Types of Industrial Circuit Breakers and How They Work

Industrial circuit breakers are an essential component in ensuring the safety of your facilities against electrical mishaps. However, with the multitude of circuit breaker options available on the market, determining the right one for your application can be challenging.

In this blog post, we will delve into the world of circuit breakers, exploring their various types, applications, and the proper maintenance of your electrical equipment with these devices.

Types Of Industrial Circuit Breakers

Industrial circuit breakers are essential equipment used in many industrial applications, protecting against short circuits, overloads, and electrical fires. However, it’s important to note that not all circuit breakers are the same. There are multiple types of industrial circuit breakers, each designed for specific purposes and applications.

Firstly, it’s crucial to understand the distinction between residential-grade circuit breakers and those intended for industrial use. Industrial-grade circuit breakers have higher current ratings compared to residential ones, enabling them to withstand harsh environmental conditions like high levels of dust or moisture. When shopping for an industrial circuit breaker, ensure you choose one with the appropriate current rating for your specific application.

Industrial circuit breakers can be classified based on their design and applications. Some common types include Molded Case Circuit Breakers (MCCBs), Air Circuit Breakers (ACBs), Residual Current Circuit Breakers (RCCBs), High Voltage Circuit Breakers (HVCBs), Motor Protection Circuit Breakers (MPCBs), and Ground Fault Interrupters (GFCIs). Each type serves a unique purpose depending on the application it is used for:

  • MCCBs are primarily used for protecting against short circuits in motor starters or electrical panels.
  • ACBs offer overload protection in control relays or electric enclosures.
  • RCCBs detect imbalances in line currents, providing additional shock protection.
  • HVCBs feature a puffer system that breaks high voltage or high currents.
  • MPCBs are low-voltage and protect motors against different types of faults
  • GFCIs detect ground fault currents, making them suitable for areas prone to moisture like bathrooms or kitchens.

How Industrial Circuit Breakers Work

Now that we have covered the different types available, let’s jump into how these devices work. In general, industrial circuit breakers operate by utilizing an electromagnet connected to contacts. These contacts detect any overcurrent within a system and open up, cutting off the power supply to prevent damage from overloading or short-circuiting.

When there is an increase in electric flow, the electromagnet pulls a trip lever, opening the contact and breaking the flow of electricity. Once the situation normalizes, the lever is released, restoring the flow. Additionally, these devices employ insulation systems such as vacuum chambers, air pressure chambers, or oil tanks to enhance performance and safety.

Industrial circuit breakers have a current rating that indicates the amount of current safely handled by a breaker at any given time and a voltage rating that shows how much voltage it can handle before tripping off to protect against overload or short-circuit situations. Interrupting ratings indicate the maximum amount of energy a specific type of breaker can safely interrupt without causing damage or hazardous conditions.

Along with industrial circuit breakers, an electrical system works in harmony with these other parts:

  • Motor starters – commonly used in commercial applications to regulate starting currents and provide overload protection for motors
  • Control relays – offer greater flexibility by controlling multiple circuits with one unit
  • Electrical panels – contain multiple circuit breakers, connected for troubleshooting convenience and offering safety features like ground fault interrupters and surge protectors
  • Electrical enclosures organize individual components or systems, protecting them within one space

how industrial circuit breakers work

Understanding the Complexities of Industrial Circuit Breakers

It is important to know all about the complexities of industrial circuit breakers to ensure the safety of your electrical systems. Whether you are an electrical supervisor or manager, understanding the types of industrial circuit breakers and how they work is essential for proper maintenance and installation.

According to Eaton, there are five universal circuit breaker parts: the frame, operating mechanism, contacts, arc extinguisher, and trip unit. The frame protects the interior of the circuit breaker, the operating mechanism allows the breaker to open and close, the contacts enable current flow through the circuit breaker when it’s closed, the arc extinguisher extinguishes an arc when the contacts are open, and the trip unit opens the operating mechanism if a lengthy short circuit occurs.

Along with understanding the parts of a circuit breaker and how they work, it is important to perform periodic maintenance checks to ensure their effective functioning. For example, regularly checking for loose connections or burnt-out fuses will help prevent potential risks associated with using incorrect circuit breakers, such as fire hazards or electric shock due to excessive current.

Additionally, inspect any electrical panels or enclosures where these devices might be installed, as dirt buildup can cause corrosion, leading to malfunctioning components over time if not cleaned properly every few months.

Maintain Your Electrical Equipment and Circuit Breakers

To avoid unnecessary breakdowns, you should regularly monitor your electrical equipment for signs of wear or damage. This includes checking loose components and ensuring correct wiring connections are made. It’s also critical that you inspect and test all circuit breakers periodically, as they may have become faulty over time due to regular use or environmental conditions.

You may also want to exercise your circuit breakers to ensure that they are operating freely. A general rule of thumb is to cut them on and off at least three to four times. Doing this lets you test the industrial circuit breaker’s components to make sure they are operating correctly and efficiently. Be sure to follow manufacturer instructions when it comes to regular maintenance of your circuit breakers. 

Also, remember that if tripped circuits occur in-between maintenance inspections, then they must be reset as soon as possible; and if necessary, have a professional electrician inspect and repair the system accordingly before further use can take place safely again.

According to Quad Plus, regular maintenance is always preferable to emergency repair services. If you fail to maintain your breakers, your electrical equipment could cease functioning and production will grind to a halt until repairs can be made.

Select the Right Circuit Breakers for Your System

Circuit breakers are an essential part of any electrical system. They protect the system from dangerous overloads and ensure safety. But how do you know which circuit breaker is best for your application?

It’s crucial to understand the differences between AC and DC power when selecting an industrial circuit breaker. Additionally, you should be aware of the current ratings (in amps) and voltage ratings (in volts). Knowing about these specifications will help you choose a product that can handle the required load without risking danger or damage to your system.

When inspecting existing installations or installing new ones, it’s vital to accurately test each component for the correct voltage before proceeding with any work. Failing to do so can result in serious injury or even death. To test properly, use a multimeter or another testing device designed specifically for voltage testing in circuits commonly found in household appliances or power tools.

Once everything has been tested correctly, it’s time to explore the different types of industrial circuit breakers available. Analyze their features to better understand how they work and what functions they provide. Make sure to check power requirements, safety ratings, compatibility between the breaker and your application, amperage, and physical connectors. 

Finally, compare costs between various models. Installation costs may vary widely depending on the location, and regular maintenance costs should also be considered over time. This will enable you to select the best option tailored to your specific needs both now and in the future.

In Conclusion

By now, you should have a comprehensive understanding of the types of industrial circuit breakers and how they work. From the current ratings to proper installation and maintenance, these devices are essential components in protecting your electrical equipment from overloads or short circuits.

With this knowledge, you will be able to choose the right circuit breaker for your specific application and ensure its optimal performance over time.

To learn more about industrial circuit breakers, read our article about how to select the right circuit breaker or call us at (205) 812-5402.