Circuit breakers are an essential safety feature of a modern electrical installation. By cutting the supply when the current reaches a dangerous level, they protect against shocks and electrocution and greatly reduce the risks of fire from faulty appliances.
Unlike traditional fuses, circuit breakers can be reset at the flip of a switch rather than needing replacing. This makes it much easier to get the ideal balance of safety and convenience.
Learn more about what to look for in a replacement electric breaker in your load center below.
Amps are a measure of electric current and every circuit breaker has a maximum amperage rating. When the current goes higher than the rating, either through a fault, short circuit or overload, the breaker will trip and cut off the juice almost immediately.
There are two things to bear in mind when choosing a circuit breaker with the right amp rating. First, the rating should never be higher than the amp limit of the circuit it's protecting or it won't trip quickly enough to prevent damage.
Second, every breaker should have an amp rating high enough to cope with all the appliances on the circuit working at once. Placing a low-amperage breaker on a circuit laden with washing machines, dishwashers and so on will mean inconvenient supply cuts when there's no actual danger.
Number of Poles: 2-Pole and Single Pole Breakers
The number of poles of a circuit breaker is simply the number of live electric wires it protects. A single pole circuit breaker covers one wire and takes up one place in the panel while 2-pole breakers cover two wires and take up two places and so on.
Types of Protection
There are three main types of circuit breakers offering different kinds of protection.
- Standard: These are the least complicated types of circuit breakers and protect against circuit overloads and short circuits.
- GFCI Breakers: Ground fault circuit breakers, or GFCI breakers, detect when there's a direct electrical connection between the live supply and the earth, usually because of a fault in an appliance or the wiring. GFCI circuit breakers are excellent for protecting against shocks and are the ones to use in areas with high moisture levels, such as kitchens, bathrooms, basements and outdoors.
- AFCI Breakers: Arc fault circuit breakers, or AFCI breakers, protect against excessive electrical arcing. A small amount of arcing often happens when any light switch is flipped, but any larger sparks caused by faults will trip the breaker to reduce the risks of fire.
Many circuit breakers combine all three types of protection and usually make the best choice unless there's a specific reason to use a single type.
With safety being such an important part of any electrical installation, it's important to install circuit breakers from a brand you can trust. Our range includes Square D breakers, Eaton Cutler-Hammer breakers and more from top names like GE and Zinsco, so you know you'll be buying a breaker you can rely on.
Your home's electrical installation isn't something to risk. If you're unsure of how to proceed, consult a professional electrician. The friendly experts at Ace are also here to help with any questions around electrical breakers, hardware and accessories, so please contact us online, or call into your local store today.