How to Replace a Circuit Breaker

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How to Replace a Circuit Breaker

Replacing a circuit breaker requires you to work inside of a live electrical panel. If you are at all uncomfortable with this idea, then you should by all means hire a licensed electrician to handle this task for you. If you decide to tackle the project yourself, be sure to wear safety glasses and use a screwdriver with an insulated handle. You should also make sure that you have shoes with insulated soles, and that you are not standing in water or on a damp floor. Ideally, you should stand on a rubber mat or some other non-conductive material. Make sure that you have a flashlight available so that you can see after turning off the main circuit breaker.

Your first action would be to turn off the main breaker in the panel. Keep in mind that while this action will disconnect the power to the rest of the branch circuit breakers, the panel should still be considered ‘hot since there are still energized wires present in close proximity to where you’ll be working.
Identify the circuit breaker you need to replace. Determine the amperage of the breaker (it’s usually printed on the handle). Next, determine if it is a single pole or double pole breaker. Lastly, identify the type of breaker and the manufacturer of the panel. Any breaker you replace should be made by the same manufacturer. Although other brands may fit in your panel, this action has not been specifically approved and it would violate your panel’s UL listing, making it potentially unsafe.

Once you have your new breaker in hand, you’re ready to begin. Start with turning off the power to the panel. At the top (usually) of the panel is a large breaker that may (or may not) be labeled MAIN. It would also have the highest amperage of all of the breakers in the panel. Turn this breaker off.
Remove the panel cover to expose the breakers. The wires that bring electricity into the service panel (usually at the top) will still be hot even after you switch off the main breaker, so never touch them or lugs they are terminated on. Verify with a meter or circuit tester that all of the other breakers are no longer energized. 
On the breaker you plan to replace, loosen the screw and pull the wire out. To remove the breaker, carefully pry up the edge of the breaker that is closest to the center of the panel, then remove the other edge.

Install the new circuit breaker by slipping the screw terminal end of the breaker under the clip and snap down the end of the breaker that is closest to the center. Insert the wire that you removed from the old breaker into the new breaker and tighten the screw. Leave the circuit breaker off.

After you replace the service panel cover, turn the main breaker back on. Lastly, turn on the new breaker and check to make sure everything is working again.

Wurtsboro Electric Service, Inc.

Licensed electricians serving Orange county, Sullivan county, and Ulster county in New York
(845) 888-8000 

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