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Bulldog Pushmatic circuit breaker field performance: this article lists actual reports of elecrical failures and hazards involving Pushmatic circuit breakers. We solicit field failure and field inspection reports of questionable or possibly problematic electrical equipment in buildings such as the Bulldog™ and ITE-Pushmatic® brands described here.
Field Failure Reports on Pushmatic or Bulldog Circuit Breakers
How to contact us to provide Pushmatic or Bulldog Pushmatic circuit breaker or electrical panel field failure reports or hazards:
We are grateful to readers, owners, home inspectors who report their experience with Bulldog Push-Matic electrical equipment. Contact Us (by email only, please) with any field observations of apparent failures, overheating, damage, product photos. We continue to collect and report Bulldog Pushmatic equipment data, and we credit contributors here.
Also Report ITE Pushmatic or Bulldog Electrical Panel Failures to the US CPSC
In addition to informing us of an ITE Pushmatic or Bulldog electrical panel or breaker event so that we can add this incident report to the data base we maintain, we encourage readers to report such events also to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission - it's easy: you can use a simple form at the CPSC's website: https://www.cpsc.gov/incident.html or you can send the CPSC email on incidents to: firstname.lastname@example.org
And we would appreciate hearing from professionals, home inspectors, electricians, engineers, regarding their opinion on what is sound, professional, unbiased advice that protects consumers without making unsupportable claims in this matter.
Pushmatic Circuit Breaker Field Failure Reports
Field Report: Bulldog - Pushmatic Circuit Breaker Burn-Up
8/2/2014 Zincso breaker arcing photographs by a professional home inspector: Timothy Hemm
The bulldog panel the right hot bus has melted [ and the black plastic/bakelite casing has cracked and deformed]
- to the right of our orange arrow - Ed.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Tim Hemm Tel:
ASHI,ICC Certified Inspector
Mr. Hemm is a professional home inspector in Yucaipa California - Ed.
Pushmatic circuit breaker failure suspected at electric water heater 3/18/2013:
This is an old 40A 2-pole Pushmatic breaker switch; the contact is burnt on the side where power enters the breaker, not the wiring connection that leads to the water heater. I will need to investigate the wiring to the breaker box if this occurs again with a new breaker. - Jeremy 3/18/2013 - details of this case are in the FAQs at ELECTRIC WATER HEATER REPAIR GUIDE
The circuit breaker keeps tripping on my electric hot water heater. The heating elements are new (we initially thought they were the problem), theres negligible corrosion and the anode rod is ok. There's no evidence of electrical shorts. Once the heater cools a bit the breaker can be re-set, but trips again within 15 minutes. I have both thermostats set to only 102 degrees but the problem persits. I
suspect faulty thermostat(s) causing the element(s) to overheat. Can you shed some light on this? Thanks! - Jeremy 3/16/13
US Military base experience with Bulldog Push-o-Matic higher amp circuit breakers overheating, 06/18/2010 - I work for a company who contracts with the Air Force. We service about 90 housing units all with pushmatic breakers.
These houses were built in 1934 and the pushmatic breakers installed in the 50's. We are just now seeing evidence of over heating damage on some of the larger breakers, mainly 40 amp and higher. We changed out the breakers and everything is fine but we have had some of the other housing units now showing signs of the same trouble. We are now trying to convince the Air Force to change out the breaker boxes. --MP
Fullerton, CA Bulldog Push-O-Matic Field Failure report from electrical engineer, 04/25/2009 - We had a Bulldog "failure" this morning, in our own house, at about 1:20 a.m., according to the stopped clocks. At this hour, the only circuit drawing significant current is the refrigerator. The air conditioner and heater were off. The kitchen oven and cooktop are gas.
noticed all the lights, etc. in our house were out. Of course, first thoughts are a block power failure. The street lights were on. Next test, is to look at neighbor's lighting. None seen. Now I went to the main panel, in the backyard, an old original design 100 amp Bulldog panel with a dual 100 amp main breaker under the meter. There were no locks on the two panel doors. Some Bulldog panels I service DO NOT have this "feeder" breaker-- the main buss from the meter feeds the branch breakers directly!
