How to Replace a Circuit Breaker

If one of the breakers in your home trips again and again then you might have a bad circuit breaker. However, before we start telling you how to replace a circuit breaker we should tell you that this is something of an intermediate project.

Unlike some of the other projects we’ve talked to you about this one puts you in close proximity to live wires. If you do it incorrectly you could electrocute yourself, or cause a fire in your home later.

It is absolutely imperative to call an electrician if you are uncomfortable with any part of this process. It’s not rocket science, but you do have to know what you’re doing and be extremely comfortable with what you’re doing before you proceed.

You should also be aware that the problem may not be the circuit breaker at all, at which point you’re going to have to call an electrician in anyway in order to locate the real source of the problem. A short in your home is not something you’re going to be able to solve with DIY techniques.

Before you begin, review our post on how to check for a bad circuit breaker. This is probably going to be your first step since you’re not going to want to mess with replacing a circuit breaker if your breakers aren’t the source of the problem.

If they are the problem, turn off the main breaker. This shuts off all the power in the house, though it does not turn off all the power. There’s still power flowing to your home from the electric company.

Remove the screws and the panel if you haven’t already. Remember, it’s important to keep pressure on the panel to keep it from falling.

Turn off the circuit breaker that you want to replace.

Now you should be able to gently pull the breaker out. It will still be attached, but this will give you some room to gently loosen the screw so you can detach the wire that’s attached to the breaker.

Now you’re going to need to take the breaker with you to the hardware store. It is absolutely imperative for the new breaker to be a match for the old breaker in every possible way. This means that you’re going to need the same brand, same size, same size, everything. There’s no room for error here.

If you have a 1920s farmhouse or other older building that’s never had the breaker box updated or replaced then the hardware store might not carry your brand of breaker anymore. At that point, you’re going to have to call the electrician because you simply cannot mix and match breakers. Doing so creates a fire hazard that’s extremely dangerous.

If you can get the right type of breaker take it home and insert it into the breaker box. It should snap right in with a gentle push.

Re-insert the wire and tighten the screw once more. Loose connections are unsafe, so be careful.

Turn the main breaker back on to restore power to the house. Then flip the new breaker back to the “on” position.

Watch the breaker for a moment, because you’re looking to see whether it immediately trips or not. If it does, you’ll need to call an electrician immediately.

If it doesn’t, you’re in good shape. Gently replace your panel cover.

If you’re in Pittsboro, Carrboro, Wake Forest or anywhere else in the Raleigh area then feel free to give us a call if you feel uneasy about any part of this process or if you hit one of the snags we’ve already talked about. Remember, we offer free estimates and 24/7 emergency service and we’re here to help you.

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