6 Steps To Follow For Easy Main Breaker Replacement

A main breaker, or circuit breaker, is a safety device that automatically switches off the power to an electric circuit if there is a fault. It also guards against overloading and shorting.

The main function of a circuit breaker is to protect the electrical system from damage by isolating it from the source of the problem. Circuit breakers are usually found in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.

Circuit breakers are not just for home use but also in industries like manufacturing plants and hospitals. They are designed to protect equipment from fires or other dangers caused by electricity.

While replacing a circuit breaker, one should ensure they are qualified for the job. Otherwise, they can damage the electrical system and even injure themselves. One should also ensure they have the right tools before replacing a circuit breaker. They should also know what kind of circuit breaker they need to replace and where it is located to avoid any mistakes.

In this article, I will guide you on how you can get the job of a main breaker replacement done all by yourself!

How To Replace Your Main Breaker In 6 Easy Steps

StepsEstimated Required Time
Switch The Main Power Off10-15 minutes
Take The Breaker Panel Cover Off20-40 minutes
Remove The Circuit Breaker60-120 minutes
Detach The Wires30-60 minutes
Connect The Wires With The New Circuit Breaker60-120 minutes
Connect The Main Breaker60-120 minutes

Step 1: Switch The Main Power Off

Technicians often replace a single circuit breaker without turning off the main power source.

Still, for a homeowner conducting this task, it is advisable to turn off the main power source. You should also cut off the electricity to the two hot bus bars that enter the service panel.

Required Tools

  • Safety glass.
  • Safety gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Flashlight.


  • Find the main circuit breaker, then switch it to the OFF position.
  • The panel’s branch circuits will now all be turned off.
  • Ensure you have a flashlight because you may now be in the dark.
  • When turning a circuit breaker on or off, always remain at one side of the main breaker panel and keep your eyes off the panel until the process is completed.
  • Wear safety glasses every time you are working with the main breaker.
  • Never ever touch the incoming service lines’ bare wires or service lugs.

Step 2: Take The Breaker Panel Cover Off

Required Tools

  • Safety glass.
  • Safety gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Flashlight.


  • Unscrew the screws that are attaching the panel cover plate.
  • Remove the corner screws first, then take out the central two screws.
  • Hold the cover to prevent it from falling to the ground, then loosen the two last screws.
  • As you remove and set aside the cover, be cautious not to let it tip into the panel.

Step 3: Remove The Circuit Breaker

Required Tools

  • Safety glass.
  • Safety gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Flashlight.


  • Find the main breaker once the lid has been removed.
  • Shut down the breaker by moving the reset lever to the OFF position.
  • If the black insulated circuit wire attached to the breaker is securely curled along the panel’s sides, gently release it from the panel.
  • Avoid touching the panel itself or any other wiring.
  • Carefully grab the edge at the inner center of the panel to turn the old breaker outward toward the panel’s outer side.
  • The breaker should release and move away from the panel easily.
  • Do not touch the metal bus bar at the breaker’s connection.
  • The breaker is likely to be neutral after removing it from the panel because it is no longer in direct contact with either of the hot bus bars.

Step 4: Detach The Wires

  • Safety glass.
  • Safety gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Flashlight.

Required Tools


  • By turning the screw terminal holding the wire, you can unplug the black circuit wire from the breaker.
  • A 240-volt breaker will have two hot wires, typically red and black.
  • When swapping out an AFCI or GFCI circuit breaker, note the neutral circuit wire connection on the main breaker and the coiled white pigtail wire that connects to the neutral bus bar in the panel.
  • These components are crucial to the proper functioning of the circuit and should be handled with care during the replacement process.
  • Loosen these wires.
  • Detach the bus bar wire by removing the wire from its lug on the bus bar and freeing the set screw.

Step 5: Connect The Wires With The New Circuit Breaker

Required Tools

  • Safety glass.
  • Safety gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Flashlight.


  • Before installing the new breaker, turn the breaker reset lever to the OFF position.
  • To attach the new circuit breaker, simply tuck the bare end of the black circuit wire underneath the screw terminal of the breaker and secure it by tightening the screw.
  • This terminal may have the labels LOAD or LOAD POWER on various breakers.
  • If you’re replacing a GFCI or AFCI breaker, connect the white neutral circuit wire to the correct screw terminal on the new breaker. This will help ensure that your circuit operates safely and efficiently.
  • There may be a NEUTRAL or LOAD NEUTRAL sign at this terminal.
  • To properly connect the coil-tethered white wire to the circuit breaker, you’ll need to attach it to a screw terminal on the neutral bus bar. This will complete the circuit and help ensure your electrical system’s safe and reliable operation.
  • Many modern GFCI and AFCI breakers include “plug-on” neutrals, eliminating the requirement for coiled wire.

Step 6: Connect The Main Breaker

Required Tools

  • Safety glass.
  • Safety gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Flashlight.
  • New circuit breaker.


  • Put the replacement breaker in place by pushing it forward and hooking the back of it into the back holder clip on the main breaker panel.
  • Sometimes, a little force will be needed to do this.
  • As you install it, ensure the breaker is aligned with the bus bar.
  • You should hear a click as the breaker latches into the hot bus bar.
  • Fold the extra wire neatly into the open space along the panel’s side and tuck it inside.
  • Remember not to touch any other wires or metal components.

8 Signs That You Need To Replace Your Main Breaker Panel

Although you generally don’t think about your electrical panel daily, it is crucial to make sure it is functioning properly because it is the key to your home’s electricity supply.

Here are 8 indicators that it’s time to update your main circuit breaker.

  • Even if your main breaker panel is still in good condition but over 25 years old, you should replace it.
  • If your main breaker panel has under 150 Amperage, you should replace it.
  • Your breaker panel may still work on the fuse. If the amount of electricity running through the breakers is too large, they will just flip, but fuses will really burn out. That’s why you need to replace it.
  • If your electrical panel feels hot to the touch or has a burnt smell, there may be a serious issue, and the panel needs to be replaced.
  • Circuit breakers can protect you against overloaded circuits, but if they trip too frequently, it may be time to upgrade your breaker panel.
  • Replace your main breaker panel immediately if you notice any water damage to your panel, rust, or corrosion.
  • If you hear buzzing or crackling from your electrical panel, which should be quiet, it’s a sign that your breaker panel needs to be replaced.
  • Your electrical panel should be examined and replaced if something runs into or falls on it. Electrical panels that are damaged pose a fire risk.

Final Words

It’s not difficult to change your main circuit breaker. Following just a few simple procedures ensures that your main circuit breaker is replaced correctly and without any issues.

For instance, you must connect the wires properly to avoid several problems when changing your circuit breaker.

Additionally, this article is for you if you’re interested in learning how to replace them.


How much does it cost to replace a single breaker?

Costs for parts and labor vary between $100 and $200 when replacing a circuit breaker switch.

Costs for bigger 20-amp switches range from $10 to $20, while prices for the 15 to 20-amp switches range from $5 to $15 each.

How much does it cost for a main breaker?

Depending on your electrical system, replacing the entire breaker panel may cost you between $500-$2000 USD.

How long does a main breaker last?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that electrical breakers normally have a lifespan of 30 to 40 years.

Your circuit breaker’s lifespan will be impacted by electrical problems, including low power ratings and unpredictable voltages.

How long does it take to replace a main breaker panel?

It can take between 4 and 8 hours to replace an electrical panel, not including any new wiring or moving the panel.

The cost of the electrician’s labor may rise, frequently from $100 to $450, if they need to access wire inside the walls.