A circuit breaker is a switch installed in a breaker box to protect your home’s electrical components from overheating or catching fire. During an electrical short or overload, the circuit breaker helps neutralize the problem by interrupting the flow of electricity to the device.
There are three main types of circuit breakers:
In this blog, we will take a look at all three and their characteristics.
Standard circuit breakers can be further divided into two types: single-pole circuit breakers and double-pole circuit breakers. Single-pole circuit breakers are the most common type, and the type you will find in most homes. They are called single-pole because they are designed to monitor the current of a single wire and trip during a short or electrical overload. Circuit breakers of this type are designed to accommodate between 15 and 30 amps and provide 120 volts to the circuit.
Double-pole circuit breakers are able to simultaneously monitor the flow of electricity through two wires. Breakers of this type are easily recognizable in that they appear like two single breakers with two interlinked side-by-side switches. A double-pole circuit breaker will trip if either or both of the wires short out or become overloaded. They deliver 240 or 120/240 volts to an electrical circuit and can accommodate anywhere from 15 to 200 amps. Double-pole breakers are commonly found in circuits that power household appliances that require a significant sum of energy, such as washing machines and dryers.
The third type of circuit breaker, GFCI circuit breakers, are designed to protect against a line-to-ground fault. A line-to-ground fault occurs when a dangerous electrical path is present between a grounded element and electrical current. This type of breaker also provides protection against electrical short or current overload. It is common for GFCI circuit breakers to be required by electrical codes in areas of the home such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, outdoor areas, or any other place that may become wet.
The final type of circuit breaker, AFCI Circuit Breakers, are intended to trip when arcing is detected within electrical wiring. Arcing is the formation of an electric arc and commonly occurs when an electrical cord becomes damaged or its coating becomes too thin. Arcing presents a significant fire hazard. Standard single- or double-pole circuit breakers are not always able to detect electrical arcs as they are only triggered by excessive heat. AFCI circuit breakers are becoming increasingly common and are required for new houses to adhere to electrical code.
It should be noted that installing and replacing circuit breakers is a job that may require a permit and should be carried out by a licensed electrician. Failing to take proper precautions and adhere to electrical codes can cause fires, serious electrical shock, and fatality. Furthermore, a licensed electrician will be best-suited to determining the type of circuit breaker that is most ideal for your home. In addition to getting the right type of circuit breaker, ensure you are getting the device from a trusted supplier.
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