Are you planning to increase circuit breaker amps or upgrade your electrical system? If so, you may need to replace your 15 amp circuit breaker with a 20 amp one.
While it may seem daunting, changing and upgrading circuit breaker is a relatively simple job that you can do yourself with the right tools and knowledge. In this blog post on how to change a circuit breaker from 15 to 20 amp, we will cover the steps involved, as well as the safety precautions to take before starting the job.
Read on to learn how to upgrade your electrical system and keep your home running smoothly.
- How to Change a Circuit Breaker From 15a to 20a?
- Why and When to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel?
- Reasons to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel
- What Happens When You Don’t Upgrade
- Tips for Efficient Circuit Breaker Upgrade
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Change a Circuit Breaker From 15a to 20a?
What to Prepare
- Safety wear (non-conductive gloves, rubber-soled shoes, face mask, and safety glasses)
- A multimeter
- A flathead screwdriver (must be insulated to avoid electrical shock)
- A replacement circuit breaker
- A 12 gauge size wire made of copper
Safety precautions before changing circuit breakers
- Wearing Proper Safety Gear
Before attempting to upgrade circuit breakers, make sure you put on your safety wear. They will protect you from any electrical sparks or debris that may fly off during the process.
- Turning Off the Main Power
To protect you from electrocution and prevent any power surges that can damage your electrical devices, turn off the main power supply to your house and the breaker before working on the circuit breaker.
- Warning Others in the Area
Warn anyone nearby that you will be working on the electrical system, so they will not accidentally turn the power back on while you are working.
What to Do
Step 1: Locating the Breaker Box & Circuit Breaker
- Locate the breaker box in your home. It is usually in the basement or a utility room. If you are not sure where the breaker box is, consult your home’s electrical plan.
- Identify the circuit breaker you want to change from 15 to 20 amps. This will be labeled on the breaker switch.
Step 2: Removing the Old 15 Amp Circuit Breaker
- Remove the cover plate from the breaker box to access the circuit breaker. Use a screwdriver to remove any screws holding the cover plate in place.
- Before removing the circuit breaker, use a multimeter to make sure the hot wires are not active. Do so by setting the tool to voltage mode and touching its probes together to see if the reading is 0V.
Afterward, you’ll need to touch one probe to a ground metal surface, whereas the other probe should touch each hot wire. The multimeter’s result will be 0V if the hot wires are not active.
- To remove the old circuit breaker, unscrew it from the electric panel using a screwdriver. Gently pull the circuit breaker out of the box.
- Inspect the wires connected to the old circuit breaker and make sure they are not damaged. Check the electric panel for any signs of wear and tear.
Step 3: Installing the New 20 Amp Circuit Breaker
When you switch a 15a breaker with 20a, it is important to choose the correct one that is compatible with your electrical panel. Therefore, check its label to ensure the 20A breaker fits your panel’s specifications. It’s best to go with a breaker from the same brand as your electrical panel to ensure compatibility and safety.
- Insert the new circuit breaker into the slot where the old one was removed. Push it in firmly until you hear it snap into place.
- Connect the wires to the new 20 amp circuit breaker, following the color-coded guidelines.
The black wire should be connected to the brass terminal, the white wire to the silver terminal, and the green or bare wire to the green or copper terminal. Tighten the screws on the terminals to ensure a secure connection.
Alternatively, you only need to make sure the wires are connected to the same terminals as they were on the old breaker. This would guarantee that your wiring is correct.
Step 4: Turning the Power Back On and Testing the Circuit
- Turn the power back on at the electrical panel by flipping the main switch. Then, turn on the switch for the new 20 amp circuit breaker that you just installed.
- Use a multimeter to test the new circuit breaker and make sure it is operating correctly.
Switch the multimeter to the voltage setting and touch the probes to the screws on the new circuit breaker. The reading should be between 110 and 120 volts.
- Check the circuit for any issues, such as flickering lights, tripping circuit breakers, or other electrical problems. These issues are usually caused by improper wiring or incompatible circuit breakers.
Why and When to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel?
Over time, your electrical panel may become outdated, insufficient, or even dangerous, posing a risk to your home and family. Upgrading your electrical panel can help improve your electrical system’s safety, efficiency, and capacity. And as it reduces the strain on the electrical system, it can also save you money on energy bills.
Below are a few signs you should upgrade your electrical panel:
- If you notice that your lights flicker or dim when you turn on an appliance, your electrical panel could be outdated or insufficient for your home’s needs.
