What Kind of Circuit Breaker Is That? A Guide For New Homeowners

Posted on: 13 April 2017

Few things can seem as mysterious to a new homeowner as circuit breakers. They sit inside a big box in your wall and turn off electricity if you flip them. If you know anything more than that, you're about sixteen steps ahead of the average new homeowner. However, one of the many responsibilities of homeownership is learning a bit more about how your home works so that, if the time comes that you need repairs, you can speak coherently with the contractors. To that end, here's a look at the various types of circuit breakers and how to tell which type you have.

Single Pole Breakers

Most homes will have 240 volts of electricity coming into them. Half of this comes into your home on one pole, and half comes in on another. A single-pole circuit breaker is one that controls the electricity from just one of these poles. In other words, it emits 120 volts of current. Regular outlets and lights in your home will be hooked up to this type of breaker, since they generally run on 120 volts. Some furnaces and sump pumps work on 120-volt lines, too. If you look at the switch for a single-pole breaker, it will have just one stem. It will look like a light switch, but placed sideways within your breaker box.

Double Pole Breakers

Double-pole breakers are those that control electricity from both electrical poles. All 240 volts come into them and are emitted. Appliances that use a lot of energy, like electrical ranges, dryers, and water heaters, are usually connected to a double-pole breaker. If you look at this type of breaker, it looks like two connected light switches. They both move together as you flip them from side to side in the breaker box.

AFCI Breakers

If you look at the breakers that control the electricity in your bedrooms, you may notice that they look a bit different from the others. Usually, they are a different color than the other switches and have a "reset" button on or next to them. These circuits are built to cut off the electricity if it arcs in a way that could cause fire. Their presence makes your bedroom a lot safer. You may not see an AFCI breaker in an older home, since older electrical wiring does not always coordinate well with them.

Hopefully you can now look at each of the circuit breakers within your breaker box and tell which variety they are. This should come in handy if you ever need to discuss your circuits with your contractor. For more information, talk to professionals like Enercon  Engineering Inc.