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Circuit Breakers: A Brief Buyer’s Guide

by Olufisayo
Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers do an important job of keeping you and your home safe by providing an early-warning system when an electrical fault develops.

Fitting a long-lasting 1 pole square d 50 amp breaker, for example, will help to ensure that you have a good level of protection in place should something start to go wrong with your electrical wiring. A circuit breaker is designed to cut off the power supply to prevent further damage and reduce the prospect of an electrical fire developing.

Now you know the vital role they play with regard to electrical safety, here is a look at what you need to look out for when buying a circuit breaker.

Understanding the amperage

A good starting point would be to understand that every circuit breaker has an amperage rating. This rating represents the maximum level of electrical current that can pass through the breaker before it “trips” and sets off the breaker to stop the flow of electricity.

You always have to have the right amperage for safety reasons. Therefore, the amperage of the breaker should not be any greater than the amperage of the circuit conductors they are being used to protect.

A qualified electrician will always know which circuit breaker is appropriate to use, based on the rating. If you are changing a breaker yourself, make sure the amperage is correct.

What is a standard circuit breaker?

Standard circuit breakers come in three different varieties.

You can get a 1-pole breaker, which is designed to protect one energized wire. Or you can get a 2-pole breaker when it needs to protect two energized wires. Alternatively, you might get a 3-pole breaker when you need to protect 3 energized wires.

When should you use a GFCI breaker?

A ground fault circuit interrupting (GFCI) breaker is designed to cut the power supply if a short circuit or overload occurs as a result of a ground fault.

GFCI breakers prevent you from getting in the way of a shock when an unintended electrical path is created by your body and a grounded item. You would use this type of breaker in areas that are likely to be wet or damp, such as bathrooms and garages.

When to use an AFCI breaker

If there is a loose wire somewhere in your electrical system it could create dangerous arcing.

An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is able to distinguish between normal and dangerous arcing. It shuts down the power supply when it detects a dangerous scenario.

Best of both worlds

You can buy dual function circuit breakers that offer both levels of protection provided by either an AFCI or GFCI breaker.

Using a main circuit breaker

You have circuit breakers that are designed to protect individual electrical circuits throughout your home. You also have a main circuit breaker, which is designed to turn off all the power throughout your property at once.

This main circuit breaker is at the heart of your electrical safety setup and is located within the main panel that houses your wiring system control and distribution point.

It is essential that you buy the right breaker for the job it is intended to do and the load rating that it has. If you are unsure, always get professional guidance from your supplier or an electrician.

Photo by Troy Bridges on Unsplash

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