According to the National Electric Code, all residential, industrial, and commercial units must have a circuit breaker installed. And when highly respected standards for the safe electric wiring and circuit breaker installation says so, you should follow this recommendation.
Even though a circuit breaker is a major component, it somehow remains a mystery to most people. In this guide, we’ll take a look at how a circuit breaker works, what the common problems are, and how to address them. By the end, you will learn basic information every homeowner should know.
What a Breaker Is and How It Works
Circuit breakers are switching devices that react to the abnormal or fault current and interrupt it when needed. When protective relays detect a fault, they will automatically stop the current from flowing. Those are located inside of an electrical panel box for safety.
The purpose of a circuit breaker is to prevent damage to your electrical system, devices connected to the circuit, or even a fire. This is required by law, and, as you can guess, there is no reason to overlook this requirement. If there is no such major safety measure in the households and in the electrical grid, it can get out of control.
Each electric circuit breaker is connected to the wires running through the house. An important part of the wiring is solder resist, which is a thin layer of polymer used for protection against oxidation. If the wiring overheats, the solder melts, which triggers a switch and shuts down that particular circuit. If there is no significant damage, it can be reset.
In order for this equipment to work properly, you need to determine the right electrical panel size for the house. More accurately, it needs to be done by a licensed specialist. This will ensure that you are protected from the unexpected.
Remember that electrical work is not a good DIY project. For any repairs and installations, you can always count on Handy Kith. It will be a worthwhile investment in your electrical system and the well-being of everyone in the house. Still, it won’t break the bank – reach out to us and ask for a quote!
Common Problems with Circuit Breakers
Now that you know what a circuit breaker does, it’s important to discuss common issues that occur with it. The reason is simple. If you want to ensure that the purpose of the circuit breaker is carried out properly, you should be able to identify when something’s wrong.
Here are some indicators that your electric circuit breakers or the panel box that hosts it needs to be replaced:
- The breaker trips frequently. It means the demand, or load, on the circuit is too high, and it can’t sustain it.
- You feel heat or subtle shocks when you plug in/out or touch your appliances.
- You are experiencing an insufficient flow of electricity.
- You’ve recently had water damage near the control panel and the circuit breaker.
- It’s an old house, and the electrical systems haven’t been updated for a long time.
If you notice any of the following signs, address the issue immediately. The sooner you resolve it, the easier and cheaper it will be to fix it. Besides, you prevent the problem from escalating.
How to Reset a Breaker Box
If your breaker trips for some reason, you need to turn it back on safely. Make sure your hands are dry, and you stand on a dry surface. Below are the instructions on how to reset a breaker box:
Unplug appliances with electronic components and turn off all the light switches.
- Open the cover of the circuit breaker. However, we don’t recommend doing that on your own because you may not know everything about electrical panel box safety.
- Find the right breaker. It will be in the “off” position and may be labeled according to the area of the house.
- Identify the cause and fix it before resetting.
- Turn the plug back on and see whether it trips off again.
- If it doesn’t, the malfunction is managed successfully.
Circuit Breaker Common Sizes and Types
Generally, most types of breakers fall into three major classes, which are: standard; Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters, or AFCI, and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, or GFCI. We’ll also look into the subcategories of standard breakers, which are either single- or double-pole.
Single-pole circuit breakers are used most commonly. These monitor the flow of electricity for virtually all the standard lighting in your home. If you have outlets with standard two-slot outlet receptacles, those are probably single-pole ones.
Common circuit breaker sizes for this type are full size (1-inch wide), half-size (1/2-inch wide), and twin/tandem (1-inch wide with two switches and controls two circuits).
While single-pole breakers can operate with up to 120 volts, double-pole breakers can handle a total of 240 volts. These protect two energized wires and, therefore, take up two slots on the electrical wiring home circuit breaker panel. Households that have heavy-duty appliances, such as dryers and water heaters, will require the installation of those.
GFCI Circuit Breaker
GFCIs protect the entire circuit, including the wiring and all devices and appliances. These are needed when connected to it and require ground-fault protection. For example, it can be a large deck, patio, or a garage workshop.
