Are Tandem Breakers Safe?

Tandem breakers, also known as split breakers or double breakers, are used to provide circuits in circuit breaker slots. Due to the irregular size and nature of tandem breakers, there are some electrical rules, codes, and regulations that determine when and where they can be used. Here are a few details that will help you to know if it is safe to use tandem breakers in your electrical work.

What is a Tandem Breaker?

A tandem breaker is a breaker that provides two separate and different circuits in the same circuit breaker slot. Said breaker slot can be completely regular-sized to accommodate a tandem breaker since the split circuit doesn’t require any additional space. The two smaller breakers are already built into the shape and size of the tandem breaker and usually accommodate two distinct 120-volt circuits. Sometimes, electricians will install tandem breakers if all of the circuit breaker slots are taken up and they need an additional circuit installed. The use of a tandem breaker can provide them with an additional circuit without needing to change or update the entire electrical panel. However, there are some safety issues that can come along with using a tandem breaker, especially if one isn’t installed properly. For example, since tandem breakers are half-sized to accommodate their two separate circuits, they tend to overheat a lot more easily than regular circuit breakers. This common overheating might cause the circuit to trip more easily.

How to Install One Safely

Before installing a tandem breaker, you’ll need to check your panel and circuit breaker slots to see if they’ll fit a tandem breaker. Even though most tandem breakers are designed to be the same size as a regular breaker, there can be some small differences that might cause electrical issues. For this reason, there are specific circuit breaker slots designed to accommodate tandem breakers. There may be limitations on the number of slots that can fit tandem breakers, as well as which specific slots should be used. Some panels may only allow tandem breakers to be used in a few of the circuit breaker slots. Other, newer panels might allow tandem breakers to be used in every slot as long as the panel is installed and used correctly. Check your manufacturing labels to find helpful information on where to install tandem breakers.

How Do I Know if a Tandem Breaker is Allowed in My Panel?

If you’re wondering whether or not you can use a tandem breaker on the panel that you’re currently working on, first check the manufacturing labels to find any helpful information. Next, look at the size and shape of your tandem breakers compared with the circuit breaker slots. Sometimes, with more modern tandem breakers and electrical panels, there is a difference in shapes where the pieces should connect. This was created in an effort to keep electricians and homeowners from connecting tandem breakers where they don’t belong. If you see a difference in the opening shape, don’t alter the breaker shape to let it connect to the circuit breaker slot. Instead, use a regular breaker to fill the spot. If you’re in need of more breakers, install a new panel that has more circuit breaker slots.

So, if you’re working on an electrical panel and are thinking about installing a tandem breaker, remember the information found in this article. Tandem breakers aren’t always compatible with different electrical panels, so make sure that yours are compatible before installing them. Make sure that you test the tandem breaker to make sure that it won’t overheat and cause the circuit to trip. If you’re having doubts about using a tandem breaker, don’t hesitate to use a regular breaker and upgrade your electrical panel if needed.

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