... the dual 100 amp breaker in our panel failed "open", apparently without any significant load, I say failed, since none of the branch breakers were tripped, the trip currents being a max of 30A on any circuit -- I cannot imagine, nor did I see any indication of the remnants of a short between the main breaker and the branch breakers. Of course, the possibility of a prank or attempted burglary (power shutoff disables a lot of telephones) is always there. I will monitor this breaker and give you any updates if they occur.
A neighbor with the same vintage panel as mine recently asked for help with a circuit blowing a 20 amp Bulldog (severely overloaded due to room addition and microwave oven installation), and I Amp-Clamp measured almost 30 amps before the breaker would open!! That was after a five minute wait. I do not have access to the trip curves of that breaker, that seemed very high to me! Admittedly, #12 can handle 30 amps, but the NEC code does not allow 30 amp breakers on #12 wire as a safety factor.
I am a former aerospace electrical engineer, former electronics engineering and electrical trades instructor, and recently "soft" retired electrical contractor/repairman operating Multimetrics Electric Services, Fullerton, CA , License #C10-777049 for the last 10 years.
I am acutely interested in electrical failures/anomalies, for the same reasons you are. Panel "Fix or Replace" decisions can be very costly, and also scar up property unnecessarily on occasion. Power upgrades are one thing, but to replace based upon statistical field experience can be tricky, since environment, original quality of installation, etc. can be factors.
I do have a small inventory of replacement Bulldog breakers, but do not have the main 100 Amp breaker. It appears to have a slightly different installation "finger" than the branch circuit breakers for installation, two of the four screws going to the always hot main buss from the meter. It is extremely hazardous to install this without pulling the
meter. It can be done,
with a screw holding insulated shaft screwdriver, but takes good steady nerves!
We recently returned from a three week trip, can you imagine what the freezer and refrigerator would look and smell like with an unintentional long term power failure?? I have been through that already once in my life (from a faulty plug/socket connection to a garage freezer!). -- Edward (Ed) Cohn,
Multimetrics Electric Services,
Fullerton, CA 92838,
Bulldog Push Matic Reports concern for failures, suggests thermal scanning for hotspots. But no actual failure data is cited. We like thermal scanning for finding live electrical problems, but the absence of any problem indicator during a thermal scan of electrical equipment can be unreliable since a circuit may not be in use at time of scan. -- http://www.justanswer.com/questions/1pw7n-apartment-complex-200-pushmatic
Bulldog Pushmatic Failure report: The other night I plugged in a 1500 watt electric heater, and after a few minutes, all the lights in my 1958 house went out.
I unplugged the heater, and went outside to the breaker box. I pressed all the 'Pushmatic' breakers (probably shouldn't have done that, but I wasn't sure which one was the problem). After a few tries, everything was working again, including the socket I had plugged the heater into, but there a few lights here and there which wouldn't go on, nor the furnace ...
Next day, I could see the breakers better, and I noticed one of them wouldn't go 'on'. 'Off' always shows. It seems to press in ok, but it doesn't pop out well, like maybe it's sort of stuck, or maybe broken inside somehow. As far as I can tell, nothing is plugged into that circuit, or on. I've lived here for 25 years, and I can't recall this happening before. My first thought was that I should just call an electrician and have a new circuit breaker panel put in.
Online investigation shows that some people think that's a great idea, and others think it's not necessary. There's also the question of whether I should attempt to replace the breaker myself, and save a lot of money. I'm an engineer, and I was an electronics technician in the Army, so I'm not without skills.
Somebody said that working on the Pushmatic panel is very dangerous. That doesn't sound good. You're supposed to turn off the main breaker before you do anything, but the problem is, there is no breaker labeled 'Main Breaker', let alone having a sign saying 'Turn Me Off First'. There are three large breakers at the top, labeled 'Garage' (40), 'Back Room' (30), and 'Lower Main' (50).
Below the last one are several 15 and 20 amp breakers, including the problem child. My question is, if I turn off all the breakers on the panel, will it be safe to replace the one that won't go on? It seems that there should be a switch outside of the circuit breaker box, so you could be sure the whole box is off, but I can't see one. The meter is right above it. Help! -- http://www.selfhelpforums.com/archive/index.php/t-10032.html
Bulldog Pushmatic Junk-A-Matic Claim by Electrician: "I used to call them Junk-A-Matics. On my service truck, back in the 60's and 70's I carried 10 Push-a-Matic breakers in my truck to 1 of all the other brands because they failed that much faster. I don't think you have a fire hazard but change it out if it were me - Jim -- http://www.electricalknowledge.com/forum/archives/851.asp
Bulldog Push-Matic Report of difficulty to operate:
It was one of the only residential panels with bolt on breakers, which eliminates a common failure point. They only lasted in production until the early 80's. They were hard for older folks to press in and out, and sometime if you didn't press them hard enough, you might have thought the circuit was off, when it actually indicates 'on'. In any event, they always tripped when they were supposed to. There is some urban myth to the contrary, but that was never the case.
