Cutler-Hammer Panel Defect

A friend just built his house a couple of years ago. He noticed that he wasn’t getting much heat from his furnace. So he called another friend that did his HVAC work and asked that he come out and diagnose the problem. He found out that the air handler wasn’t getting enough power for the heat strip. He traced it back to the panel. After opening the panel they could see that the breakers were melting. He removed a few breakers and the aluminum bus bar was covered in plastic. So the homeowner called the electrician (another friend). He came out and called the supply company, who put him in touch with a cutler-hammer representative. The representative acknowledged that they were aware of the problem and that they would send out a replacement panel.

So pay close attention to any cutler-hammer panels you come across that are less than 5 years old.

Thanks for the info.

Wow, I’d love to get those pics.

Is it possible Greg?

I don’t have any pics yet. The electrician pulled all of the breakers out and cleaned the bus bar. I will see what I can get in the next couple of days.

Good info. Thanks for the heads up.

CH series panels have copper buss. The cheaper BR series uses AL buss.

Were the proper breakers used in the panel?

I have seen the same condition in other brands also.

Is there an official recall notice or formal notification that you can link to?

The CH Series has Silver Coated Copper Buss and has a lifetime warranty. I would only install CH Series…but again I am a bit partial.


I don’t know of any recall or bulletin that I could link too.


Thanks for the info.

Hope to find out which series panel it was…

The BR series is gray and uses 1 inch breakers, has 10 yr warranty.
The CH series is tan and uses 3/4 inch breakers, has lifetime warranty.

They changed the panel. Here are some pics.




Is this a common defect in the breaker? Any idea what caused this?

I didn’t see any information in that link regarding the branch circuit breakers snapped onto the bus. Only a mention of some loose bus bolts. Or did I miss something?

“The reason the breaker tripped was because it was overheating/melting.”


Maybe it’s me, but I’m not seeing how a loose bolt on one end of the bus will melt the CB at the other end as depicted in the photo.

I agree. But worth digging deeper.

In pic 3 that looks like a Tungsten maybe a t3. If so do you know if there is anyway to change the battery in it?

I love the smell of melting breakers first thing in the morning…

Thank you Greg when i 1st got it from a garage sale ($5) the battery wouldnt take a charge and would die after only around 10 minutes, I googled replacing it and found nothing. So again thank you.


Any panel buss that is made of “aluminum” will have the potential pitting and surface defects that cause a poor connection between the breaker contact points and the buss itself. I have to say I am NOT aware of Cutler Hammer using an Aluminum buss bars in their products within the past 5 years but I know this is not the case for the CH series…but the cheaper BR series who knows.

The fact is this is a prime example of potential issues with ANY panel and ANY breaker and ANY manufacturer…not just brands like Zinsco and FPE. It should be a wake up call to everyone that electrical issues with panels can be an Equal Opportunity event.

If the load on that breaker was maintained at a high level and poor connections ( or possibly improper gapping to the contact points from the manufacturer) took place over time the head build up could increase to a point this can happen…seen it myself many times.