- If your 15 amp breaker keeps tripping, your electrical panel might be overloaded or outdated.
- A burning smell or strange sounds coming from your electrical panel could be a sign of a serious electrical issue. Turn off your power immediately and call a licensed electrician to inspect your panel.
If none of those signs show up, you should change or upgrade your electrical panel at least once every 20 years so that it’s up to safety codes. Plus, whenever you renovate your home, it’s best to upgrade the electrical panels as well to accommodate the possible increased power demand.
Reasons to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel
- Increased Electrical Capacity
Upgrading your electrical panel allows you to increase your home’s electrical capacity, which means you can use more electrical devices and appliances without overloading your system.
- Improved Electrical Safety
Older electrical panels may not meet current safety standards, which can put you and your family at risk for electrical fires and other hazards.
- Accommodate Additional Appliances & Devices
If you plan on adding new appliances or devices to your home, you may need to replace a fuse with a higher amp to accommodate the increased demand.
- Energy Efficiency
A new electrical panel can help improve your home’s energy efficiency by allowing you to use more energy-efficient appliances and devices without overloading your system.
What Happens When You Don’t Upgrade
Not upgrading your circuit breaker can lead to overloading and short circuits, which damage your appliances and electrical system, as well as put your home at risk of an electrical fire. All this can amount to a significant financial loss.
Tips for Efficient Circuit Breaker Upgrade
- When you convert 15 amp to 20 amp, it’s always a good idea to pick a high-quality circuit breaker that is compatible with your existing electrical system.
A too-small or too-large circuit breaker can present problems. In the former case, the breaker will trip constantly, whereas in the latter case, the component may fail to detect an electrical surge, leading to safety hazards.
- Try to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as closely as possible. Don’t forget to take local codes and regulations into account as well.
- Always test the circuit breaker after installation. Only when you’re certain everything is in order should you put the device back into use.
- If the circuit breaker keeps tripping, try resetting the breaker by turning it off and then back on again. Should the issue persist, check the wiring connections to make sure they are secure and linked to the correct terminals.
Otherwise, turn off the power immediately and seek help from an electrician.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to change a 15 amp breaker to a 20 amp breaker
In general, the cost to have a professional change your circuit breaker would be around $150 to $300. This means the price range can change depending on the electrician’s hourly rate, your location, and how complex the job is.
If you’re changing the circuit breaker by yourself, you’ll only have to pay for the device, which costs $5 to $50.
Can you change a breaker without turning off the power?
No, doing so will only put you in danger – it can lead to electrocution or serious energy. It’s important to prioritize safety when working with electricity.
Is it safe to upgrade a circuit breaker on your own?
It’s only safe if you have the necessary knowledge and safety equipment. In all honesty, I’d recommend that you have a professional upgrade your circuit breaker instead.
What happens if I use a 20 amp outlet on 15 amp circuit?
If you use a 20 amp outlet on a circuit with 15 amps, you will overload it and cause problems, like short circuits, that damage your systems and appliances.
What appliances need 20 amp circuit?
Small appliances, particularly those in the kitchen, such as blenders, toasters, coffee pots, and microwaves, rely on a 20 amp circuit.
Can I replace a 15 amp fuse with a 20?
Yes, you can. But you will need to do some testing to make sure that the wires will not become too hot inside the walls.
Can I add more breakers to my panel?
Yes, if there is an available spot. In that case, you might consider adding 20 amp breaker to panel to accommodate small appliances.
How to decide if I need 20 Amp Vs 15 Amp circuit breaker?
What’s the difference between a 15A and 20A breaker?Simply put, a 20A circuit breaker can handle more electrical demand than its 15A counterpart. This makes it suitable for homes that use large appliances with high power demands, such as air conditioners or electric heaters.
The best way to determine whether you need 15 Amp Vs 20 Amp Breakers is by examining your electrical devices’ requirements. Should the manufacturers specify that their electrical demand is higher than 15A, you should get a 20A circuit breaker.
By following the steps and precautions in this guide on how to change a circuit breaker from 15 to 20 amp, you can get the job done with ease and ensure your home’s electrical system is up-to-date and functional. Always prioritize safety and consult a professional if you have any doubts or concerns!
Thomas is the Founder of Powercorecard. He is a licensed electrician with more than a decade (15 years to be more specific) of experience in the electrical industry. He has served in multiple capacities, most recently as the Chief Electrical Officer for a respected electric company. His extensive knowledge and experience are the foundation of Powercorecard, particularly his tabs on cutting edge of new technology.