Pushmatic was called several different brands as they were bought out over the years. Pushmatic, Bulldog, ITE/Pushmatic, Siemens/Pushmatic. I'm about 99% sure that Siemens still has them, because I still get Pushmatic breakers from my Siemens dealer.
You can replace that panel if you want to, but I see no overwhelming reason to do so. Add a sub panel of another more common brand if you feel you need to, using the last two spaces in your panel to feed that sub panel.
Yes, the Pushmatic breakers might be a little harder to source and a little bit more expensive than the typical Square D breaker, but most folks can deal with that. I wouldn't hold it against you if you did want to replace that panel, but unless it's suffered damage of some sort, there's just no clear reason to do so. -- http://www.diychatroom.com/f18/need-replace-pushmatic-panel-3654/
Report of No Trouble with Bulldog Pushmatic:
I have a pushmatic panel in a commercial setting, I have been maintaining for 25 years (although panel is probably 50 years old).
...It is a good panel, but hard to read the on/off in the window.
Put it another way, I have never had to take the cover off of this
panel! It has always been a branch circuit load or fault problem
if the cb tripped; such as lighting ballast melting, 3 refrigerators on
one circuit, etc -- http://www.selfhelpforums.com/archive/index.php/t-10032.html
(Jan 4, 2013) JACK DOUGLASS said:
I would like to replace the pushmatic breaker for the "throw type" I can never tell which breaker it tripped as the flag stays in one position. Is there a replacement brand that you could suggest
Condo I own, built in the mid-1970's has aluminum wiring and ITE Pushmatic breaker box.
When the water heater cuts in, I can hear a buzzing sound from 30A circuit breaker (?) that feeds the water heater.
In addition, this breaker is difficult to reset if I use it to shut off hot water heating.
I'm thinking I should replace that 30A double pole breaker.
Good idea? Could this be a wire connection that has loosened due to aluminum wire?
Thanks In Advance.
I worked for ITE Imperial (the company name seems incorrect above) from 1974 until 1978. I am certain that the Bulldog/ITE Pushmatic breakers sold at that time nd for many years prior did have a magnetic trip. The was an old display that I found and used then which compared the tripping time for both overload and short circuit type faults between the Pushmatic device and others sold at the time. Under all normal circumstances, the Pushmatic breaker operated more quickly under short circuit than any competitive device. Based on the older sales engineers in the office at the time (and product literature) this was due to the "five turn coil" used in the magnetic portion of the tripping mechanism.
I sold literally thousands of these breakers for use on job site temporary power poles since the loadcenter could be much narrower (fitting on a pole easily), and because the Pushmatic breaker attached to the bus with a screw instead of the expected spring clip. This fact also led to the Pushmatic being used on projects where the specification was for bolt-on panels. There was -- for at least a short period -- even a three phase version manufactured.
For both the pole pole application, and when used in outdoor residential metering equipment (which was very common in Southern California), there were issues associated with dust entering the breaker and not allowing it to reset. Whether it was appropriate or not, the generally applied solution was to spray the breaker with WD-40.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about failures & hazards involving Bulldog Pushmatic or ITE Pushmatic circuit breakers
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Greg Bell, a Florida home inspector: http://www.bellinspection.com/files/Electric_panels.pdf at www.bellinspection.com Bell Inspection Service provides Inspection
Services to Daytona Beach, Melbourne and Orlando Florida.
http://www.selfhelpforums.com/archive/index.php/t-10032.html - conversation about Pushmatics, field failure report
Patent infringement lawsuit: Westinghouse v Bulldog http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/206/206.F2d.574.6544.html A copy of the court document is available here.
Journal of Light Construction online help forum: http://forums.jlconline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=30720 - this article talks about home inspectors "playing it safe" by "failing" a Pushmatic panel - without supporting data.
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