How To Differentiate 1 From 2 Pole Circuit Breakers

How To Differentiate 1 From 2 Pole Circuit Breakers
Photo by Troy Bridges on Unsplash

Negosentro | How To Differentiate 1 From 2 Pole Circuit Breakers | Everyone who has had to make a trip to the basement or the garage to access their home’s electrical panel has probably noticed that there are two different types of breakers in the breaker box. The single and double pole breakers are what most homeowners have to stare back at them when they go into the circuit breaker. And if you’re really curious, you may have wondered why there are two different types and how they’re different, and what service they’re providing your home’s electrical use. Here’s the breakdown on 1 pole and 2 pole circuit breakers.


Your superb Square D 50 amp breaker box has two different kinds of breakers to handle varying voltages. A single pole circuit will provide 120 volts, 15 to 20 amps and it will have a single hot wire and a single neutral wire. Double pole circuits, on the other hand,  provide 240 volts, 20 to 60 amps and it has two hot wires sharing a single neutral wire. Single poles are more narrow and have only one switch. Double poles are wider and have two switches that are joined together to look like one large switch. The electrical load it can safely carry is the main difference, and knowing when to use one over the other is important to the optimal function of a home as well as its safety.

Single Pole Circuit Breakers

The narrow single pole breaker is typically used for the more general and mundale electrical demands. These include:

  • General home outlets
  • General home indoor and outdoor lighting
  • Fans
  • Air compressors

In the event of an electrical overload, the single hot wire and neutral wire will cause that individual overloaded circuit to trip. This will prevent an overload, which can have disastrous effects, including electrical fires. Keep in mind that although there are generic circuit breakers, some breaker boxes require a specific sized breaker in order to function properly. 

Double Pole Circuit Breakers

The wider double pole breaker is typically used for applications that require higher electrical outputs. These include:

  • Major appliances like an oven range and clothes dryer
  • Central air conditioning units
  • Water heaters

Although the double pole switch is best suited for major appliances, it can also be used for other less demanding electric circuits and applications. If one of the two hot wires in the double breaker shorts is, both will trip. There are also two different types of breakers, GFCI and AFCI. The GFCI will trip when there’s a problem with the line to ground fault. They are particularly useful in wet areas like bathrooms and laundry rooms because they can detect overlords or shorts. The AFCI will trip when there is an arc fault in the electrical wiring of the home. It will detect a significant increase in heat, which could lead to an electrical fire.

Generally, the two types of breakers are easy to differentiate, but if you’re feeling uncomfortable or unsure about handling them, it’s a smart idea to speak with a licensed electrician who can guide you or take care of upgrading your home’s electrical panel. Modern living has increased the electrical demands we place on our homes and the larger electrical grid, so choose your panel and breakers with care.

Photo by Troy Bridges on Unsplash

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