Over the course of living in the same house for years, you'll inevitably have the need to either replace a defective circuit breaker or add one to your electrical panel. That is, of course, if you have a circuit breaker panel, not a fuse panel.
With so many different manufacturers of breaker panels, the prices of different brands of breakersvary. Although circuit breakers appear similar, there are many differences between the brands. Never place a different brand circuit breaker in a circuit breaker panel of a different brand. Contrary to the belief that they are all the same and will work in any circuit breaker panel, the fact is just the opposite. Circuit breakers may actually fit, but not properly. So you may be wondering if just any old brand of a breaker will work in your electrical panel. Can you just buy the cheapest one and make it work? Obviously, the answer is no.
Unlike most electrical devices like switches and outlets, circuit breakers are brand specific. In fact, the manufacturers will tell you to only replace or add breakers specifically designed for that brand panel. Even more, only use the type of breaker recommended for the panel.
Consider the manufacturer's recommendations and the UL ratings. Electrical panels and their circuit breakers are tested under extreme conditions to ensure that the circuit breaker panels and circuit breakers meet and often exceed safety regulations. This form of testing earns the UL listing and should give you, the consumer, a feeling of comfort knowing the product has been tested and deemed safe. For you, this means years of safe and reliable product use.
Just because the name brand is the same doesn't mean it will fit in your panel. Because of different mounting techniques, buss bar thicknesses, breaker contact tension specifications, and overall construction differences, these breakers are not interchangeable. In fact, placing another brand of a breaker in a breaker panel could cause an electrical malfunction.
Circuit breakers have markings stamped on the side of them and are usually located inside the panel cover door. There is a label that will tell you what type of breaker is needed for installation in that particular panel. On the market, there are home and commercial circuit breaker panels. Each has its own specific circuit breakers. Some just snap in while others actually bolt in.
Installing a circuit breaker in a circuit breaker panel is easy enough, that is, as long as it is designed for that panel. Yes, there are some breakers that will actually fit in other manufacturers panels, but they are not warrantied by your panel's manufacturer and should not be used.
Your local electrical supply shop, hardware store, or home improvement store will have a selection of appropriate electrical supplies to aid in your search. Normally, one or more of the employees can guide you to the right circuit breakers for the specific electrical panel you have in your home.
There are standard circuit breakers and also some specific circuit breakers. GFCI circuit breakers can be used to control many outlets in your home needing ground fault protection. Arc fault breakers can protect circuitry in your home from things like defective switches and light fixture troubles. Either way, choose your breakers carefully.