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What’s the Difference Between a Single and a Double-Pole Breaker?

If you’ve ever taken a peek at your home’s main circuit board, 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 board, 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 board, 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.

Single Pole Breaker

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).

Single Pole Wiring Vs Double Pole Wiring 1

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

Need to replace a breaker or have general questions about your home’s electrical system?

Just contact us. We’re here to help.


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