ITE Circuit Breakers Tips

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What can I do if I am running out of room in my breaker box?

What Can I Do If My Breaker Box is Almost Full?

When adding new ITE circuit breakers or other brands, you may come to the limit of what your breaker box can physically hold. Some people are tempted at this stage to add mini circuit breakers, but before doing this you should read the building code for your home, apartment or office to see what is allowed. You may not be able to legally install mini circuit breakers except as a temporary measure, and in these cases your building may not pass an inspection until the mini circuit breakers are removed.

In situations like these it is better to install a sub panel next to the main breaker box and run the circuit from the sub panel instead. If you don't know how to do this, it's a job better left for a qualified electrician, but if you are a do-it-yourselfer you can purchase the sub panel and any necessary ITE breakers and get the job done after a bit of research into what your building code may require to do the installation legally. Once you have the sub panel installed, it's a very good idea to have an electrician do an inspection of your electrical system to make sure everything is up to code.

How many circuit breakers can I add to my breaker box?

How Many Circuit Breakers Can I Add To My Breaker Box?

Are you considering putting in additional ITE circuit breakers? There are two things you need to know before installing additional ITE breakers, mini circuit breakers or other types. The first is how much physical space is left in your breaker box to accommodate the new ITE breakers. As you look down the breaker box, you may notice there are some metal "punch-out panels" which can be removed to create additional space for your new ITE circuit breakers. If there are no more of these spaces left, you have a full circuit breaker panel and more breakers cannot be installed. Instead, you will need to put in a sub panel to accommodate the additional circuit breakers.

The second thing you need to do before adding circuit breakers is to check your electrical panel to see how many ITE breakers or other brands it is rated to handle. Do not exceed the maximum capacity of your breaker box even if you have room to install more circuit breakers.

Why does a dual pole circuit breaker work?

What is a Dual Pole Circuit Breaker for?

Dual pole ITE circuit breakers do what their single pole counterparts can't; they allow appliances like washing machines and refrigerators to operate with their higher energy demands without causing an overload. Dual pole ITE circuit breakers are able to do this thanks to their construction. Single pole ITE breakers are used with 220-volt circuits. They have two "hot" or live wires, as opposed to the 120-volt circuit's single wire.

If either one of the 220-volt wires has a short, the dual pole ITE circuit breaker is built to trip and kill the power completely. If an air conditioner were wired to a pair of single pole ITE circuit breakers it could trip one circuit while leaving the other active. This would create a serious hazard. The use of dual pole ITE circuit breakers avoids that hazard completely.

What is a dual-pole circuit breaker?

What is a "Dual Pole" Circuit Breaker?

An ITE circuit breaker with a single pole is used for a 120-volt circuit. A clock radio, console video game or answering machine can run on a 120-volt circuit with no problems as there are no heavy-duty motors, compressors or other high-draw devices which require more from your electrical system. An air conditioner, refrigerator or washing machine demands more. These devices must be run on a 220-volt circuit and for these appliances a dual-pole ITE circuit breaker (or other brand) is required.

The dual-pole circuit breaker allows these high demand appliances to operate safely. In the case of kitchens and laundry rooms, a dedicated circuit is required for items like the dish washing machine or clothes dryer. These requirements are spelled out in building codes for houses and apartment buildings; they are not optional. If you aren't sure what is required for your home, contact an electrician and get some expert advice before you make modifications to your home's electrical system.

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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.