Electrical Circuit Breaker Types
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There are a large number of different types of
circuit breakers on the market, this article will just briefly cover
a few of the most common ones that are used in a home.
When selecting a circuit breaker of course you
first need one that fits the electrical panel where it is to be
installed then select the one that fits the purpose and rating
requirements in which it will be used. All breakers serve as a
disconnect switch as well as an over current protection cut-off.
Some types of breakers go a step further in the area of keeping
Be sure to also read the articles
'Main Electrical Panel' and
'Sub-Panels' as well as other
articles on this website.
Main Service Panel
200 Amp Dual Pole Breakers in a
residential setting serves as the main service breaker
cut-off and over current protection for the whole home,
this protects the utility wires and panel. This breaker will be sized according to the service the utility
is providing and what electrical panel is rated for. It
provides both 220 volts and 120 volts (with the neutral
return). So if you have 200 amp utility service then it
will be a 200 amp dual pole breaker, if you have 100 amp
utility service then it will be a 100 amp dual pole
This breaker will feed the 2 pole
hot bus bars in the main service / distribution panel that
will have smaller sized breakers feeding individual
circuits through out the home.
Dual Pole Breakers
are really two breakers in the same molding / casing with
each half of it coming in contact with different hot bus
of the electrical panel. They are bridged (either
externally through the switch handle or internally) so that a fault
will trip both sides.
Pole Circuit Breaker
A dual pole circuit breaker
is one that that makes contact with both hot buses on
the main electrical panel. The voltage if measured
between these two hot buses is 240 volts. A dual breaker
that is not dual pole only has contact with one hot bus
can only provide for a 120 volt circuit feed.
These dual pole breakers
are usually meant for circuits requiring 240 volts, such
as clothes dryers, electric cooking ranges, and
Also read the article
Which has additional
CFCI are most often on circuits that
serve areas where water is close by such as bathrooms and
kitchen sink areas. Please read the article called
'GFI Outlet' for
As you can see
in the picture they can come in different configurations.
They are designed to
detect current leakages even in minute amounts, and will
cut power to the circuit when any leakage is detected.
They come with a test button on it which should be tested
at least once a month to ensure they are functioning
properly. You can also get these in the form of an outlet.
Arc Fault Circuit Breaker
These are now being
required in most jurisdictions for bedrooms.
They are designed to
detect arcing / shorting between conductors, and will
trigger / shut down the circuit faster than just with the
standard over current circuit breaker.
Please read the
'Arc Circuit Protection'
for additional information.
Twins, are really 2
individual circuit breakers that are compact and take only
a single slot in the electrical service panel. They are
not bridged but operate independently of each other.
They are a
consideration when more circuit breakers are needed than
the electrical panel has slots for as a full slot breaker
could be removed and replaced with a twin allowing for
more circuits in an existing panel.
common amp sizes are 15 and 20 amps for general purpose
The regular single
circuit breaker occupies a single slot in the service
Nothing over special
in nature but they act both as a circuit shut down switch
and an over current protection device.
highlights the most commonly used circuit breaker types
used in residential homes but are other configurations
Written: June 20, 2013
Proof Read / Released:
July 10, 2013
By: Donald Kerr