How to Change a Circuit Breaker to Increase Amperage

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Turn the power off before attempting any electrical repairs
Turn the power off before attempting any electrical repairs (Image: electricity image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com)

Changing the size of a circuit breaker to increase the available current is a great way to burn your house down, melt an outlet or ruin an appliance. The circuit breakers in your home’s service panel are designed to prevent dangerous current overloads. A circuit breaker is sized to match the amount of electricity the wire can safely carry. If you are having trouble with a circuit breaker that is constantly tripping, the circuit is either overloaded or has other problems. You should install a larger circuit breaker only if the current breaker is undersized for the circuit’s wiring.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Voltage tester
  • Wire gauge
  • New circuit breaker

Turn off the power to your service panel by shutting off the main breaker.

Remove the service panel’s cover. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws securing the faceplate and set it aside.

Test the voltage inside the panel. If the voltage tester does not read zero, check the main breaker again.

Check the wire size on the circuit you want to upgrade with a wire gauge. Consult your local electrical and building codes for recommended sizing.

Pull the old breaker out of the service panel.

Loosen the clip holding the wire to the breaker with a screwdriver and remove the wire.

Attach the wire to the new breaker.

Insert the new breaker into the service panel.

Replace the service panel’s cover and restore power to the panel by turning the main breaker on.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consult a licensed electrician before attempting this.
  • Underwriters Laboratories recommends that 15-amp breakers be wired with 14-gauge wire as a minimum. The minimum for a 20-amp breaker is 12-gauge wire.
  • Do not attempt any work on or in the service panel if your voltmeter reads anything but zero.
  • Using a breaker that is too large for the wiring can cause property damage, injury or death.

References

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