types of circuit breakers

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  #1  
Old 11-18-06, 08:38 PM
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types of circuit breakers

I have a 100 amp GE service panel. I have a few different types of breaker in it. Some are 15 amp and 20 amp single breaker, then there are 2 breakers together w/ one switch that are 20 amp and 30amp( they look like 2 of the single breaker together) THEN there is a very fat breaker that is a double breaker BUT it is the size of 4 single breakers or 2 double breakers. Is there a web site that can explain what these breakers are and what their purpose is.

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Old 11-19-06, 12:16 AM
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I don't have a web site to recommend for learning about breakers.

However, I can tell you that the size of the breaker generally increases as the ampacity rating goes up. The higher the amperage needed, the larger the circuit conductors and the more substantial the internal design of the breaker needs to be - so the bigger it is.

Keep in mind, however, that breakers have a dimensional aspect to facilitate proper fit and maintain a safe proportion of circuits inside the service panel, so their size and shape is a function of these qualities.
 
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Old 11-19-06, 12:31 AM
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"then there are 2 breakers together w/ one switch that are 20 amp and 30amp( they look like 2 of the single breaker together)"

it is likely that these are "double pole" breakers. The provide 240 volts (120 volts from each phase). The 30 amp is likely your clothes dryer and the 20 amp could be something like baseboard heaters.
 
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Old 11-19-06, 06:19 AM
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The one that is the size of 4 is probably your main breaker....something like 60 amps or 100 or 125 or even 200 if it is a very large panel.

Your main issue here is apparently your breakers are not labeled as to what they feed. Get someone to help you check on this. Each breaker should be labeled...."kitchen lights" "clothes dryer" etc. It is important to be able to know how to turn off the various circuits in your house.
 
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Old 11-19-06, 07:00 AM
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When you speak of breakers size can either refer to the amount of current it handles or it's actual physical size. GE breakers come in two physical sizes, full size and half size.

They also come in two types, single pole and double pole. The physical size of the breaker does not usually affect the amount of current (amps) the breaker can carry. The single pole is for 120v. The double pole is usually for 240v and will have two wires. Both the single pole and double pole can have a physical size of half size breakers or full size breakers. A two pole breaker may have one handle or two tied together. The key distinction is it has two wires.

In general the physical size does not affect the amount of current (amps) they control. It is not uncommon to see both half and full size breakers with the same amp rating in the same box. They do the same thing but somewhere along the way the half breaker was used to get more room for circuits. Unless it is marked 100a the very large breaker is probably a full size 2 pole breaker for a furnace or stove.

One final note the primary purpose of breakers is not to protect what is plugged in. It is to protect the wiring and the panel.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 11-19-06 at 07:16 AM.
  #6  
Old 11-19-06, 11:09 PM
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The physical size of a breaker does indeed affect it's ampacity rating.

It is true that you can find some lower amperages in smaller "slim-line" sizes. However, as amperages increase, the conductor connectivity points and internal components must be larger in some manner to physically handle the bigger conductors and higher current levels safely. This is basic physics.

Finally, the breaker is there to protect the wiring, the panel, the stuff that's plugged in, the user, the house, etc.
 

Last edited by rdn2113; 11-20-06 at 01:20 AM.
  #7  
Old 11-23-06, 10:09 AM
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thank you

Thank you everyone for your help. I now have a basic understanding of the box and what's in it.

I will also have a Licensed Electrican come in and help me out.
 
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