The maintenance of circuit breakers deserves special consideration because of their importance for routine switching and for protection of other equipment.
Electric transmission system breakups and equipment destruction can occur if a circuit breaker fails to operate because of a lack of preventive maintenance.
The need for maintenance of circuit breakers is often not obvious as circuit breakers may remain idle, either open or closed, for long periods of time.
Breakers that remain idle for 6 months or more should be made to open and close several times in succession to verify proper operation and remove any accumulation of dust or foreign material on moving parts and contacts.
Frequency Of Maintenance
Molded case circuit breakers are designed to require little or no routine maintenance throughout their normal life time. Therefore, the need for preventive maintenance will vary depending on operating conditions. As an accumulation of dust on the latch surfaces may affect the operation of the breaker, molded case circuit breakers should be exercised at least once per year.
Routine Maintenance Tests
Routine maintenance tests enable personnel to determine if breakers are able to perform their basic circuit protective functions. The following tests may be performed during routine maintenance and are aimed at assuring that the breakers are functionally operable.
The following tests are to be made only on breakers and equipment that are deenergized.
Insulation Resistance Test
A megohmmeter may be used to make tests between phases of opposite polarity and from current-carrying parts of the circuit breaker to ground. A test should also be made between the line and load terminals with the breaker in the open position. Load and line conductors should be dis connected from the breaker under insulation resistance tests to prevent test mesurements from also showing resistance of the attached circuit.
Resistance values below 1 megohm are considered unsafe and the breaker should be inspected for pos sible contamination on its surfaces.
Milivolt Drop Test
A millivolt drop test can disclose several abnor mal conditions inside a breaker such as eroded contacts, contaminated contacts, or loose internal connec tions. The millivolt drop test should be made at a nominal direct-current volt age at 50 amperes or 100 amperes for large breakers, and at or below rating for smaller breakers.
The millivolt drop is compared against manufacturer’s data for the breaker being tested.
The connections to the circuit breaker should be inspected to determine that a good joint is present and that overheating is not occurring. If overheating is indi cated by discoloration or signs of arcing, the connections should be re moved and the connecting surfaces cleaned.
Overload tripping test
The proper action of the overload tripping components of the circuit breaker can be verified by applying 300 percent of the breaker rated continuous current to each pole. The significant part of this test is the automatic opening of the circuit breaker and not tripping times as these can be greatly affected by ambient conditions and test condi tions.
The mechanical operation of the breaker should be checked by turning the breaker on and off several times.