Every year approximately 51,000 homes are determined to be electrical fires that account over 500 deaths, 1400 injuries, and $1.3 billion due to property loss. For public health and safety, circuit breakers are used to counteract and minimize the odds of an electrical fire due to overload. These electrical devices are found prominently in residential buildings to protect electrical systems from ‘overloading’ due to supplying more heat or effective RMS current which the circuit cannot handle by opening the contacts and produce an open-circuit. When overheated, the electrical conductor will burn out and create an electrical fire which spreads around the building. However, the reports and fire investigations across the nation show inconclusive results about the cause of electrical fires.
The goal of this project to develop an affordable and reliable method to concurrently test the performance of single-pole, thermal circuit breakers across different manufacturers, age, and current rating. In this project, the design of the circuit breaker failure analysis system’s computer-controlled power supply will be discussed in order to achieve direct current control with a TRIAC (short for TRIode for Alternating Current) and a microcontroller to allow the user to manipulate the large currents fed to the circuit breaker and the shunt. The importance of this project is to devise an accurate failure analysis system to test and detect faulty circuit breakers that would otherwise cause an electrical fire in buildings.