4 Types of Circuit Breakers You Should Know
Have you ever wondered what it means when someone says, “a breaker popped” when the electricity randomly went off in part of the house? Tripping the breaker happens when the unit detects an electrical fault and shuts down to prevent damage to the circuit.
Overloading a circuit is the leading cause of tripping, but a sudden surge of electricity from a short circuit or a ground fault is another possible cause. A circuit breaker that routinely ‘pops’ or trips can indicate that the breaker needs to be replaced.
Dwellings use either circuit breakers or fuse boxes to house the electrical system. When breakers ‘pop’ or trip, they can be reset once the overload is resolved. However, when fuses blow, the fuse needs to be replaced.
What should you know about the four different types of circuit breakers?
1. Single-Pole Circuit Breakers
Single-pole circuit breakers control the electricity of a single circuit, such as the one that controls the kitchen lights. Most homes today are outfitted with single-pole circuit breakers to replace the less efficient fuse boxes. Circuit overload, often due to plugging too many appliances into one outlet, is what often causes this type of breaker to trip.
Single-pole circuit breakers, such as 1-pole Square D 50 amp breaker, deliver 120 volts to the circuit.
2. Double-Pole Circuit Breakers
Double-pole circuit breakers are two interlinked single-pole breakers that control two electrical wires. If one or both of the wires overload, the circuit monitoring both wires trips. These types of circuit breakers handle appliances that use a substantial amount of electricity, including air conditioners and washing machines.
The double-pole circuit breakers sit side-by-side in the breaker panel, and both wires can be reset simultaneously through the same switch.
3. GFCI Circuit Breakers
GFCI is abbreviated from Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. As the name implies, it controls line-to-ground wires and protects from a ground fault electric shock. These shocks can happen when the electricity takes a dangerous path through something electricity shouldn’t pass through, such as a metal pipe, the exterior of an appliance, or a person.
GFCI circuit breakers are used in areas with water hazards, including bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens. Some electrical codes require them.
4. AFCI Circuit Breakers
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) is becoming the standard circuit breaker for new homes and buildings and is required to meet code in many areas. They protect against dangerous electrical arcs. Arcs can occur when electricity jumps from one wire to another. Damaged or old electrical cords constitute a significant risk for an electrical arc.
The AFCI circuit breaker immediately stops the flow of electricity if it detects an electrical arc. Single and double-pole circuit breakers aren’t made for detecting electrical arcs and only trip if they detect excessive heat.
Malfunctioning electrical wires are one of the top causes of home fires. Circuit breakers help prevent dangerous situations by severing power if an issue is detected.
However, not all circuit breakers are equal. Each one has its limited amps and volts it can send or receive. Know your circuit breakers, and you’ll have a safer structure.
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