If you are trying to decide what size and type of circuit breaker to buy, you’re in the right spot. There are several crucial considerations to think about when you’re buying a circuit breaker. Each factor affects the performance, safety, and longevity of the part. To help you make the right choice, we put together a detailed guide on the top six things to consider when buying a circuit breaker for your home.
1. Voltage Rating
The voltage rating of a breaker is a measure of the electrical potential it can manage; selecting an appropriate rating avoids overloading and related dangers. It is essential to check the voltage rating of a circuit breaker before buying it to make sure it is compatible and safe to use. Failure or malfunction could result from exceeding the voltage specification.
The voltage of 120/240 volts is the most common for home circuit breakers. Because of its dual-voltage structure, it is compatible with most home electrical systems. Larger equipment, such as electric stoves, dryers, and air conditioners, needs 240 volts of electricity, whereas standard outlets and lights usually only use 120 volts.
2. Maximum Interrupting Capacity
If you want to be sure that a circuit breaker can withstand any short circuits without causing electrical fires or damaging the system as a whole, you should check its maximum interrupting capacity (MIC). MIC values between 10,000 and 22,000 amperes are common for residential circuit breakers. Catastrophic repercussions may result from exceeding the MIC. The best way to determine MIC is to talk to an electrician, look over the house’s wiring, and think about any anticipated future upgrades.
Verifying a circuit breaker’s frequency compatibility is another important step before buying one. The majority of North American households have an electrical system that operates at a frequency of 60 Hz, although in many other regions of the globe, the standard is 50 Hz. To avoid performance problems and possible damage, check that the circuit breaker is in sync with the local frequency. This will ensure that it works well and that you are safe around electricity.
4. Continuous Current Rating
Maintaining a safe and dependable electrical system requires taking into account the varying current needs of the home and its appliances. The specifications, which are usually labeled on circuit breakers, will allow you to verify their continuous current rating (CCR), which represents the maximum current that a breaker can reliably tolerate before tripping. It is essential to evaluate CCR to make sure the breaker is in line with the anticipated load. This is very important for avoiding overheating and failures. Circuit breakers that are adequate for regular domestic appliances and lighting circuits usually have CCRs ranging from 15 to 20 amperes.
5. Atypical Operating Conditions
Always keep the installation location in mind when choosing a circuit breaker. Every breaker is unique; some work better in harsher conditions than others.
Extremely Hot Weather
Circuit breakers exposed to extremely high temperatures tend to endure heat stress. This hastens the aging process, weakens insulation in the electrical system, and can even cause certain outlets and appliances to stop working. Certain circuit breakers work better in hot environments, including thermal-magnetic and molded-case circuit breakers. For maximum performance and durability, choose a breaker whose temperature rating is suitable for the anticipated environment. Disregarding temperature factors can reduce the breaker’s efficiency, cause more tripping, and lead to safety issues.
Moisture and Corrosion
Longevity, reduced failure risk, and improved electrical system safety and dependability are all benefits of using a breaker built for humid circumstances. Circuit breakers are susceptible to corrosion, insulation failure, and an increase in the likelihood of electrical problems when exposed to high humidity. If the breaker becomes wet, the insulation might melt, and the metal pieces could corrode. Think about how humid the area will be where you plan to install the circuit breaker before you buy it. Choose breakers made of materials that are resistant to moisture intrusion and have the proper seals and coatings. Weatherproof and molded-case circuit breakers both feature robust designs that protect them from humidity.
High Chance of Shock
It’s also important to take electric shock risks into account when buying a circuit breaker, especially if you plan to install it in a place that is prone to electrical shocks. Exposure to moisture, water, or corrosive chemicals enhances the probability of electrical failures and raises the danger of shock. To reduce danger, choose breaker types made for extreme conditions, such as those with high ingress protection (IP) ratings. It’s also important to choose breakers that are resistant to corrosion, feature watertight seals, and have strong insulation.
Air density and cooling efficiency both change as you go higher in altitude. At higher altitudes, the reduced air density can diminish the cooling capacity of breakers, which impacts their thermal efficiency. To ensure the circuit breakers you choose are right for the installation’s altitude, you should read the manufacturers’ instructions carefully.
Thermal magnetic and molded-case circuit breakers tend to work well at lower altitudes. If you need to install a circuit breaker at a higher altitude, you’ll want to consider using vacuum circuit breakers or SF6 gas circuit breakers due to their excellent insulating characteristics and ability to continue functioning in lower-density environments.
Whether a circuit breaker stays open or closed while not in use greatly affects the model to choose. Certain breaker designs have certain resting positions that affect how they react to power failures or malfunctions. For instance, when it comes to medium-voltage vacuum circuit breakers, it’s common practice to spring-charge them in the closed position, making them ideal for critical applications. Conversely, air circuit breakers may be left open for added safety during servicing.
Most circuit breakers in homes stay in the closed position while not in use. In a live circuit, the breaker opens the way for current to flow. The circuit breaker will cut power in the case of an overload or malfunction, cutting off the supply and protecting users from harm. This layout makes sure that, by default, power stays flowing, which means that all of the home’s linked electronics and appliances will have power without interruption.
6. Compatibility With Appliances
For the purpose of avoiding overloads and guaranteeing trouble-free operation, it is essential to verify that a circuit breaker is compatible with all of your household’s appliances. The best way to avoid tripping and damage to appliances is to match the breaker’s current rating to their needs. Small circuit breakers, such as MCBs and RCCBs, are typical in residential electrical systems. While RCCBs improve safety by identifying ground faults, MCBs safeguard individual circuits.
Finch Home Solutions is here to help you choose the right circuit breaker for your home. We also help Shakopee, MN, homeowners with EV charging, lighting upgrades, smoke alarm installation, ceiling fan wiring, and much more. Give us a call today to learn more about picking the right circuit breaker.