Sunday, January 25, 2009

Types of Circuit Breakers

Instantaneous Magnetic Trip-Only Circuit Breakers -
As the name indicates, instantaneous magnetic-trip-only circuit breakers provide short circuit protection but do not provide overload protection. This type of circuit breaker is typically used in motor control applications where overload protection is provided by an overload relay.

For example, in the circuit shown below, a three-pole instantaneous magnetic-trip-only circuit breaker provides short circuit protection while the overload protection for the motor is provided by an overload relay which is part of a motor starter.

Thermal-Magnetic Circuit Breakers,

This type of circuit breaker is called a thermal-magnetic circuit breaker because it has a trip unit that senses heat to detect an overload and senses a magnetic field generated by current to detect a short circuit.

As described in the Circuit Breaker Design portion of this book, this type of circuit breaker trips immediately when a short circuit occurs, but delays an appropriate amount of time before tripping in the event of an overload.

Interchangeable Trip Ckt breaker

The user cannot change the trip unit on many circuit breakers, but some circuit breakers have an interchangeable trip feature. This feature allows the user to change the continuous current rating of the breaker without replacing the breaker. This is done by replacing the trip unit with one of a different rating
Note: Care must be exercised when considering interchangeable trip circuit breakers. A circuit breaker may be listed by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.® (UL®) for a specific interchangeable trip unit only. Circuit breaker frames are usually designed to prevent the installation of an improper trip unit size or type.

Current Limiting Circuit Breakers

Many electrical power distribution systems can deliver large Short circuit currents to electrical equipment. This high current can cause extensive damage. Current limiting circuit breakers protect expensive equipment by significantly reducing the current flowing in the faulted circuit.

One way to accomplish current limiting is with an additional set of contacts that feature two moveable arms. These are referred to as dual-pivot contacts, which separate even more quickly than the single-pivot contacts. The dual-pivot contacts are connected in series with the single-pivot contacts. As with the single-pivot design, current flows in opposite directions through the contact arms, creating a magnetic repulsion. As current increases, the magnetic repulsion force increases.

In an overload condition where current may only be one to six times normal current, the contacts remain closed until the breaker trips. When a short circuit occurs, fault current is extremely high and both sets of contact arms open simultaneously, generating high impedance arcs. The contact gap of the dual-pivot contacts increases more rapidly, therefore generating arc impedance more rapidly. Once the arcs are extinguished, the dual-pivot contacts close on their own due to spring tension. The single-pivot contacts are held open by the breaker mechanism, which will have tripped during the fault and must be manually reset.

The frame on current limiting circuit breakers of this design is extended to allow room for the dual-pivot set of contacts. Siemens current limiting breakers can handle fault currents of up to 200,000 amps.

Solid State Circuit Breakers
Solid state circuit breakers function similarly to thermal-magnetic breakers and have a mechanical breaker mechanism but incorporate a solid state trip unit. The solid state trip unit allows this type of circuit breaker to have programmable features and a greater degree of accuracy and repeatability.

Similar to other types of trip units, the solid state trip unit:

• Senses magnitude of current flow

• Determines when current becomes excessive

• Determines when to send a trip signal to the breaker mechanism

The brains of a solid state trip unit are a microprocessor. Adjustments on the trip unit allow the user to select numerical values the microprocessor will use in performing protective functions. Current sensors mounted in the trip unit monitor the value of load current. The value of current is reduced to a low level and converted to a digital voltage, which is used by the microprocessor. The microprocessor continuously compares the line current with the value set by the user. When current exceeds a preset value for the selected time, the trip unit sends a signal to a magnetic latch. The magnetic latch opens the breaker’s contacts, disconnecting the protected circuit from the power source.

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