If you happen to live in the same manufactured home for significantly longer, your will at some point want to replace a defective circuit breaker or add a new one in your electrical panel.
Fortunately, there are so many circuit breakers in the market that are reasonably priced.
With many options available, it is good to know if a branded circuit breaker can go into a different branded panel.
(With that said) Do Circuit Breakers Need To Be The Same Brand As The Panel?
The answer is an absolute yes.
Although circuit breakers may appear to be similar, they are brand specific. Even if two or more circuit breakers look identical, they may differ significantly in their functionality if they are from different brands. For this reason, never attempt placing a different brand’s breaker in an electrical panel of another brand. Although circuit breakers from one brand may fit in another brand’s electrical panel, they will not work properly. Because of this, every manufacturer will recommend that you use breakers that are specifically designed for your brand panel and are the right type. Just because a circuit breaker and your panel share a brand name, it does mean the breaker will fit in the panel.
Different breakers differ in construction, require varying mounting techniques, have different contact tension specifications, and have bus bar thickness differences. In this article, you will find more about why a circuit breaker brand needs to match that of your electrical panel.
What Is A Circuit Breaker?
A circuit breaker is an electrical switch that automatically interrupts the power supply to control and protect electrical circuits within a building from damage caused by excess current flow.
A breaker can also be operated manually. Without these box-like contraptions, your manufactured home would be under constant danger.
How Do Circuit Breakers Differ?
Unlike other electrical devices like light fixtures, switches, and other power outlets that can be interchanged without any problem, circuit breakers are brand-specific.
To effectively and safely control electricity in your manufactured home, circuit breakers need to be the same brand as your electrical panel.
Therefore, whether you are replacing or adding a new breaker to your panel, you must pick the right type.
Let’s face it.
Manufacturers usually design and test breakers to fit their branded electrical panels.
On the other side, Underwriter Laboratories (UL) tests all circuit breakers to ensure they function properly inside their panels without posing any threats. Although it is rare, some manufacturers approve other branded breakers for their panels.
With all that in mind, the challenge is to determine whether a branded circuit breaker will function as designed in another brand’s panel.
Even for breakers that fit in your panel from a different manufacturer, the unseen differences may cause an electrical nightmare.
For instance, the circuit breakers from your panel brand may be designed to bolt onto the bus, while identical peers are meant to clump over the bus bar. Besides, the contact tension may vary between breakers.
So, what breakers should you use? While there is no electrical code that hinders you from using different brand circuit breakers in your electrical panels, safety is only guaranteed when your breakers are the same brand as your panel.
Before letting any other circuit breakers go into your grey box, check the electrical panel for instructions and possibly find other breakers compatible with your brand.
Fortunately, virtually all panels have clear guidelines stating the type of circuit breakers that are compatible with.
Although your electrical panel might allow the installation of breakers from other brands, most panels permit and recommend their own branded circuits.
Long story short, the only worry when using competitive brands circuit breakers in your electrical panel is because those breakers have not been through UL testing. Manufacturers barely (the correct phrase would be – do not) test other brand breakers in their panels.
Note: Using branded circuit breakers in a different branded electrical panel may render your home warranty or insurance void.
What Circuit Breakers Are Interchangeable?
The ugly truth is that there is no such thing as interchangeable circuit breakers; therefore, always match the brand of circuit breakers with that of your panel.
However, you can use suitable UL classified breakers.
UL classified breakers are listed to meet UL and NEC regulations, and, similar to brand specified breakers, UL classified breakers have been tested in panels that they are approved for.
For public safety, remember the National Electrical Code (NEC) 110-3(b) states that using circuit breakers that are not listed is a violation of electrical codes. Code violation will likely result in warranty void, and depending on the terms of the policy, your may lose your insurance.
The Three Types Of Circuit Breakers
Basically, there are three types of circuit breakers. Here is what you need to know about them.
1. Standard circuit breakers
This type of breakers come in two varieties:
- single-pole breakers
- and double-pole breakers.
Single pole breaker s are designed to control the current of a single wire, while double-pole breakers simultaneously monitor the current through two wires.
They are all designed to trip when a wire short out or gets overloaded to prevent overheating. These breakers are common in homes and other structures.
2. Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) circuit breakers
Designed to monitor a line-to-ground fault, GFCIs offer protections when an unwanted electrical path occurs between electrical current and ground element.
They also interrupt electrical power when there is short-circuiting or circuits are overloaded. The code requires you to install these breakers for some appliances in your manufactured home.
3. Arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) circuit breakers
AFCIs interrupt power once they sense arcing or abnormal path.
If you have this type of circuit breaker, they will trip when they detect a damaged electrical cord or when cord coating becomes too thin such that it presents a serious fire risk.
In newer homes, AFCIs are required by code because standard breakers cannot detect electrical arcs.
Six Circuit Breaker Shopping Factors
From time to time, you will want to replace a defective circuit breaker or install one in your electrical panel.
With many factors to take into consideration, selecting the right circuit breaker for your manufactured home can be daunting.
To choose the best breaker, here are some of the things to keep in mind.
1. Maximum interrupting capacity
Interrupting rating is the highest fault current that your circuit breaker can interrupt without causing system failure to itself.
That said, you should install a circuit breaker whose interrupting capacity is equal to or greater than the fault current that can flow through the system where the breaker is being installed.
Installing breakers with a lower interrupting rating will damage the breaker and, at worst, may lead to electrical fires.
2. Voltage rating
When buying a circuit breaker, ensure that it can withstand the highest voltage needed when all end ports are operating normally.
The overall voltage rating that your breaker needs to meet includes the highest voltage that can be applied across all end ports at a time, how the breaker is integrated into the system and the distribution type.
Most manufactured homes have non-continuous loads like lights, stoves, microwaves, and coffeemakers.
With such appliances, you may need a circuit breaker with lower amperage.
Typically, breakers rated up to 600 amperes can be used to electricity with 50-120 Hz frequency, the current frequency allowed residential buildings.
If you’re using any appliance that requires over 120 HZ current frequency, which is nearly impossible in homes, you need to derate your breaker.
4. Operating conditions
Circuit breakers are usually designed to work under different conditions.
With many options available, some can operate in unforgiving environments that others.
If our residential area experiences ambient temperatures, you may want your breaker recalibrated to match the harsh conditions.
5. Continuous current rating
In your home, you will have continuous loads like the refrigerator; therefore, it is imperative to keep an eye on the continuous current rating of the breaker you’re buying.
Standard circuit breakers usually have an ambient temperature rating of 104° F.
6. UL testing
A general rule of the thumb when buying a circuit breaker is to ensure it is UL tested.
While purchasing a UL tested breaker does not guarantee it is calibrated correctly, the overall quality is promising. The breaker should meet UL factory testing and field testing criteria.
After finding an ideal breaker for your manufactured home, don’t overlook the typical concerns like price, size, and delivery time.
If you live in a region where moisture is constant, you will need a special moisture treatment for your breaker to protect it from fungus and mold.
In such a case, another option would be buying a rust-resistant breaker.
When installing, you might require an anti-shock device, especially if your panel is located in a spot with a high mechanical shock probability.
Circuit breakers are mainly meant to control and protect you and your manufactured home from potentially lethal accidents caused by current overflow.
For overall quality assurance and enhanced safety, never install a different brand circuit breaker in your electrical panels.