Last updated: August 15, 2021

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The safety of a home's electrical circuit is just as important as the circuit itself, because if it is not protected even small irregularities can damage your home's electrical network or worse, all your electronic equipment. That is why the best breaker on the market should not be missing in your home.

The breakers reduce the impact that some problems with the electricity service can bring, thus reducing the possibility of damage to the electrical appliances attached to the network. These devices not only protect your equipment, as some of them can cut off the electricity when someone suffers an electric shock.

We set out to bring you a shopping guide for circuit breakers, so we researched which models are the most sought after, studied what makes them so good and looked at buyer reviews.




The Most Important Facts

  • A breaker, also known as a circuit breaker or circuit breaker, is an automatic device that is responsible for shutting off electricity when it detects electrical hazards. It is primarily used to protect electrical equipment from hazards such as inrush current or short circuits.
  • The main types of breakers marketed are the circuit breaker, which closes the current flow when it exceeds the safety limits, protecting electrical equipment from overloads, and the differential switch, whose purpose is to cut the circuit when it detects an accidental contact between it and the earth.
  • It is ideal that you consult a professional about which circuit breakers your home needs before buying one, otherwise you could buy one that negatively affects the installed electrical system, or puts your health at risk. If you are replacing one or buying spare parts, make sure it is exactly the same as the previous one.

The Best Breaker: Our Picks

Buying Guide: What you need to know about Breakers

If you're not quite clear on what circuit breakers work for, in this section we'll give you the basics on these important devices so you can learn more about how they work, then we'll list the most popular types on the market, and finish by telling you the best places to buy them and their most common prices.

Installing the right circuit breakers will extend the life of all the electrical equipment in your home. (Photo: Francesco Mou / 123rf.com)

What is a breaker and what are its advantages?

A breaker, also called a circuit breaker or circuit breaker, is an automatic device that is used to cut off the current when certain circumstances are met. Circuit breakers are used worldwide in electrical circuits, as they are economical, durable and protect electrical appliances and people from accidents.

One of their main advantages is that they are reusable unless they suffer excessive damage, as the breakers cut the electrical circuit by "dropping" their breakers, saving money on replacements. This allows users to restart the flow of current by simply returning the breaker switch from the "Off" to the "On" position.

Advantages
  • Reusable
  • Long life
  • Easy to use
  • Protect electrical appliances
  • Increase home safety
Disadvantages
  • Dangerous to misuse
  • Need professional installation
  • Incompatible breakers can create problems

Breakers - what should you look out for?

There are a large number of different types of circuit breakers, but in this section we will list the most commercially available for domestic circuits. It is very important to know what they protect against, as well as the different applications they are usually used for.

Circuit breaker

A circuit breaker designed to cut off electricity when it exceeds safe levels, preventing damage to electrical installations against hazards such as overloads and short circuits. It operates on the basis of the magnetic and thermal effects produced by current in a circuit.

Magnetothermal circuit breakers will protect an electrical system when it is overloaded, such as when many power-hungry electronic devices are used at the same time. They also protect against variations in inrush current, and also prevent overheating of the circuit.

Differential

A residual current circuit breaker is a device that will cut off power when a ground fault occurs. This fault can be a passage of current between the power source and earth, or with an object making contact with earth, thus preventing a circuit from being damaged due to loose parts or misuse.

These switches are intended to prevent electrical hazards to people, closing the electrical system when it detects a connection between it and the earth, such as when someone suffers a shock by making contact with any part of the circuit.

Magnetothermic Differential
They protect against Current excesses and short circuits Current leaks
What can trigger it? Many electrical appliances working at the same time Accidental contacts with the electrical circuit
Where is it preferable to install them? In any electrical circuit Damp places such as bathrooms or kitchens
Recommended for Protecting appliances against overloads Protecting people from accidental discharges

It is advisable to get a professional diagnosis of your circuit before making changes. (Photo: Manit Larpluechai / 123rf.com)

Buying Criteria

Buying a circuit breaker can be difficult if you don't know what you need, so we recommend that you speak to a professional electrician for a personalised diagnosis. This is because not all homes have the same electrical needs and they will be able to carry out the installation safely.

Compatibility

Check the electrical panel door of your home for indications, such as the make and model of the breakers used. There is no point in buying replacement models if they do not fit your panel correctly. Choosing incompatible breakers can also lead to serious electrical problems.

