What's the Difference Between ITE, BBC, and ABB Breakers?

It’s not always easy to find the right old or obsolete electrical equipment for your facility. Over the years, there have been several manufacturers of large industrial switchgear and circuit breakers that have come and gone, which can make it difficult to track down specific equipment.

Three of these manufacturers are ITE, BBC, and ABB. At first, they may seem like different companies, but many of their breakers are interchangeable with each other. That’s because there’s really no difference between the three companies aside from when and where they were founded.

          An ITE K 800s circuit breaker             A BBC K 800 circuit breakerAn ABB K 800 circuit breaker

The Shared History of ITE, BBC, and ABB Breakers

While ITE, ABB, and BBC all have different names, they’re all a part of the same history. The timeline starts with the ITE Circuit Breaker Company, which was originally known as the Cutter Electrical Manufacturing Company when it was founded in in 1890s. ITE has a history of innovation, so much so that the company rebranded in 1928 after the inverse time element that plays a key part in every overcurrent trip device.

After decades in business, ITE merged with Brown Boveri Electric Company, an American operation of a Swiss-based company. In 1984, the company changed its name to BBC Brown Boveri Inc. and began nameplating its breakers “BBC.” Four years later, the company completed another merger, this time with a Swedish business called ASEA. The resulting new company was renamed ASEA Brown Boveri, which was shortened to ABB Inc over time.

Find the Right ITE, BBC, and ABB Breakers

While ITE, BBC, and ABB breakers can be grouped together, you still need to find the right breakers or breaker parts that match your exact needs. As a used electrical equipment dealer, we have thousands of reconditioned circuit breakers and aftermarket parts for ITE, BBC, and ABB equipment.

If you can’t find what you need on our main site, you can submit information about what you need on our NPE on the Go mobile site or contact us today to talk to one of our experts about finding the rights solution for your needs.

Are Eaton, Westinghouse, Square D, and Cutler Hammer Breakers Compatible?

The search for old or obsolete circuit breakers isn’t always easy. Many factories and government or commercial facilities operate on electrical equipment that is no longer supported with new parts, which means you need to either find a remanufactured air or vacuum circuit breaker or aftermarket breaker parts that are a match for your equipment.

There are several companies that have manufactured breakers in the past century and beyond, but you typically can’t swap out one competitor’s breaker parts for another’s. However, there are some instances where one brand of breaker is nearly identical. Westinghouse and Eaton are two such examples.

Circuit breaker with Eaton nameplateCircuit breaker with Westinghouse nameplate

Why Does Eaton and Westinghouse Have Compatible Breakers?

The answer is simple: the same company owns the production rights for both Eaton and Westinghouse. Westinghouse had a low-voltage air circuit breaker line. The company sold the rights to this product line to Square D, which then sold it to Eaton Corporation. As a result of rights ownership, there are nearly identical breakers with four different nameplates on them:

  • Westinghouse
  • Square D
  • Eaton
  • Cutler-Hammer

These breakers can be compatible with each other despite the different nameplates, as certain models are largely the same aside from some upgraded electronics.

Circuit breaker with Square D nameplateCircuit breaker with Cutler Hammer nameplate

Find Old and Obsolete Eaton and Westinghouse Breakers

While you now know that Eaton breakersWestinghouse breakers, Square D breakers, and Cutler-Hammer breakers are largely compatible, you still need to find the exact models you need for your facility. At NPE, we have amassed and refurbished old electrical equipment, including breakers and aftermarket parts for Eaton, Westinghouse, and more.

Ready to find the right breaker parts for your facility? Submit information about what you need on our NPE on the Go mobile site or contact us today to talk to one of our experts about finding the rights solution for your needs.

The DS Switchgear Line


Image of DS Switchgear

The DS line of air circuit breakers has been a tried and tested product line of low voltage air circuit breakers that have been proven to be both versatile and reliable for decades. Originally, it was sold as a Westinghouse product, then the line was later sold to Square D and then Eaton Cutler Hammer.  It is widely understood that all of these breakers are interchangeable regardless of label, however the same does not hold true when replacing the switchgear parts. The switchgear cabinets have been manufactured in several locations around the country which resulted in six different lines of cabinets.  Care must be taken to properly identify which style of cabinet is in question to properly identify and acquire interchangeable parts.

The first vintage of DS switchgear was manufactured by Westinghouse in East Pittsburgh in 1969 and continued through 1973. It can be identified as having “Shop Order” (SO) numbers that start with “24Y”. The second vintage also made in East Pittsburgh through 1984 with SO numbers that started in “27Y” and concurrently with “WPA” switchgear made in St. Louis and was designated by a “General Order” (GO) number rather than a shop order number. The East Pittsburgh gear was generally marketed to heavy industrial users and the WPA gear for commercial applications.

