Finding old or obsolete General Electric circuit breakers can be challenging. GE has produced circuit breakers for over 70 years, which can make it difficult to match the right models and model numbers to your needs. In this article, we’ll present a brief history of GE’s circuit breaker production and help you understand how to identify what circuit breaker you’re looking for.
A Brief History of General Electric Circuit Breakers
GE’s “Slate back” line of type AE and AL air circuit breakers was its first product line utilizing one of the first true inverse time elements to obtain automatic “resettable” overcurrent protection. This marked a huge step up from simple fused protection. Sometime later, technological improvements prompted a redesign so GE introduced the AK line of breakers. These models featured improved electro-mechanical trip units and were designed to fit both AKD and AKD5 switchgear.
In the 1980’s, GE redesigned the AK line and gave the product line the AKR prefix. Although they may initially seem similar in appearance to the older style, the design has been improved and is not interchangeable with previous versions. This product line was designed to fit both AKD6 and the later redesigned AKD8 switchgear.
How to Read a General Electric Breaker Number
Almost all of the digits in an AK or AKR model number identify important characteristics of the breaker. It is important to either understand these details or even more important make sure your supplier does. Let’s use an AK-25 circuit breaker as an example. At a glance, with the door closed, most AK-25’s look the same, but the missing digits between the AK and 25 reveal important information that is needed to assure a safe and proper fit. You can use these quick guidelines to identify the specific model of a General Electric circuit breaker:
- The first part, “AK”, tells you the general designation of one of two switchgear vintages that the breaker will fit in - AKD or type AKD 5.
- The last part, “25”, indicates one of the smaller feeder breakers that is rated 600 amp AC continuous and has a frame rating of 25,000 amps interrupt (AC).
- There are up to 4 more spaces for letters or numbers between the AK and 25 that are important. One could be a “U” which would indicate the addition of current limiting fuses. Another could be an “F” which designates a special field discharge option. There will be a number, most likely a 2 but it could be a 3, 4, all the way up to 10, which designates which type of trip unit that was installed at the factory. After the 2 or other trip unit number there could be an “A”. Absence of an “A” indicates that it is for AKD switchgear, the presence of it indicates it is for type AKD5 switchgear.
- For more information on how to understand what each letter or digit of the model number means, we’ve developed a guide. This guide will help you identify most of the options built in to your breaker from the factory and which, if any, will need to be changed or upgraded.
Other Questions to Ask
In addition to knowing the brand and product number you’re looking for, here are some other questions to help us identify the perfect solution for your needs:
- Is the breaker A. electrically or B. manually operated?
- If A, what is the voltage of the close coil, control relay and trip coil?
- If A, do you have a wiring diagram number?
- Why type of trip unit is needed?
- What trip function is required?
- Are any accessories like bell alarm or under voltage protection required?
To download this chart click here: flowchart for AK and AKR circuit breakers for guidance. If you’re still having trouble or are unsure of what you need, just let us know and we’ll be happy to walk you through the process.