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Old 10-17-2011, 06:14 AM   #1
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Breaker Replacement?

With Skinny Dippin' celebrating her 25th birthday this year, I was wondering if, as an ongoing project, I should consider systematically beginning the process of swapping out all the breakers in the breaker panel? There are a $hit-ton of them and it would likely be well into a couple-thousand bucks to do them all at once, but I thought that if I began to tackle the most used ones and the ones that are tied to important systems, I could maybe knock them out on a year or so. Should we be worried about old breakers?

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Old 10-17-2011, 08:09 AM   #2
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

*Me too!!* Over the years, I have replaced the most used breakers and some that have begun to show weakness.* But now I'm faced with obsolescence of the entire panel and I can no longer find these toggle switch style breakers any longer.*

I've reached the point where I'm replacing the breakers with a toggle switchs and in-line fuse, which for things like lights is not a big deal.* But pumps and motors tend to pop their breaker on occasion so a fuse is not a good solution. So for me at some point the whole panel has to go. Ouch!!* ** *Actually, I'm almost looking forward to that day, as I have never liked this panel design anyway and the expense of a good electrician will be a good investment.
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Old 10-17-2011, 08:47 AM   #3
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Why worry about this if you don't have any problems. Buy a few extra in case something does fail and save yourself lots of time and money. If it ain't broke don't fix it. If you insist on replacing them all, then get a new panel and replace everything. Chuck
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:20 AM   #4
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

I dunno Chuck. As a semi-guru of electrical things, I am only curious if breakers in this environment need "refreshing". I doubt a new panel is an option without laying out some serious cash for a fully custom fabrication. I saw your project and I don't think I would get a direct replacement as easily as yours. Not that I don't WANT to, but I thought that pulling out a few here and there would be smart. Perhaps I am looking for a problem that doesn't exist. I guess I'll just get a few extras and be done with it.
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Old 10-17-2011, 01:54 PM   #5
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Tom, Our panel was custom made by By Paneltronics, albeit a standard layout. If you add up the cost of all of your breakers, new switches and meters, you might find a new panel is very affordable. Ours was done because the breakers were just not available and several had failed, plus we have added new components. I don't find breakers getting "weak", they either work or they don't. If a breaker is beginning to fail it will trip easily. With ours, they simply stopped working, no power when the breaker was on. Our choice was a no brainer but I would not have done it if I did not have to. Chuck
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Old 10-22-2011, 06:53 AM   #6
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

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GonzoF1 wrote:
With Skinny Dippin' celebrating her 25th birthday this year, I was wondering if, as an ongoing project, I should consider systematically beginning the process of swapping out all the breakers in the breaker panel? There are a $hit-ton of them and it would likely be well into a couple-thousand bucks to do them all at once, but I thought that if I began to tackle the most used ones and the ones that are tied to important systems, I could maybe knock them out on a year or so. Should we be worried about old breakers?

Tom-

I don't think I would replace circuit breakers unless they have failed.* As far as the "most used ones", do you mean you've been using them as switches?* That is something that's best avoided if possible.

If you've been using your breakers as switches and you're worried that they might be wearing out, you may be able to swap them with other, less frequenctly used brakers in your panel as long as they have the same rating.

If you have an non-contact infared thermometer, you can measure the temperature of the individual breakers after they have been carrying a load for several minutes.* Any that show increased temperature are suspect and good candidates for replacement.* Measure from the rear, not the handles.

It doesn't hurt to tighten the connections from time to time (with the power off).
*
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Old 10-22-2011, 07:21 AM   #7
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

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rwidman wrote:If you've been using your breakers as switches and you're worried that they might be wearing out,
*Isn't that the design and intent for them? It's unavoidable for many, if not all systems onboard. I turn all unused systems (ie: breakers) to off when we leave for the week by using the breaker. In addition, things like the engine room blower, fuel polisher, washdown pump, etc, have no "switch", so the breaker panel is my only option to toggle its on/off state and to de-energize the wiring for "sleepmode".
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Old 10-22-2011, 08:19 AM   #8
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Quote:
GonzoF1 wrote:Isn't that the design and intent for them?
Yes, they are not the same as those used in a household breaker panel.

The CBs used on boat panels are (for the vast majority) rated for around 10,000 mechanical operations (on-off or off-on) but are rated for around half that number of electrical operations (overload - pop) so their use as a switch is perfectly acceptable and that is why they are used in the first place.

When circuit protection is the first priority, a push button reset type breaker is usually installed and a separate switch is provided to interrupt power to the consumer.

*
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Old 10-24-2011, 10:50 PM   #9
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Probably most boat breakers fail from internal corrosion and lack of use rather than wearing out from lots of make/break cycles.* A trace of corrosion on a contact will increase the resistance, which then causes heat, which causes oxidation, which provides a nice bed for more corrosion... until it starts opening prematurely.

So you might want to consider replacing those breakers on circuits that could cause a dangerous situation or be a real PITA if they went dark:* bilge pumps, nav & anchor lights, VHF/sounder/radar.* Save the non-critical ones for replacement on an as-needed basis (and save the still good ones that you take out for spares).
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Old 10-25-2011, 12:18 AM   #10
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Quote:
GonzoF1 wrote:
With Skinny Dippin' celebrating her 25th birthday this year, I was wondering if, as an ongoing project, I should consider systematically beginning the process of swapping out all the breakers in the breaker panel?
*Our boat is now 37 years old and from what I can tell all the breakers seem to be original.* At least there are no obviously newer ones or breakers with different coding or mfg names.

