Power surges are one of the electrical dangers every homeowner should be aware of. This happens when significantly more voltage comes through wires and into devices. These may be due to electrical overload, lightning strikes, faulty wiring, etc. To help prevent this, circuit breakers must be installed.
Circuit breakers are designed to prevent power surges. This is necessary to protect your electrical appliances and equipment from being damaged. This is especially important if you have sensitive equipment, like computers or medical equipment in your home.
If you have an old circuit breaker, you should consider replacing it because it might not be effective enough at protecting your home from power surges or overload.
However, upgrading to find a new circuit breaker might be a challenge, especially when you don’t know what to look for. This guide seeks to ease such concerns by detailing tips you need to consider when looking to select the ideal circuit breaker to buy.
The 6 Tips For Selecting A Circuit Breaker in 2023
Below, We are mentioning The 5 Tips For Selecting A Circuit Breaker That Can Save You Time, Stress, and Money. So, let’s get started…
01: Check The Voltage Rating
While the circuit breaker is primarily meant to prevent current-related irregularity, it’s still crucial to consider its voltage rating. This is necessary because voltage rating is linked to safety and ensures that the circuit breaker can trip safely in the event of an electrical overload.
Therefore, it is crucial to check the voltage rating of American Circuit Breakers before proceeding to make the purchase.
Calculating the circuit breaker’s overall voltage rating is relatively straightforward; you simply need to add the following:
- The distribution type
- The highest voltage which can be applied across the various end ports
- The way the circuit breaker directly integrates into the entire open circuit
Circuit breakers usually come in three voltage capacities to accommodate the different quantities of electricity, and these include:
- High-voltage circuit breakers: They’re typically installed alongside power lines and areas where over 72,000 volts are used frequently.
- Medium-voltage circuit breakers: These are installed in bigger buildings, for instance, businesses, complexes, or apartments. These circuit breakers regularly use a maximum of 72,000 volts.
- Low-voltage circuit breakers: These thermal-magnetic circuit breakers measure up to a maximum of 1000 amperes (A). They’re ideal for single-family homes that don’t have too many power needs.
When choosing a circuit breaker, it’s best to go for one that’s either the same or higher than the open-circuit voltage. Doing this is especially crucial because circuit breakers with a low voltage rating are susceptible to explosion or arcing if a short circuit occurs.
02: Check The Frequency
The frequency of a circuit breaker is another thing you should consider when shopping for one. The ideal circuit breaker should be one whose capacity reaches 600A and with a frequency ranging between 50-120 Hertz (Hz).
If the frequency exceeds 120 Hz, the high-voltage circuit breaker will cut the power. This happens because the iron losses and eddy currents produce more heating inside the thermal components than during higher-frequency applications.
As a result, this requires the circuit breaker to reduce its power rating. The overall period is calculated by factoring in the currency frequency, frame size, and ampere rating. And the greater the ampere rating within a particular frame size, the higher the reduction in power rating needed.
Every higher rate circuit breaker with more than 600A comes with a transformer-heated bimetal recommended for 60 Hz AC maximum. This means tuning will need to be done for 50 Hz AC minimum applications.
03: Check The Circuit Breaker’s Continuous Current Rating
The typical trip current, which is the nominal condition, is another thing you need to look for when searching for the ideal circuit breaker. These nominal conditions refer to the normal voltage levels within a circuit without factoring in the effect of any tolerances and considering the ambient temperatures of 68-77 °Fahrenheit (°F) These nominal levels also consider the normal voltage levels within the circuit without considering the tolerance effects.
When looking for a circuit breaker, you should get one where the current rating uses an 80% utilization. Therefore, if the maximum current that passes through a circuit breaker is expected to be 100A, its rating should at least be 125A. This allows for a 25% margin, and it’s recommended not to be very close to the standard current to prevent false tripping. Knowing this setting also saves you the hassle of installing a circuit breaker used for protecting against high currents.
