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One of my circuit breaker entered the "tripped" state (switch is in the middle position). I can move the switch to "on" and back to the middle, but I can't move to off.

This breaker has two switches (it's a duplex) and only the bottom switch has this problem. The top switch is working normally, and is able to turn off and on.

The label on the breaker says:

Bryant

Type BRD

BD 20-20

CU-AL

SWD

Both switches say 20 A.

The circuit controlled by the bad switch did not have much on it - a freezer that draws max 1.45A according to the label, and a handful of LED lights. The freezer is working without issue from a different outlet.

This happened while I was turning off breakers to do some other electrical work. I was replacing a dimmer and installing a timer switch in other rooms (not the one controlled by this breaker). Both the dimmer and the timer are currently working.

What's wrong with the breaker and why can't I turn it on/off?

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  • Can you say more about 'can't move to off' please? Does that mean the switch won't physically move or having moved, it immediately trips back? Sep 4, 2023 at 16:57

2 Answers 2

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Yeah, replace the breaker

That sort of symptom (a stuck handle) is indicative of something broken mechanically inside the breaker. Fortunately, Eaton still makes BD2020 breakers, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding a replacement, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg either.

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  • Is this a normal thing to have breakers that have 3 positions (on, tripped, off)? I have never seen any like these (in France, but I never looked to hard either - just the breakers you usually have at home)
    – WoJ
    Sep 4, 2023 at 13:58
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    @WoJ In my experience, yes, it's very normal for breakers to have three states, with tripped in the center, but depends on the breaker. Having the third position makes it easier to detect each of the three states when just looking at the panel. Some breakers may intentionally be in the off state. If there are only two states, then someone who isn't already aware of which ones should be off won't be able to easily know which breaker tripped, making it more likely for them to try to turn something on that should be left off, which could be a significant safety issue.
    – Makyen
    Sep 4, 2023 at 15:17
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    @Makyen may I ask you where you are? OP and ThreePhaseEel seem to be in the US so it may be a US thing. In the meantime, I had a look at the breakers section of our (French) main hardware store and they are all 2-position ones. 3-position ones are not mentioned anywhere. Also, BD2020 is not referenced on the French Eaton site.
    – WoJ
    Sep 4, 2023 at 15:25
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    @WoJ It is one reason that listing the general location is important in questions. US and Europe have very different electrical systems and mixing devices/help from the two is difficult
    – crip659
    Sep 4, 2023 at 17:03
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    @WoJ -- yeah, IEC-derived systems (found on most every continent that isn't North America) use a very different style of breaker (the DIN-rail "consumer unit" style) than the North American system (which uses panelboards with integrated busbars that the breakers clip or bolt onto). "On-Off" vs "On-Trip-Off" is another regional distinction (although there are breakers without the middle position in North America, mostly Eaton CHs) Sep 4, 2023 at 17:29
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The US breakers I've examined have a trip mechanism which is enabled by pushing the switch to the "off" position. Once a breaker has been switched to "off", the trip mechanism will remain cocked unless or until the breaker trips, without regard for whether the handle is moved. Current will be interrupted if either the mechanism isn't tripped or if the switch isn't in the "On" position.

It's common for breakers to require significantly more force to re-cock after they trip than would normally be required to switch them on and off. The force should not be excessive, but breakers may be designed to inhibit cocking if certain kinds of damage occur. Given the relatively low cost and safety implications, the recommendation to replace the breaker would seem sensible.

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