AFCI Circuit Breakers
On some control panels, an AFCI circuit breaker is installed to help protect against fires resulting from electrical arcing. These may be caused by damaged or deteriorated wires and cords. It ensures additional protection since regular circuit breakers don’t always trip in these instances.
Circuit Breaker Installation
In order for you to understand what the electrician will do, let’s examine the process of circuit breaker installation. Below are tools that are required:
- Needle-nose pliers
- Utility knife
- Wire cutter
- Cable clamps
- Electrical staples
- Voltage tester
Here are the steps to install a 120-volt circuit breaker:
- Shut off the power at the main panel and check is there are any live wires left.
- When the electrical wiring is no longer live, open the home circuit breaker panel.
- Screw the new cable clamp into the panel.
- Attach the ground wires from breakers to the ground bar.
- Attach the neutral wire to the neutral bus
- Place the last wire under the screw – this will be a black wire.
- Secure all elements and place the cover on the panel.
Safety Is the Top Priority
For a full list of electrical requirements for owners as well as the control panel testing checklist, check out the official NYC guidelines. What we want to focus on is several recommendations that will help you prevent serious issues or manage them in time:
- De-energize, i.e., turn off the power, in the electrical panel when doing any electrical work.
- Make sure you select devices that conform to wiring, load requirements, and your type of breaker panel.
- Install a new circuit only when you have an open slot in your breaker panel.
- Don’t touch wires leading into the electrical panel and follow general electrical panel box safety.
- Ensure the electrical equipment is properly inspected and tested as required in the code.
- Have AFCI and GFCI tested monthly to verify they are in working condition.
For essential electrical services, call Handy Kith and request a professional check-up. Not only will you receive high-quality service, but we will also explain the basic rules in more detail. For example, how often electrical panels should be checked, what you should do in case of an accident, etc. With us, you will finally find a specialist you can trust to do the job right.
Q: How does an electrical panel work?
When you open the panel door, you gain access to the circuit breaker switches that are divided into two columns. Also, you will see the main switch that controls power to all of the branch breakers.
As for the single circuit breaker controls, those are assigned to specific outlets. In case there is an overload of current, they can automatically interrupt electrical flow to prevent fires and protect your house.
Q: How to change a circuit breaker in an electrical panel?
The process of circuit breaker installation is fairly straightforward but requires specialized knowledge and attention to detail. Essentially, you remove the cover panel and disconnect the wire of the breaker in the load terminal. It’s important to examine the slot in your breaker panel so that the new one will be installed properly.
Q: How to know what size breaker to use?
Firstly, add up the current of all the devices controlled by the circuit, mainly the ones that are used on a regular basis. Take this number and divide it by the voltage at which it operates to calculate the current draw. The next step is multiplying it by 125% to make sure the circuit isn’t operating at full capacity. The common circuit breaker sizes between 15 and 20 amp.
Q: Can a homeowner replace the electrical panel?
The City of New York warns about electrical panel box safety and bans installation and modification to any electrical systems unless you have a license. For all kinds of electrical work, seek help from a Licensed Master Electrician that has a permit.
Q: Where can a breaker box be located?
It’s recommended to install them in relatively low-traffic areas, such as a basement, garage, or utility closet. In most houses, these are places where you’ll likely find them. As for apartments, there isn’t such a luxury, so a breaker box is usually installed in a more central location, such as a hallway or laundry area.
Why You Should Trust Electrical Experts
The load of everyday appliances and the high amp usage of new electrical equipment is a common thing in most households. As a homeowner, you want to be aware of whether your electrical service panel box is in good condition and follow the control panel testing checklist. But of course, most people aren’t equipped to carry out extensive new wiring procedures – but Handy Kith professionals are.
If you need the right person for the circuit breaker installation, you can reach a qualified electrician at Handy Kith. Contact us to learn more about the rates, complexity of work, and general info. With us, you’ll get a piece of mind knowing that you have the best circuit breaker panel and all the systems repaired or upgraded.
We want to remind you once again that any work on your electrical system should be performed by a professional. There are risks ranging from damaging your equipment and wiring to getting electrocuted or injured more seriously. You can conduct visual inspections, calculate the electrical panel size for house and generally, keep an eye on it. But anything beyond that should be left for specialists.