Installing a 240 Volt Circuit Breaker

Fuse box
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    About This Project

    Circuit Breaker
    Adding a 240 volt breaker is not as hard as you may think.

    This tutorial shows you the basic steps of installing a new 240-volt, 30-amp, double-pole circuit breaker for a new 30-amp appliance receptacle (outlet). The circuit includes two 10-gauge black hot wire conductors and a 10-gauge green ground wire conductor for a 3-wire system with no neutral. Some 240-volt appliance circuits use 4-wire circuits that include a neutral (see next slide). Installing a circuit breaker involves working in your electrical service panel (breaker box), so you must be...MORE familiar with the parts of a panel and how it works to ensure a safe installation. This project may also require a building permit, depending on the rules in your area. 

    Warning: Switching off the main breaker shuts off the power to the panel and all household circuit breakers but it does not turn off the power coming from the utility service lines. The lines and the terminals they connect to in the service panel remain live and carry deadly current. Never touch these conductors or terminals while working in the panel.  

    Supplies Needed 

    • Voltage tester
    • Wire strippers
    • Screwdrivers
    • Pliers
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  • 02 of 10

    30-Amp Circuit Devices

    240 volt plugs
    240 volt plugs and receptacles are specially designed for safety.

    A typical 240-volt, 30-amp circuit includes a double-pole circuit breaker, which has two terminals for the two hot wires. The wires usually are black or red, but one may be white if it is labeled as hot with a black or red stripe near each end. A 240-volt, 3-wire receptacle has three prongs (two hot and one ground) to accept a 3-prong plug. Plugs and receptacles for a 240/250-volt circuit can come in a number of configurations.

    A note about 4-wire 240-volt circuits: New electric ranges and...MORE clothes dryers require circuits that provide 120 volts and 240 volts at the receptacle. These use four wires—black (hot), red (hot), white (neutral), and green (ground). The neutral wire is designed to carry an unbalanced load between the two phases of the circuit. The installation is similar to a 3-wire system but includes the fourth, neutral, wire that connects to the neutral bus bar in the panel and the neutral terminal on the receptacle.

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  • 03 of 10

    240-Volt vs. 120-Volt Circuit

    240 volt breakers

    A 3-wire, 240-volt circuit has two hot wires—each supplying 120 volts for a total of 240—and an equipment ground wire. A 120-volt circuit has only one hot wire connected to the breaker plus a neutral wire connected to the neutral bus bar in the service panel (as well as a ground wire). 


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    How to Install a 240-Volt Circuit Breaker: Step 1

    Remove knockout tabs
    Remove knockout tabs in the panel face plate to provide space for the new breaker.

    Turn off the power to the electrical service panel by switching off the main breaker. Remove the screws holding the door in position and carefully remove the door assembly. Remove the cover plate over the breakers (called the dead front panel), without touching any wires inside the panel. Confirm that the power is off by testing the branch circuit breakers (not the main breaker) with a voltage tester. If you detect any voltage at any breaker, call an electrician for help. 

    Remove two knockout...MORE tabs for the new double-pole breaker, if necessary. Knockouts either are loosened with a screwdriver blade and then removed with pliers or are simply grabbed with pliers and bent until they break off. 

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    How to Install a 240-Volt Circuit Breaker: Step 2

    Strip the wire back about 1/2".

    Feed the circuit wires into the box and secure them to the box as needed. Strip about 1/2 inch of insulation from each end of the two black (hot) wires and the green ground wire, using wire strippers.

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    How to Install a 240-Volt Circuit Breaker: Step 3

    10 Gauge Wire Conductors
    Connect the two hot leads to the circuit breaker. Make sure the connections are tight or the circuit will overheat and the breaker will pop.

    Connect each of the two black hot wires to one of the terminals on the circuit breaker. Make sure to insert the wires fully into the screw terminal and tighten the terminal screw securely, using a screwdriver. 

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    How to Install a 240-Volt Circuit Breaker: Step 4

    Insert the breaker onto the knife blades and snap into place.

    Install the breaker into the panel by tilting the breaker so that its tabbed end fits into the slots or mounting bar on the panel housing, then tilt the other end down until it snaps into place on the two hot bus bar knife blades.

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    How to Install a 240-Volt Circuit Breaker: Step 5

    Installed 240 volt breaker
    Installed 240 volt breaker.

    Confirm that the breaker is secure and completely snapped into place. It should be flush with the other breakers in the panel. 

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    How to Install a 240-Volt Circuit Breaker: Step 6

    Ground wire installation
    Ground wire installation.

    Connect the circuit ground wire to the ground bar on the service panel by inserting the stripped end of the wire into an open slot on the bar and securing the wire tightly with the terminal screw. The ground wire must use an open slot on the bus bar; do not connect more than one wire to a single slot. 

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    How to Install a 240-Volt Circuit Breaker: Step 7

    Wiring Connections
    Typical wiring connections for 3-slot receptacle.

    Complete the wiring connections and installation of the receptacle or other device on the circuit, following the manufacturer's directions.

    Reinstall the dead front cover and the door on the service panel. Switch on the main breaker to restore power, and test the new circuit for proper operation.