- A single pole circuit breaker is a type of breaker that has a size that fits in one slot of your panel.
- A single pole breaker is rated 15 to 20 amps for a single circuit that provides 120 volts of power service.
- Therefore, it is not safe to be used for a circuit which is rated for 220 volts.
If you have ever taken a peek at your home’s main circuit panel, you have probably noticed 2 different kinds of breakers: single pole breakers and double pole breakers.
Single pole breakers provide 120 volts, 15 to 20 amps and have one hot wire and one neutral wire. Double pole breakers on the other hand, provide 240 volts, 20 to 60 amps and have two hot wires that share one neutral wire.
But, is it safe to use two single-pole breakers for a 240v circuit? Or, can you use two single pole breakers for 220v?
No, you cannot. A two pole breaker contains a common trip, to insure that both sides of the breaker are opened when it trips. But, if you use two single pole breakers, one breaker might not trip, leaving one side of the line connected. Thus damaging your circuits.
I will discuss in detail, the characteristics of both a single pole breaker and a double pole breaker. I will also go through the logic behind, why you shouldn’t use two single pole breakers for 220 volts in this article.
Single Pole Breakers Vs Double Pole Breakers
Single-pole breakers and double-pole breakers differ in the voltage and amperage they provide as well as how they are wired.
Single pole breakers are the narrow switches located on your home’s electrical panel. They are usually used for general lighting outlets, fans, curling irons/hair dryers, vacuums, outdoor lighting, power tools, air compressors etc.
Single pole breakers are wired with one hot wire and one neutral wire (Fig 1). When there is an overload in a single-pole breaker’s circuit, only that particular breaker trips.
Double-pole breakers have two hot wires that are connected by a single neutral wire (Fig 1). That means if there’s a short circuit on either of the poles’ hot wires, both trip. But, is a double pole 20 amp breaker 40 amps? No,putting two 20 amp breakers in parallel will not make a 40 amps breaker.
If you were wondering, “Can I use 2 120v breakers for 240V?”. Yes, if they are double pole breakers, you can. These breakers can be used to serve two separate 120-volt circuits or they can serve a single 240-volt circuit, such as your central AC’s circuit.
Similarly, if you want to know when to use a double pole switch, they are used to control to different circuits at the same time.
Using Two Single Pole Breakers for 220v
It is strictly advised to not use two single pole breakers for a 220v circuit. So, can you use two single pole breakers for 220v? No, definitely not.
Connecting them in parallel would expose both to 240 volts when off. On the other hand, connecting them in series risks arcing when they transition between off and on.
Let’s take a look at some of the other reasons.
Why you shouldn’t use two single pole breakers for 220 volts?
- In systems with two hot lines, you have to use double pole breakers so that both sides trip in the result of a failure. Or if manually cut off they will both be cut off. Otherwise you end up with a partially energized device which can be very unsafe.
- In case of a short circuit on one phase you want the breaker to shut off both hot terminals together. If you use the two single pole breakers they will not be able to turn off the two legs together. This will keep the short from disconnecting properly which will cause a fire and damage your equipment.
- If there is a change in the CB panel, and an electrician may move the position of some breakers, this can cause just one phase to be connected to the appliance, and it will not work, and is a safety issue.
- If one breaker trips and the other does not, the equipment will be carrying 120 volts. If someone works on it without realizing it, they may be shocked.
- Even if you use a 480v 3 phase to 240v single phase transformer, it is still not safe use two single pole breakers for 220 volts.
- It is also against the NEC or National Electrical Code to use two single pole breakers instead of a double pole breaker for 220 volts.
- Damage to certain 240-volt equipment may result if one phase trips and the other phase remains on.
- Double pole breakers have 2 separate circuits that are monitored for over-current. If either has an overload, both circuits are switched off. But in a single pole breaker, only one circuit is switched off.
- If any circuit serves a 120/240V device (which takes 2 hot wires and 1 neutral wire), then common trip is mandatory which is provided only by a double pole breaker. So you must use a double pole breaker in such a case.
These are some of the most common problems that you might face if you use two single pole breakers for a 220-volt circuit.
In this article I have answered the question of, “can you use two single pole breakers for 220v” thoroughly. I have discussed the possible problems that you might face if you use two single pole breakers instead of a double pole breaker and stated the risks of doing so. In short, it is very risky to use two single pole breakers for 220 volts and must be avoided at all costs.