04: Consider Their Atypical Operating Conditions
The design of circuit breakers differs from one model to another, with some better adapted for tougher conditions than others. This is why you must consider your location when searching for a circuit breaker, and some of the possibilities to factor include:
- High temperature: For the last few years, circuit breakers have been calibrated for use at 77 °F. And if the breakers surpassed this temperature, they needed to be recalibrated. This was mostly because the temperatures inside many enclosures ended up reaching 105 °F.
- Resting position: The installation of circuit breakers can either be done horizontally or vertically and not disrupt capacity or trigger mechanisms. Do not position the circuit breaker in an area open to heavy winds or inside a fixed surface, as it might affect its smooth function. Instead, it needs to be sealed off inside a platform to allow it to sway slightly in high-wind areas.
- Moisture and corrosion: If you live in an area with high humidity, your circuit breaker is prone to corrosion. In such an instance, it would be best to get a specially designed circuit breaker that can handle high moisture content and resist damage. Otherwise, you’ll need to place the breaker in a zone where it’s safe from possible corrosion, such as fungus or mold, which would destroy its smooth functioning.
- Inspect The Physical Specifications
In addition to electrical attributes, such as frequency, the number of poles, voltage, load, trip current, and the circuit breaker’s physical specifications are aspects you need to consider. These physical specifications you should check out include;
- Frame type
- Connections such as Plug-In and Bolt-on
- Mounting such as Panel Mount or DIN Rail
05: Maximum Interrupting Capacity
The maximum interrupting capacity (MIC) of a circuit breaker is the maximum current that the breaker can safely interrupt. This is an important rating to consider when selecting a circuit breaker for your home because it determines how much current the breaker can handle before it needs to be replaced.
Most homes have circuit breakers with a MIC of 10,000 amps or less. However, if you have a particularly large home or one with high-powered appliances, you may need a circuit breaker with a higher MIC. For example, if you have an electric range with 4 burners and an oven, you will need at least a 20,000-amp circuit breaker.
It’s also important to note that the MIC of a circuit breaker can vary depending on the type of load being carried by the circuits in your home. For example, inductive loads such as motors and transformers require more current to start up than resistive loads such as lights and appliances. As such, they may require a higher MIC circuit breaker.
06: Maintenance and Testing
It is important to have your circuit breaker regularly tested and maintained to avoid any potential problems. You should test it at least once a year, and more often if you live in an area with extreme weather conditions.
To test your circuit breaker, simply turn it off and then back on again. If the breaker trips, that means it is working properly. If it does not trip, you may need to replace it.
If you live in an area with severe weather conditions, you should have your circuit breaker tested more often. Extreme heat or cold can cause the breaker to trip more frequently, so it is important to make sure it is working properly.
If you are having any problems with your circuit breaker, or if it has been damaged, you should contact a professional for help. They will be able to properly diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of action.
1. How do I know what size circuit breaker I need?
It’s actually quite simple to determine what size circuit breaker you need. The first step is to find the amperage of the circuit you’re working with. This is typically printed on the faceplate of the breaker itself. Once you have that number, simply multiply it by 1.25 to account for potential surges. That’s all there is to it!
2. What is the 80% rule for circuit breakers?
The 80% rule for circuit breakers is a guideline that suggests that the breaker should be sized to handle 80% of the anticipated load. This rule is not set in stone, and there are circumstances where a different size breaker may be more appropriate.
For example, if the circuit will be used mostly for light loads, a smaller breaker may be sufficient. If the circuit will be subject to large surges of power, a larger breaker may be necessary.
3. How many devices can I run off a 20 amp breaker?
As a general rule of thumb, you can run up to 10 devices on a 20-amp breaker. However, this number can vary depending on the type and size of the devices. For example, if you are running large appliances like air conditioners or space heaters, you may only be able to run 5-6 devices before reaching the maximum load for the breaker.
If you are running smaller devices like lights and laptops, you may be able to run closer to the 10-device limit. Ultimately, it is important to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for how many devices can be safely run off a particular breaker size.
Despite being a simple electrical gadget, the circuit breaker plays a vital role in safeguarding your home by providing current protection and preventing a short circuit. However, shopping for the right circuit breaker for the average homeowner often proves to be a challenge. Just remember the tips above, and you’ll find the right circuit breaker for your property.