ITE Circuit Breakers: Regulating Electricity Reliably

ITE breakers have been among the most popular options since the widespread use of electricity became commonplace. The fact that these breakers – and ITE-compatible circuit breakers – remain so popular after all this time is a testament to their high-quality performance.

Despite the fact they’re now, technically, Siemens breakers, many loyal customers still refer to them by the ITE name.

No matter what you call them, they’re a fantastic choice for almost any deployment, offering a cost-effective method to reliably regulate your home or building’s electricity.

A Brief History of ITE

One reason you can tell ITE breakers have a history that goes all the way back to 1847 is simply the name itself. It stands for Inverse Time Element. More than 150 years ago, that may have seemed like a compelling name for a company that specialized in making circuit breakers.

However, nowadays, it’s just a simple explanation for how any overcurrent trip device works. When a fault happens, the breaker is designed to trip. The faster the current increases, the faster the trip happens.

In other words, the current and trip speed work inversely to one another – hence, the name ITE.

Though it’s not much of a differentiator these days, the inverse time element represented an incredible milestone for the commercial use of electricity back in the 19thcentury. Not only was its use far more affordable than replacing fuses, but it also evolved rather quickly into a flexible option for a number of different applications and became a vital part of commercial and industrial programs for the safe use of electricity.

Nonetheless, the company behind this incredible stepping stone didn’t officially take the name ITE until 1928. At that point, the advancement had become so synonymous with the manufacturer that the name change became a foregone conclusion.

The First ITE Breakers

ITE would go on to produce many distinct lines of air circuit breakers.

The first of these were commonly referred to as “slate back” breakers. They were designed to be completely enclosed inside a metal frame. For safety reasons, a handle was attached to the outside of the breaker’s door, allowing the user to operate the mechanism inside from a distance.

This initial line of breakers could be manufactured with the breakers bolted onto the line-and-load-side buss or provided as “draw out elements” that could be safely removed after they were opened without the use of a buss.

The circuit breaker line was broken down by the size of their frames and equipped with trip devices that went all the way up to the maximum amp capability of each design.

These circuit breakers were:

  • KA – 225 amperage frame
  • KB – 600 amperage frame
  • KC – 800, 1,200, or 1,600 amperage frame
  • LX and LG – 1,600 amperage through 8,000 amperage frame

Other Important Innovations

ITE breakers have always benefited from innovative improvements, which is one of the reasons they still enjoy such an enviable reputation.

ITE created the first low- and medium-volt stored-energy circuit breakers. The company also designed the first 5 kV air magnetic breakers. They were the first to manufacture a complete line of low- and medium-volt indoor andoutdoor circuit breakers in addition to high-volt products and switches.

Using ITE Compatible Circuit Breakers

Despite the prominence ITE breakers once enjoyed, they are no longer manufactured. The problem is compounded by the fact that this earlier prominence means that many homes and commercial buildings were wired with ITE breakers, which are not interchangeable with most brands.

Although ITE has been a part of Siemens breakers now for decades, most of the switchgears that were produced prior to the acquisition have been completely redesigned. That’s why there is so little compatibility nowadays between older ITE breakers and the components made by Siemens. The ITE MCC line is no longer in production at all.

Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get rid of the panel and start over. Instead, you just need to find ITE-compatible circuit breakers.

ITE-Compatible Circuit Breakers

While many options for ITE-compatible circuit breakers exist, the best examples are going to be Siemens breakers. The Siemens type B115 breaker is a popular choice and can be used for a number of different types of panels. It’s a 120-volt circuit breaker with a 15-amp rating. As a one-pole breaker, it can only protect one circuit in your house.

Siemens also manufactures power breakers capable of accommodating the needs of the electrical distribution industry. For example, Siemens’ type HV circuit breaker has a volt capacity of 5,000 and two different amperage ratings: 600 or 1,200. Their Type HK has a voltage rating of 7,500 and amperage ratings of either 1,2000 or 2,000 amps.

The Asea Brown Boveri company also makes some ITE-compatible circuit breakers. After all, the company that owned ITE beforeSiemens, Gould, eventually sold a majority share of the company to the Swiss-based ABB.

Their ITE-compatible circuit breakers are larger and designed for industrial power systems. Their voltage ratings range from 200 volts all the way up to 600. Their amperage rating starts at 800 but can reach 4,200.

Refurbished ITE Breakers

Another option that not enough people know about are refurbished ITE breakers. Given how popular they once were, there are countless ITE circuit breakers out there. Many owners sell theirs when they decide to rewire their buildings, typically right after they’ve purchased them.

A refurbished ITE circuit breaker can work as well as a brand new one would and, again, you don’t have to replace your entire panel to benefit from its famous capabilities.

Relying on the Power of ITE Breakers

When reviewing the company’s history, it’s not hard to see why ITE breakers became so popular and were utilized across so many different applications.

Fortunately, if your building originally relied on one of these circuit breakers, there are plenty of Siemens breakers that can serve as replacements. You can even find the exact same model by considering your refurbished options.

So although they’re no longer in production, the reliability, capability, and affordability of ITE breakers live on.

ITE Circuit Breakers