Two more vintages came out of the St. Louis plant, designated as vintage III and IV. Vintage III was an attempt to merge the “27Y” product line with the WPA product line and it is usually designated with a prefix of “28Y”. It was a very short production run during 1984 from May through October. Vintage IV was made in St. Louis form October 1984 through May of 1990 - it continued to use the GO number system and also the “28Y” SO numbers. In 1990, production was moved to Asheville, NC and although changes had been made to the design, the “28Y” SO number system was continued.

Finding Replacement Parts for DS Switchgears

If this sounds confusing, you have a lot of company. So how does someone go about finding replacement parts to maintain their DS switchgear? If you are fortunate enough to have the original product literature (see below) it will help to some degree. However, because much of it is no longer manufactured (new) you will more than likely find yourself relying on a reputable used electrical equipment dealer like NPE. If you know the SO number, GO number and production dates it will help narrow the focus, but even within product lines things like bus size and length will change depending on the configuration and rating of the switchgear.

Cutler Hammer DS and DSL Low Voltage Power Circuit Breaker Renewal Parts -  Manual RP.22B.01.T.E.

Westinghouse Instructions for Low Voltage Power Circuit Breakers Types DS and DSL – Manual  IB 33.-7901G

Instructions for Type DS Metal-Enclosed Low Voltage Power Circuit Breaker Switchgear Assemblies – Manual IB 32-690-E

The fastest and most reliable way to get the right part, at the right price, at the right time will be with photos and measurements using the NPE "On the Go" with your smartphone. NPE "On the Go" is very easy to use, just open it up and navigate to Switchgear/Switchgear Parts, answer the product driven questions and attach photos that you’ve taken with your mobile device. This RFQ will be sent to the NPE technical staff where it will receive TOP PRIORITY! Of course, you can still contact us with your requests and questions.      


NPE "On the Go"




Technical Manual Database Online

Our Technical Manual Database is Available Online

Customers have long recognized that used electrical equipment dealers stock a broad range of vintages of switchgear and breakers which makes them an invaluable source for technical support. The staff at NPE has spent decades offering assistance to our customers due to our training and hands-on experience with the thousands of breakers that we stock. Over the years we have gleaned expertise along with thousands of manuals and catalogs so when you have a problem we can assist you with finding a solution.

We have decided to take that technical support to a new level by giving you unlimited access to our technical manual database. You now have over 5,000 manuals at your fingertips and that list is continually increasing. You can access this 14GB database by visiting our website at  www.npeinc.com/technical-manuals.

Although, we realize that not everything can be found in these books and/or you just might not have the time to wade through them, so as always, we are here for you. Contact us and we’ll help you get the information you need quickly.

NPE technical manuals

Interview with NPE Owner - Ken Prince

Interview with NPE Owner Ken Prince

By Robin Putich


  • Let’s face it most kids don’t dream of being a used electrical equipment dealer, what job did younger Ken dream of doing?

    Depending on how far you want to go back, in junior high, an astronomer, in high school, a Martial Arts instructor/Nautilus Gym owner. I also worked in auto garages, helped my brother working on large diesel engines and I also did some side work with my Dad repairing TV’s and VCR’s. I always liked science and technical stuff as well as get your hands dirty mechanical stuff. My family was all blue collar and outdoorsmen.  When I started college at Kent State I was a business major but shortly thereafter I got into breakers and ended up with a BS in Industrial Technology with a Business Minor. It all worked out in the end.

  • How did you start out in this industry?

    I was looking for work while going to Kent State and I knew the owner of North American Machinery through a martial arts class we both attended. He needed help, I needed work. I immediately saw potential for this industry when many around me didn’t. I’ve always said that success comes from hard work recognizing opportunity. I seized the opportunity and worked my way through college. Even though it meant almost an hour commute each way during the school year, and slowed my degree down, I’ve never regretted it.

  • Did you have to make any sacrifices or did you have any obstacles in starting your own business?

    I’ve always known that this business is about both who and what you know and how you treat people. I spent my first 11 years learning the trade and making business connections on both sides of the equation. When the company I worked for was sold to a division of a big business, I recognized that it was time to go. I started NPE in 1994 and I was fortunate enough to be able to continue the relationships that I had previously established.