  • Brand: On circuit panels installed by professional electricians, the brand of the panel will be the same as that of the circuit breakers. If you are going to buy a replacement, it is very counterproductive to buy breakers whose brand is different from the panel where it will be installed, as they will void their warranties and may cause failures.
  • Model: You should also know that even breakers of the same brand can be incompatible due to different technical specifications. So try to know the model you need by checking the markings stamped on the side of the breakers, or also by looking at the specifications located on the panel door.

Amperage and Voltage

All circuit breakers are designed to operate at a certain amperage and voltage level. These values may be represented on the packaging or printed on the side of the equipment. This will tell you what the limitations of the breaker are and it is important that it meets the requirements of the circuit.

Amperage

This is represented as a number followed by the abbreviation "Amp", or as just a number printed on the handle of the breaker. This will tell you the maximum amount of electrical current the breaker will allow before tripping.

For example, a 15 Amp circuit breaker will cut off the current if it reaches 15 Amp, but will let through a continuous current of 12 Amp. It is important that you know the amperage at which the circuit in your home operates, so we recommend that you consult a professional about this.

Voltage

The voltage of a breaker is calculated by the maximum that can be applied by it and is usually abbreviated by the letter "v". For example, a 120v breaker will be able to withstand a maximum voltage of 120, while a higher rated breaker such as a 240v breaker will be able to supply 240.

This should be selected based on the requirements of the electrical appliances in the home. To give an example, if you will need to use appliances on a circuit that use 240 volts, then you should buy a 240v breaker, as it will be able to allow that amount of power to pass through.

Poles

Breakers are sold in single or multi-pole varieties. Each pole can carry 120 volts of electricity, and will increase the size of the breaker for each additional pole. Depending on how much power you will use in your home, you will need a certain number of poles. The most commonly used in homes are the 1-pole and 2-pole models.

  • 1 Pole: A single pole breaker supplies 120 volts of power to circuits. They are used to protect electrical equipment such as house lights, as well as lower-power devices that are plugged into outlets. The most common models are rated for 15 to 20 amps, but there are more rugged models.
  • 2-pole: These two-pole switches can supply 240 volts, which is the power used by appliances such as clothes dryers, central air conditioning systems and other higher-powered electrical equipment. They usually come in 20 to 60 amp models.

Circuits that are connected to two-pole breakers contain 2 hot wires, which are connected to a different terminal each. When a fault occurs in either wire, the corresponding half will trip and pull down both halves at the same time thus closing the circuit, as the halves are joined by a single breaker.

Special conditions

It is important that you keep in mind the place where you will use the breakers, as there are certain atypical circumstances that can result in incorrect operation of the breakers, which can put your electrical equipment or even your life at risk, so it is important to know what measures you can take.

Temperature

Most circuit breakers are set to operate under a certain maximum ambient temperature. This information is usually marked on the front of the breakers, with the most common maximum ambient temperature being 40 degrees Celsius.

If you use a switch in an environment whose temperature exceeds the marked temperature, it may operate erratically. If, for example, it will be used in a very hot room, the current required to trip it will be reduced, but if it is installed in a cooler room the current required to trip it will increase.

To avoid this you can buy a breaker that is suitable for the temperature, calibrate a standard model to operate under different temperatures than the one it was designed for. You can also buy a panel that includes some form of internal temperature regulation, although these are a little expensive

Humidity

If you will be installing a breaker in an environment where there is a lot of humidity or where temperature changes create condensation, you will need to apply special treatment to avoid damage from corrosion problems or the appearance of mould or fungus.

If, for example, you have your circuit board in the basement or near the bathroom, install a dehumidifier to counteract the humidity so that there is little or no humidity. You can also buy a fully enclosed circuit board that is protected against external environmental factors, which will prevent moisture ingress.

Vibration and mechanical shocks

In case the breaker will be used in a place where it can suffer mechanical shocks such as knocks, you will need an anti-shock mechanism. The same applies if it is in danger of sudden vibrations such as those caused by earthquakes, or high-powered equipment.

Altitude

If you will be installing a switch at an altitude higher than 1800 metres, you will need to buy a special model or calibrate one to adapt it to higher altitudes. This is because at high altitudes, the air draws heat away from electrical components differently than it does under normal conditions.

(Featured image source: Andreiz/ 123rf.com)

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