All the breakers--- AC and DC--- work as advertised.* I think the key is that we use the boat year round on an almost every weekend basis.* Even if we don't take the boat out we go up to it as our get-out-of-Dodge cabin.* So the breakers get used almost every week which I think keeps the contacts clean and their "action" limber.

Even if we don't go out I turn on the electronics, horn, wipers and nav light breakers (the breakers don't actually activate the horn or nav lights).* The other breakers for water pump, lights, shower drain pump, etc. get used whether we go out or not.

When we leave the boat everything goes off.* All the DC breakers and the battery selector switch (so it gets excercised, too).* Same on the AC side-- the only things that stay on are the master breaker and the refrigerator and inverter breaker, which has to be on to send AC power to the AC circuits even if the inverter itself is turned off.* In the winter two of the AC outlet circuits also stay on for the cabin and engine room heaters.

I think use is the key to longevity with these things.* So if your breakers are all working properly and they get sufficient excercise to keep*the*contacts*good and the action limber, why change them?*

Another thing we were advised by an experienced marine engineer is to run all the flexible impeller*pumps periodically*even if we don't*feed water to them.* Not for long-- just for a few seconds.* He said the thing that kills flexible impellers is heat.* A quick*two second*burst isn't going to be long enough to generate any*destructive heat, but*it will move the impeller around so it doesn't take a set, and more important, it will spin the pump shaft in its bushing and*shaft seal which will keep the shaft polished and free of corrosion.

A pump on our boat that can go for quite awhile between uses is our big Westinghouse AC salt water washdown pump.* We keep its intake seacock closed unless we are going to be anchoring.* So every time we leave the boat at the end of a weekend I flip its breaker/on/off switch on for about two seconds.* The pump was in sad shape when we bought the boat-- it barely moved water.* A few years ago I completely rebuilt it with a new impeller, bushings, wear plates, seals, etc.* Hopefully we can keep it in good shape even though it doesn't get used as much as the rest*of the equipment on the boat.* "Exercising" it periodically seems to be doing the trick.

*

*
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:24 AM   #11
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Thanks y'all... I feel better that there really is no particular need to begin replacing them all.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:36 AM   #12
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

I have a breaker, for my thruster battery charger, that buzzes sometimes when I turn it on. Anything to worry about?
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:50 AM   #13
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Quote:
Keith wrote:
I have a breaker, for my thruster battery charger, that buzzes sometimes when I turn it on. Anything to worry about?
I would change it. Something inside is loose otherwise it would not buzz.
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Old 10-25-2011, 06:40 AM   #14
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Quote:
Keith wrote:
I have a breaker, for my thruster battery charger, that buzzes sometimes when I turn it on. Anything to worry about?

It should be replaced.* Sooner, not later.
*
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Old 10-25-2011, 06:45 AM   #15
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Quote:
Marin wrote:
When we leave the boat everything goes off.* All the DC breakers and the battery selector switch (so it gets excercised, too).* Same on the AC side-- the only things that stay on are the master breaker and the refrigerator and inverter breaker, which has to be on to send AC power to the AC circuits even if the inverter itself is turned off.*

And yet I don't turn anything off and have no problems.* I don't turn the breakers off in my house when I'm away either.

I don't think there's a "right" or "wrong" way to do it.* The manual for my boat doesn't suggest turning the breakers off when away.
*
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Old 10-25-2011, 12:00 PM   #16
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Quote:
rwidman wrote:
The manual for my boat doesn't suggest turning the breakers off when away.

*
Nor does ours.* We turn the breakers off for the same reasons outlined by Carl.* We don't like leaving circuits powered when we're not at the boat (other than the AC circuits I mentioned earlier).* So our practice is not motivated by a need to "excercise" the breakers.* But the fact that what we do DOES excercise the breakers keeps the contacts clean and the mechanism limber, so it's a Good Thing by my way of thinking.

In the course of researching the book I am currently working on I acquired a copy of the little manual that was given to all PT boat crewmen and officers in WWII.* One of the pieces of advice it gives is to operate all the boat's systems every day.* From operating pumps and valves to turning on the radios, direction finders, and radar, the point they were trying to get across is that using the boat's equipment helped keep it operational.*

Granted, mechanical and electrical components were pretty unsophisticated sixty-five years ago compared to today.* But I think the basic philosophy is still sound, and I follow it, whether the "system" in question is a camera, a vehicle, or our boats.* I don't run or operate everything every day, but often enough to keep them used to being run.
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Old 10-25-2011, 11:06 PM   #17
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RE: Breaker Replacement?

Have only replaced one 35 year old breaker.

Discovered it by checking behind the breaker panel one day, and could smell/feel a little extra heat.* Brought out the heat gun and found one of the main breakers around 130F at the terminals.
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Old 10-26-2011, 04:50 AM   #18
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Breaker Replacement?

All aviation and marine breakers are subjuect in my mind. There was a good article on them in Avaiation Week and Space Tech mag a few years back after a rash of in flight fires (several were USCG Falcon jets that my office had to investigate. House breakers through their design are a bit better.

I agree with the suspicion in the aviation field and the marine side. I have had relatively new breakers fail to trip even in dead short situations.* Their reputation is to not trip even*in dead short situations*so they easily*allow over current situations develope into fires.

As I start to rewire and replace electronincs..I'm setting up my boat to go back to mostly fuse blocks in convenient places to service systems that have on/off switches on them. Also systems that are always "hot"*and need to be even when off the boat. *Much safer in terms of reliability in shutting down faulty circuits. I'll still wind up with quite a few CBs so it's hard to say what the right answer is...


-- Edited by psneeld on Wednesday 26th of October 2011 04:54:27 AM
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