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When and How to Replace a Circuit Breaker - Tips and Guide

Updated on March 7, 2011

Circuit Breaker Panel

Circuit Breaker Panel
Circuit Breaker Panel

Some Information about Circuit Breakers

A breaker is especially designed to protect our wires from carrying too much current, it will trip off on an overload or a short circuit. This is why it is very important that you should have a proper sizing for your breakers (i.e #12AWG wire on a 20 Amp breaker, #14AWG wire on a 15 Amp breaker, etc). Most residential homes have their own main circuit breaker and also separate branch circuit breakers which connect to different area of their home.

Typically circuit breaker does not need to be replaced unless it is broken, worn out or not functioning properly. Circuit breakers are designed to reset (unlike a fuse). If a circuit breaker keeps tripping after you flip it, that is because either your breaker has a problem or you have a short somewhere in the circuit. Never oversize a breaker to solve a tripping breaker problem! You can follow the right and safe steps below on how to fix it.

One thing you need to keep in mind when working with any type of electrical gizmo - you are dealing with an electricity, this can cause injury and if not handled properly and carefully, it can even cause death.

Circuit Breaker Replacement

First, turn off the main power but never assume that the breakers are off until you check the voltage on adjacent breakers and confirmed that the breaker panel is dead (you can use voltage tester or voltmeter with this). I assume you already have a new circuit breaker with you. You can purchase it in a hardware store.

Unscrew the face plate of the panel cover and take it off from your panel box. This will give you access to your branch circuit breakers but not the main breaker compartment. You don't need to remove the cover to the main breaker because this should only be accessed by a qualified electrician. By just removing the panel cover, you already can replace the circuit breaker.

Notice there are two wires feeding into the side of your breaker. Do remember which one is in which position.

Now you can loosen the screw that is attached to the white wire first just enuogh to get the wire out. After the wire had been successfully pulled out, you can put a wire nut on its end so that you can bend it out of the way.

Do the same thing with the other side of the screw and colored wire.

Next, pry the defective breaker out carefully of its position and then snap a new one into place. Make sure that the new breaker is locked firmly into position in the panel.

Re-attach the wires in the same positions as they were – colored one first.

Tighten the screws holding the wires and replace the face plate.

You can now turn the power and your breaker on. If the breaker still trips, you probably have a potentially dangerous short circuit. Call a qualified electrician for this.


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