Using used electrical equipment?

I believe NEMA recently developed a guide to be used to determine if the electrical equipment salvaged during the floods could be used again.

The question also being asked, is “can we use the same equipment, such as overcurrent devices in like panels and switches?”

Here are three images, courtesy for your evaluation.

Electrical equipment (excluding wire) is basically cheap, toss it out.

Joe, do you have a web link or picture/info on the equipment electricians use to techinially test the overcurrent performance of circuit breakers?

Or is this even done?

I see many electricians that think flipping a breaker to off and back to on is a “check”. Where did the training and licensing fail us here?

Here is another one:

No, it is not done.
We are not trained to make these official “tests”, NOR is this an aspect of licensing.
We are not a testing lab.

IMO it is a judgement call. If a breaker is even questionable it should be replaced. Like you said, they are cheap enough.

If a breaker was in a flood is MUST be replaced. Period.


Exactly. These are the types of guys who do the testing. Not the guys in the field.

Regardless of the money, a prudent person would replace NM that went under water too. The paper packing will be saturated and may take months or even years to dry out. That water vapor will be vented back through your panelboard enclosure and device boxes.

PS: What about the instructions that give the schedule for testing a GFCI? How about the instructions that may explain the way in which to check and reset a CB? I saw a picture of a bootlegged breaker recently showing that there was only a wire jumper inside of it!

Look here too:

Testing Circuit Breakers]( -

Bob Vila needs to change that to: “how to partially check a circuit breaker” or “how to check a circuit breaker for power presence”

What I was leading to is the issue with FPE breakers and how no one in the field is qualified/willing to test them and how it leaves home owners in a very false sense of security because “an electrician looked at it” or “an electrician checked it”.

Instructions are provided and, here’s an examplewhere the testing functions are described and even requires installer signatures.

*(|DEH-40117R4|PDF) can remember trying to reset a 100 amp FPE breaker once in Glendale, CA while inspecting a new service and was unable to reset it!

I imagine after regular use, and following the instructions that some may reset. Let’s everyone do that now! :mrgreen:*

The stuff in Joe’s pics in the original post are visually damaged or otherwise at the end of their life. I’d rather put in new breakers on every job, but sometimes if I’m just swapping out for a bigger panel, I really don’t have much trouble putting the existing breakers in the new panel if they aren’t all that old and were located in a dry ambient. As a rule, I don’t like to reuse existing breakers in new panels on changeouts, but sometimes it’s not a big deal if they’re not that old and visually fine. Depends on the customer’s budget in that case. This is one of those times where wishes and desires meet the realities of business.

Joe, I guess you have not understood my original question about testing the overcurrent performance of circuit breakers because you keep posting unrelated information.

well…I dont need to post my opinions here on “Used” equipment…lol…it gets beat up enough over on Mike Holts site as it is.

Personally it really draws the line for me, If they are doing NEW construction then I expect NEW equipment to be used…if they are leaving some equipment UP and reusing it then that may be different ( ie: as a junction box )…but if they are putting in a NEW upgraded panel and installing USED breakers that who knows HOW old they are…and passing it off as NEW construction I believe the USBC in VA would prohibit that under 112.4…

But alas…some would like to take it to the extreme…as Municipal Inspectors we have to use common sense as the golden rule and then apply the USBC, Then IRC or IBC and then NEC…so in VA the USBC is the TOP DOG and it says it rather clear to me…you read it for yourself:

**112.4 Used material and equipment. **Used materials,
equipment and devices may be approved provided they
have been reconditioned, tested or examined and found
to be in good and proper working condition and
acceptable for use by the building official.

Now…we can be realistic in applying this…However, Ask me if I will accept a person doing a service upgrade and they replace an old 60A fuse panel with a 100A Circuit Breaker Panel with old KO plugs in it and a half worn off ledger…Nope…sorry…New Construction means NEW Product in my view and guess what…also happens to be the way my head building official see’s it…Guess I am lucky…theheheheh

And you know…I can respect that logic…but it really needs to be the Inspector who makes that call based on the direction of their head building official.

