What’s The Difference Between A Single And A Double-Pole Breaker?




March 01, 2017

If you’ve ever taken a peek at your home’s main circuit panel, you’ve probably noticed 2 different kinds of breakers: Single pole breakers and double pole breakers.

If you’ve ever taken a peek at your home’s main circuit panel, you’ve probably noticed 2 different kinds of breakers: Single pole breakers and double pole breakers.

But what’s the difference between the two?

Well, single-pole breakers and double-pole breakers differ in the voltage and amperage they provide as well as how they are wired.

  • Single-pole breakers: Provide 120 volts, 15-20 amps and have one hot wire and one neutral wire.
  • Double-pole breakers: Provide 240 volts, 20-60 amps and have two hot wires that share one neutral wire.

We’ll take a closer look at the differences between each of these breakers and discuss when you should use one over the other.

Single-pole breakers

Single-pole breakers are the narrow switches located on your home’s electrical panel.



Appliances/circuits they’re used for:

  • General lighting outlets
  • Fans
  • Curling irons/hair dryers
  • Vacuums
  • Outdoor lighting
  • Power tools
  • Air compressors

How they’re wired:

Single-pole breakers are wired with one hot wire and one neutral wire. When there is an overload in a single-pole breaker’s circuit, only that particular breaker trips.



Appliances/circuits they’re used for:

  • Central air conditioners
  • Electric dryers
  • Electric ranges
  • Electric water heaters

Note: While an entire double-pole breaker can be dedicated to the above appliances, double-pole breakers can also serve lower-voltage circuits/appliances (see explanation below).



How they’re wired:

Double-pole breakers have two hot wires that are connected by a single neutral wire. That means if there’s a short circuit on either of the poles’ hot wires, both trip.

These breakers can be used to serve two separate 120-volt circuits or they can serve a single 240-volt circuit, such as your central AC’s circuit.

Have questions about your home’s electrical panel? Ask a Florida tech

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Posted in: Tips

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