Removing the old circuit breaker and installing a new one is a fairly easy job. You can do carry out this as a DIY project. Circuit breakers connect to the circuits’ hot wires. The ground and neutral wires connect to the found and neutral bus bars.
So, there is no need for changing the neutral and ground wires. You only need to change the hot wires. Keep in mind that hot wires vary depending on the type of circuit. For instance, single-pole has one hot wire and a double-pole circuit has two hot wires.
How to choose the right breaker?
Before replacing the old breaker with a new one, you need to choose the right type of breaker. Although circuit breakers usually do the same thing, they are interchangeable. You can find a wide range of breakers and service panels. Companies manufacture some breakers for use in specific panels.
Besides the brand and the model, you must find compatible ones because choosing the right type of circuit breaker means having the right voltage and amperage ratings for the circuit wiring. For example, a circuit designed for 20 amperes must have a 20-ampere breaker. If you install a 15-ampere breaker on the 20-ampere circuit, it will create a fire hazard.
How to change a circuit breaker?
After choosing the right circuit breaker, the next step is to remove the old one and install the new one. For safety, you need to shut off the main breaker. Also, don’t forget to test the voltage before you touch any wire connections. You must use insulated tools just like the professional electricians use when to opt to work inside a panel.
1. Shut off the main breaker
You are all ready to change the circuit breaker. Begin with opening the service panel door and shutting off the main breaker. This will cut power to the rest of the circuit breakers branched together. Keep in mind that shutting off the main breaker does not mean turning off the power to the service lugs installed inside the panel.
2. Remove the cover of the panel
Loosen the screws that secure the panel cover. Now, lift the cover from the box so that you can see the breakers and the wiring panel. Again, safety is a must. Do not touch anything in the panel. Use safety gloves and stand on the wooden block or something that acts as electrical insulation.
3. Test the Power
You must test the voltage at the double-pole breakers. You can test it on one of the parts of the double pole breaker. It is not necessary to check both. Make sure you switch on the circuit breaker. Now, use a neon circuit tester tool to touch one probe.
Also, to check the voltage on the neutral bus bar, you can use a multimeter or voltage tester. Next, you need to touch the other probe on all the hot terminals of the breaker. You must do this one-by-one. Check whether or not the tester indicates ‘0’ voltage on both hot terminals. If yes, this will confirm the power is completely off to the bus bars of the panel.
4. Remove the old circuit breaker
Removing the old breaker requires you to first grip the inner and outer edges of the circuit breaker that requires replacement. Next, you need to rotate the circuit breaker toward the outer side of the panel. This will release the breaker from the tab on the bus bar.
Likewise, slip the outer side of the breaker from the retaining clip on the circuit panel. This will allow you to remove the circuit breaker from its slot. Keep in mind that the configuration and fastening mechanisms of the breaker may vary. It usually depends on the design of the panel and the circuit breaker.
Next, loosen the screw terminals and pull the hot wire from each of the terminals. Again, remember, a single-pole breaker has one hot wire and a double pole breaker has two wires. These wires are usually red or white or red or black. Now, you need to position the wires carefully so that the bare ends don’t come in contact with anything in the circuit breaker box.
5. Install the new breaker
Now that you have successfully removed the old circuit breaker, it is time to install the new one. Examine the end of hot wires to ensure they are clean without any scorch marks or damages. Trim off the scorch or damaged portion if necessary.
Also, you need to re-strip the insulation to ½ inches. This is the typical re-strip insulation measurements. On the other hand, you can follow the instruction of the manufacturer. The next step is to insert each wire into the hot terminal on the breaker. Make sure you tighten the screws of the terminal in a secure way.
If you are replacing or changing the double pole breaker, you need to connect the first wire and then the second one to the breaker terminals respectively. Both terminals are interchangeable. However, we recommend you to use the same original configuration. Next, fit the outer edge of the breaker in the retaining clip located on the circuit panel.
Then, rotate the breaker’s inner edge down and press it onto the hot bus tab. Continue pressing it until you see that the breaker is in place. It is important to align the breaker with the neighboring circuit breakers. The hot wire of the breaker is neatly tucked around the edges of the box. Otherwise, there is a chance of fire hazards.
In summary, changing a circuit breaker becomes an easy procedure and can be carried out as a DIY project only if you follow the steps given above. Otherwise, there is no need for risking your life.
Do you need an electrician to change a breaker?
How do I know if a circuit breaker is bad?
- Breaker Doesn’t Stay in “Reset” Mode. It is possible the breaker is short-circuiting, but call an electrical professional to check it out.
- Burning smell.
- Hot to the touch.
- Visible damage to the box or outlets.
- Breaker trips frequently.
- Old Age.
Can you change a breaker without turning the power off?
How do I change an electrical breaker?
Can I replace a breaker myself?
How much does it cost to change a circuit breaker?
It costs between $209 and $249 to replace a circuit breaker switch, with most people paying an average of $229. This cost includes a single standard circuit breaker, supplies, and labor, with the work taking a licensed electrician between one and two hours.