker?


  4. Dave Wehage
    Mar 28, 2018

    Good info.


  5. Amir
    Mar 07, 2018

    Thank you so much. I was wondering if you let me know IEC/IEEE standards for short time pick up.


  6. Shahrooz
    Dec 12, 2017

    That was great. helped me a lot.


  7. ramachandra laxman
    Nov 10, 2017

    Very helpful. Good job.


  8. NITIN
    Dec 17, 2016

    LSIG BREAKER RELEASE


  9. Raj
    Nov 22, 2016

    This site is very helpful to electrical engineers like me …thankyou


  10. KARTHICK
    Nov 14, 2016

    Thanks sir……very useful material…….


  11. Gustabo Calderon
    Nov 13, 2016

    Thank you so much Edvard, very good job.


  12. asan masraf
    Jul 05, 2016

    I follow the of articles but if is possible to make these articles available in soft copy.


    • Edvard
      Jul 05, 2016

      Hi Asan, see the button ‘Get PDF’ on your left? That your answer :) To create PDF out of any technical article.


      • Chetan
        Nov 23, 2019

        Great Article


  13. Muneeb Islam
    Jun 22, 2016

    Thank you Edvard, I have been looking for this info for long. I shall inquire about this in detail soon.
    What is the standard testing current injection limits for 400A and 800A MCCB?

    Muneeb Islam


  14. عكرود نبيل
    Jun 15, 2016

    I like your Job, Very very interesting and very helpfull.
    keep better, go on!!


  15. Frank Schraner
    Jun 10, 2016

    Great article, when you don’t do it every day you forget some of this. Having the curve right next to the explanation helps even more THANK YOU! I’m going to print this and keep it with my field work tools.

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