Double vs. Single Pole Circuit Breakers: Differences Explained

It always has to be a top priority to protect your home from the potentially disastrous consequences that can result when an electrical fault is allowed to develop.

Circuit breakers are designed to provide the first line of defense and help you identify that there is a problem with your wiring or electrical system, in general.

For example, if you fit a really great 50 amp double pole breaker it could make all the difference when it comes to protection. But do you know when you should use a double or a single pole circuit breaker, and what’s the difference between the two?

Let’s take a look.

Get familiar with what’s inside your circuit board

A good place to start when learning about circuit breakers is to take a look inside the circuit board that is the hub for your electrical wiring system.

One of the first things you will notice is that there are two distinct types of circuit breakers.

There will be some single pole circuit breakers and some double pole breakers. Each circuit breaker is designed to work in conjunction with the wire and wire insulation within your property as a unified system.

In simple terms, your system has limits as to how much electricity can run through each circuit, and a breaker is designed to stop the flow of power if these limits are exceeded. They act quickly to stop further damage from occurring or fire from breaking out by tripping the system.

A single pole circuit breaker is usually the one used when handling 120-volt circuits and between 15 and 20 amps. They consist of one hot and one neutral wire.

A double pole breaker is designed to cope with a 240-volt circuit and handle between 20-60 amps. This type of breaker has two hot wires.

Your home electrical system will have been designed to cope with a 120-volt supply to most of the electrical outlets in the property. However, some appliances take a heavier load. This is when you would need to use a double pole breaker so that it can cope with a higher voltage, usually 240 volts.

Spot the difference

When you are looking inside your circuit board it is easy to distinguish between a single and double pole breaker.

Each narrow breaker is a single pole version. You will likely see more of these lined up inside your circuit board. The double pole breakers are easy to spot as they will be the ones that have double switches.

The typical current required to run things like lights and power appliances such as TVs and computers will be protected by a single pole breaker.

Items that have a heavier current requirement such as electric ranges, hot tubs, and air conditioning units rely on a double pole breaker.

Regardless of whether it is a single or double pole breaker they are both designed to trip when an overload is detected.

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the breakers inside your circuit board cabinet and learn what they do to protect you and your home from electrical danger. A breaker is easy to reset once the fault has been identified and repaired.

Knowing how important a circuit breaker is should persuade you to invest in good quality ones for your home.

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