how to change a circuit breaker in electrical panel


Why It's Important to Know How to Change a Circuit Breaker in an Electrical Panel

If you're a homeowner or have ever dealt with electrical issues, you know that circuit breakers play a vital role in keeping your home safe. A circuit breaker is an automatic electrical switch that protects the electrical circuit from damage caused by excess current. Over time, circuit breakers may need to be replaced due to wear and tear, faulty wiring, or electrical overloads. Knowing how to change a circuit breaker in an electrical panel is a valuable skill that can save you time and money, as well as ensure the safety of your home and loved ones.

Changing a circuit breaker may seem daunting, especially if you have little to no experience with electrical work. But fear not! With the right knowledge and precautions, you can successfully replace a circuit breaker without any trouble. In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of changing a circuit breaker in an electrical panel. So, roll up your sleeves and let's get started!

Preparing for the Task: Safety First!

Before you begin any electrical project, it's essential to prioritize safety. Working with electricity can be dangerous, so taking proper precautions is crucial. Here are a few safety measures you should always follow when changing a circuit breaker:

- Turn off the power: Before you touch anything in the electrical panel, switch off the power supply to avoid electric shocks. Locate the main electrical panel in your home and switch off the main breaker or disconnect the power at the meter.

- Use personal protective equipment (PPE): Wear safety goggles, gloves, and non-conductive footwear to protect yourself from potential electrical hazards.

- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby: Although it's unlikely, electrical fires can happen. Having a fire extinguisher readily available can help contain and extinguish any potential fires that may occur.

- Work in a well-lit area: Proper lighting will help you clearly see what you're doing and reduce the chances of making mistakes or causing accidents.

With these safety precautions in mind, you can proceed with changing the circuit breaker in your electrical panel with confidence.

Gathering the Necessary Tools and Equipment

Before you dive into the process of changing a circuit breaker, it's important to have all the required tools and equipment within reach. Here's a list of items you'll need for the task:

- Screwdriver: An insulated screwdriver is essential for safely removing the screws and fasteners in the electrical panel.

- Voltage tester: This handy tool allows you to identify whether a circuit is energized or not.

- Pliers: Needle-nose pliers will help you manipulate wires and remove any connections if necessary.

- Wire strippers: You may need wire strippers to remove insulation from the wire ends for proper connections.

- New circuit breaker: Ensure you have the correct replacement circuit breaker that matches the specifications of the panel and the electrical load requirements.

With these tools in hand, you're ready to begin the process of changing a circuit breaker in your electrical panel.

Step 1: Turning Off the Main Power Supply

Your safety should always be the top priority when working with electricity. Before proceeding with any work on the electrical panel, make sure to turn off the main power supply. Here's how:

1. Locate the main electrical panel in your home. It is usually installed in the basement, utility room, or garage.

2. Open the panel door by unscrewing the fasteners holding it in place. Use a screwdriver to carefully remove the screws and set them aside for later.

3. Once the panel door is open, you will see rows of circuit breakers. Look for the main circuit breaker, usually labeled "Main" or "Main Disconnect."

4. Turn off the main circuit breaker by flipping the switch to the "Off" position. You should hear a click, indicating that the power is now disconnected.

5. Use a voltage tester to verify that the power to the panel is off. Place the voltage tester on the terminal screws of one of the circuit breakers. If the voltage tester does not light up or make any sound, it confirms that the power is indeed off.

Turning off the main power supply ensures that you can work safely without the risk of electric shocks or short circuits.

Step 2: Removing the Old Circuit Breaker

Once the power is off, you can now remove the old circuit breaker from the electrical panel. Follow these steps:

1. Identify the circuit breaker you wish to replace. Look for the one that corresponds to the area of your home or the specific electrical circuit you're addressing.

2. Carefully remove the wires connected to the circuit breaker. Use pliers if necessary to pull out any stubborn connections.

3. Make a note of the order and arrangement of the wires on the old circuit breaker. This will help you reconnect the new circuit breaker correctly.

4. Unscrew the screws or fasteners holding the old circuit breaker in place. Gently slide it out of its slot.

5. Place the old circuit breaker aside and prepare for installing the new one.

Removing the old circuit breaker is a critical step in the process. Take your time and ensure you keep track of the wires and connections to make reinstallation easier.

Step 3: Installing the New Circuit Breaker

With the old circuit breaker removed, it's time to install the new one in its place. Follow these steps:

1. Take the new circuit breaker and align it with the vacant slot in the electrical panel. Be sure it matches the specifications of the panel and the electrical requirements.

2. Position the circuit breaker correctly and gently slide it into place. Ensure it fits snugly and securely in the panel.

3. Screw in the fasteners to secure the circuit breaker in place. Tighten them but avoid over-tightening, as it may damage the breaker or the panel.

4. Reconnect the wires to the new circuit breaker. Refer to the notes you made earlier to ensure each wire goes back to its proper place.

5. Tighten the wire connections using pliers, ensuring they are secure and firmly connected.

Installing the new circuit breaker properly is crucial for its efficient and safe operation. Take your time during this step to avoid any mistakes.

Step 4: Testing the New Circuit Breaker

Once the new circuit breaker is installed, it's essential to test its functionality before restoring power to your home. Follow these steps:

1. Ensure all wire connections are tight and properly secured to the new circuit breaker.

2. Turn on the main circuit breaker by flipping the switch to the "On" position.

3. Once the main power supply is restored, check the new circuit breaker's indicator light. Most modern circuit breakers have a visual indicator to show whether they are functioning correctly.

4. Test the circuit connected to the new breaker to ensure it is receiving power. You can use a voltage tester or, better yet, plug in a device and see if it works.

If the indicator light on the new circuit breaker is on, and the circuit is receiving power and functioning correctly, your installation was successful.

Step 5: Restoring Power and Final Checks

Congratulations on successfully changing the circuit breaker in your electrical panel! However, before wrapping up the project, it's essential to take a few final steps to ensure everything is in order:

1. Double-check all wire connections to make sure they are secure and properly tightened.

2. Close the electrical panel door and fasten the screws to secure it in place.

3. Turn on the main circuit breaker by flipping the switch to the "On" position. Confirm that power is restored to your home and all circuits are functioning correctly.

4. Perform a visual inspection of the panel and surrounding areas for any signs of damage, loose connections, or overheating.

By following these steps and conducting the necessary checks, you can be confident in the successful replacement of your circuit breaker.


Knowing how to change a circuit breaker in an electrical panel is an important skill for any homeowner. It allows you to quickly and safely address electrical issues, preventing potential damage and ensuring the safety of your home. Remember always to prioritize safety, gather the necessary tools, and follow the step-by-step process outlined in this article.

If you're unsure or uncomfortable working with electricity, it's best to consult a qualified electrician. They have the expertise and experience to handle electrical issues professionally and safely.


Just tell us your requirements, we can do more than you can imagine.
Send your inquiry

Send your inquiry

Choose a different language
Current language:English