Breakers...What's the Difference?
From time to time there may be a need to change a breaker or add one to your electrical panel. Most electrical devices, like switches, outlets and such, can be switched out with another brand without any problems. Breakers, however, are brand specific and require the exact replacement type to function properly in the electrical panel. Because of different mounting techniques, thickness of buss bars, and whether the breakers are press in or bolt on, it is necessary to use the appropriate breaker for the specific panel.
What's Wrong With Using Another Brand?
Although a breaker from another manufacturer may fit in the panel you have, the differences that you don't see may cause a electrical nightmare. Some breakers clamp over the buss bar, while other bolt onto the buss. Some breaker bases clamp onto a mounting bar, while others slide into a groove to secure the breaker. The tension that the breaker contacts are set for is brand-specific.
Will Another Brand Fit?
Yes, another brand, say Bryant breakers, will fit into a GE breaker slot. The manufacturer will tell you that they are not responsible for damage to the panel if you use a different manufacturers breaker.
Snap-in or Bolt-in?
Electrical panels come in different styles for residential, commercial, and industrial installations. While snap-in type breaker panels are used for residential and commercial installations, normally, bolt-in breakers are used for industrial installations where vibration may be a concern and a continuously tight contact is needed.
Same Manufacturer, Different Breakers
Square D has a Q0 series panel that has a different type breaker than their Homeline panel does. They both accomplish the same thing, but the construction is quite different. Notice in the photo how the Homeline breaker(left) physically mounts and how there is no way it could replace the Q0 breaker in the center of the photo. These breakers are even made by the same company, making the breaker selection even more critical. Also notice how the Cutler Hammer breaker mounts. It too is much different. That means, only replace a breaker with an exact match.
How Do I Know What Type Breaker I Have?
The breaker is maker on the side with type and amperage. If you open the panel door and look on the inside cover of the door, there is a label that should also tell you what type breaker that you need.