    It’s true when they say that being your own boss means you never stop working. It’s also true that when you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I like both the technical aspects of the industry, love the people and am obsessed with the planning, creating and growing end of things. So from my family’s perspective I think it’s a double-edged sword. Lots of time away, but I could always sneak away when needed or be reached at the shop. Lots of family vacations were skipped/missed but I tried to make up for that in other ways. On a personal side, gray hair, sleepless nights and hypertension. Overall, I love it all and wouldn’t change a thing.

  • What parts of your job do you find the most challenging?

    Constant planning and shifting of priorities. I learned a long time ago that you need a short, intermediate and a long-term plan. It will never be written in stone because life will always come into play, but as long as the overall focus is kept on the long-term goal, you’ll get there. The daily grind is also a constant battle of shifting priorities based on things that pop up last minute. We still have to meet our obligations and commitments to orders we’ve already taken, but we’ve also gotten very good at juggling three things with one hand and last-minute orders.  There is truth to one of our motto’s, “the right part, the right price, right now”!

  • What parts of your job do you find the most satisfying?

    Finding round pegs for round holes! Seriously, it’s all about technical sales. You have to know the equipment and how vintage changes affect interchangeability so getting the customer the right part is not just a sales line. In a more general sense. I like to help people solve problems. As I said earlier, this business is all about repeat customers. I try to treat them like family or at least good friends lol. I’ve been dealing with the same people for over 30 years. Some of them I know better than my next-door neighbor and many I’ve never met face to face.

  • Has this industry changed much from when the time you first started to now?

    Technology has made huge changes. I started in 1983. Back then if you couldn’t describe the part accurately enough on the phone we would take Polaroid photos and ship them next day air! Thinking back, it really taught me to have great communication skills. This has never been the kind of business where you could look up a part number in a catalog. Later when fax machines came out, it helped but the internet and good quality digital photo’s really changed things. I no longer have to travel to look at equipment to finalize purchases and customers have answers in seconds rather than hours.

  • Does the economy affect this industry? 

    Traditionally, we are considered a counter recessionary business. That means when the economy is down, people look to maintain and upgrade used equipment rather than buy new.   In general, though, people are always watching the bottom line and it is normally much more cost effective to maintain what is in service rather than to replace it – that’s even if it is still available to replace. With this current boom and the new laws regarding capital expenditures for business, I’m very optimistic.

  • Is there one experience with your company that stands out the most, good or bad?

    In retrospect, no. There have certainly been ups and downs but in general this has been a great ride. I’ve made some great relationships with both customers and suppliers, and have been blessed to be able to work with very talented, caring people. Of course, there have been some bumps in the road but you won’t get anywhere if you dwell on them, I try to stay focused on the long-term objectives.

  • Did/Do you have a mentor in this industry?

    Interesting question, yes, I did and still do today. Dealers tend to be “friendly competitors” meaning we depend on each other for support but also occasionally bump heads. That support can range from technical stuff on equipment, trends in the business or financial issues.  Some of my best memories are of the older dealers that are no longer active or even with us. I can recall some sage advice just before I opened NPE in 1983 and I pass it along whenever someone is thinking about leaving the comfort of a regular paycheck to jump into the world of owning your own business. That same advice has also taught me to never look back with regret, only forward. You can’t change the past, but your future is built on it.

  • How does your company differ from your competitors?

    In some ways not at all. We are all buying and selling the same stuff. I try to differentiate NPE with long term relationships, getting things shipped quickly and to keep adding more innovative products that we develop in the aftermarket part sector. We also work very hard to keep our inventory databases up to date so we can spec equipment and ship it as fast as we do.

  • Do you see this industry changing much in next 10 years, 20 years, 50 years?

    In 1983 I couldn’t have imagined the changes that I’ve already seen and to plagiarize, a quote that I like to use, “the only thing constant, is change”. However, as long as we have a dependency on electricity to power factories, utilities and large commercial enterprises, there will always be a need for us. As a small business we can react faster and adapt better to changes than the manufacturers.  We will also always be the first call in emergencies. When power is down and the OEM’s have a lead time of weeks or months, ours will always be hours or days. That’s what we are here for.

  • If you could start all over again, would you change your career path in any way?

    Wow, that’s a good one! There are changes that I’d make, but that’s not the way this works. Overall, I’m pleased with the last 30+ years. This business has been good to me, my family and my employees. I‘d also like to think we’ve had a positive impact on the industry although that may not be for me to say. Getting back to what I’ve said earlier…with short, intermediate and long-term goals- the path may not be a straight line but it has always moved forward, so I feel fortunate.

    If you have any other questions about Ken or NPE, contact us today!

    Ken Prince, NPE Owner pictured with Duke, NPE Head of Security