I speak with Eaton alot ( not as much as I used to since I have gone to Richmond ) and they say breakers have a lifespan…usually about 20 years if maintained properly…depending on if they are bi-metal reactive or magnetic the wear and time effects them at different periods and to be honest while we can’t verify the valildity of a new breaker versus an old breaker sometimes…I still feel better with a new one in the panel than I would with a 20 year old one…maybe thats just me…but I do…

When I did work my clients got my price…and that was my price…take it or leave it…sorry but their budget did not concern me much which is why the AFCI thing never made be blink a bit…its even across the board in cost so they will absorb it and get over it…


Testing a CB is required by the product manufacturer and that was in the attachment I posted, did you read it at all?

Also, look for the UL CB Marking guide and in it you will find testing information that should help your answer your questions.

I alway post information that may be helpful and useful, and when that information is not understood, or is considered unrelated then search Google!

You are qualified enough to have some ideas, and maybe we should hear of them instead. :wink:

Joe, I was not asking anything about testing GFCI or AFCI type breakers, those are simple if you leave out the overcurrent test.

Where have you posted a link or info about OVERCURRENT testing for circuit breakers?


An eletrician could not test a breaker if his life was on the line. So be it a new or an old breaker they are all the same for ever with no restrictions.

Cleaning up an old panel and making it like new can be done by anyone. Yes I have drilled out rivits - cleaned contacts and reinstalled breakers (big ones)

Remember that small breakers are not all tested by mfg when new.

Untill government restrictions say no – anything goes as long as someone says “new” when it is old

BTW – Most fuses, switches, breakers etc work fine when being under water and dried out


***My copy of the following publication will not allow printing or copying, it is available from and answers your first question here! ***

For field testing of molded case circuit breakers refer to NEMA Publication AB 4, Guidelines for Inspection and Preventive Maintenance of Molded Case Circuit Breakers Used in Commercial and Industrial Applications[FONT=Arial][FONT=Arial Black][size=3]. If more detailed information is required, consult the manufacturer[/size][/FONT][/FONT]

[size=4]Handling water damaged electrical equipment.](


NEMA Standards Publication AB 4 sets forth, for use by qualified personnel, a number of basic procedures that may be used for the inspection and preventive maintenance of molded case circuit breakers used in industrial and commercial applications rated up to and including 1000 V 50/60 Hz AC or AC/DC. Note: consult the manufacturer for dc-only or 400 Hz circuit breakers.

The methods outlined may be used to verify specific characteristics of a molded case circuit breaker which was originally built and tested in compliance with the requirements of NEMA Standards Publication AB 1. These methods are intended for field application and are, therefore, non-destructive in nature. Accordingly, these methods cannot be used to verify all performance capabilities of a molded case circuit breaker since verification of some capabilities requires tests of a destructive nature.

Many tests, including those of a destructive nature, as defined in AB 1, are performed on representative samples of circuit breakers by the manufacturer, as part of a routine program of factory inspection.

The AB 4 Standards Publication is not intended, nor is it adequate, to verify proper electrical performance of a molded case circuit breaker which has been disassembled, modified, rebuilt, refurbished, or handled in any manner not intended or authorized by the original circuit breaker manufacturer. Such breakers should be removed from service.

For purposes of these guidelines, a qualified person is one who is familiar with the installation, construction, and operation of the equipment and the hazards involved. In addition, the person is trained:

—and authorized to test, energize, clear, ground, tag, and lockout circuits and equipment in accordance with established safety practices.

—in the proper care and use of protective equipment such as rubber gloves, hard hat, safety glasses or face shields, and flash resistant clothing, in accordance with established safety practices.

—in first aid.

Thank you for attending the Expo, here is the link to the pictures.


Using used electrical…4/24/08 8:10 PM

lol…Lets all guess who gave me this one…Fine…Have it your way fella’s

Another coward, huh? Or was it actually signed?