Circuit breakers are one of the most important components of electricity. However, like all electrical parts, circuit breakers tend to go bad and must be replaced. When that happens, it’s vital to know what kind of breaker you need and whether or not you can get a different brand than what you currently have.
While several brands of circuit breakers are interchangeable with one another, most of them aren’t. Many different manufacturers make breakers and panel boxes, and they all put their own unique twist on the designs. As a result, most brands of breakers can only get used with the panel box of the same brand.
Using a brand that is not interchangeable can cause the circuit breaker to not connect properly to the bus bar, or be uneven or loose-fitting which can cause arcing which can result in an electrical fire.
In this article, we’ll look at different types and brands of breakers and list which ones are interchangeable with each other. Hopefully, at the end of this article, you’ll have a good idea of your circuit breaker options, regardless of which brand you currently use.
How are Circuit Breakers Different?
The first thing you need to understand about circuit breakers is that they’re all different depending on the brand. Some brands have bought out other brands, which means that their breakers are compatible. In most cases, however, even if the breakers look similar, they have different functionalities and operate in different ways.
Circuit breakers are different in physical appearance at other times, and you immediately know that certain brands aren’t interchangeable. Breakers aren’t like other electrical devices such as switches, light bulbs, outlets, and outlet boxes, which are often interchangeable.
Luckily, electrical companies have caught on to the impracticality of having their brands so different from one another. As a result, there are usually at least one or two circuit breaker brands interchangeable with other breakers. You must know which breakers are interchangeable with one another, not just in appearance but also in functionality.
Reasons You Might Need to Use a Different Breaker
Whenever possible, you should always stick with breakers of the same brand when switching out an old one for a new one. Unfortunately, using the same brand isn’t always possible, so you’ll have to work with what you’ve got. Here are some of the reasons you might have to search for a new breaker brand during a replacement.
You Live in a Rural Area
If you live out in the country or in areas where Amazon doesn’t offer same-day delivery, you don’t always have access to the exact parts that you need when performing a replacement. This applies to everything from cars to plumbing parts to electrical components such as circuit breakers. If this is the case, it’s important to know what will work that you have easy access to.
Your Brand was Discontinued
One of the more common reasons people have to search for different breaker brands is because of brand discontinuation. Various electrical manufacturers and distributors are constantly looking to improve their products, which means phasing out old ones. More commonly, however, brands get bought out by larger companies or simply go out of business.
When that happens, you must know which circuit breakers are interchangeable with those you currently have.
What to Look for When Interchanging Breakers
This article aims to give a comprehensive list of which circuit breaker brands are interchangeable with others. Before making a swap, however, there are certain things you should check for regardless of what this list or any other might tell you.
- Load Capacity
The first thing you should look at is the size of the breaker you’re replacing. You should always use a replacement breaker that’s the same size, regardless of whether you use a different brand or not.
- Model Number
Either on the breaker itself or in the panel box, there should be a list of model numbers for each breaker. If you can find a replacement breaker of a different brand that has the same model number, there’s a very good chance that you can use it as a replacement if it fits your box.
Finally, there might even be a list of compatible brands inside your panel box. Unfortunately, the older your box is, the better chance this information has eroded or disappeared over time. The same goes for the model number.
- Ask a Pro
If you’re at your wit’s end with trying to solve the problem yourself, you might have to resort to asking a professional electrician. While they might not know exactly which breakers are interchangeable with each other, there’s a good chance that they can at least point you in the right direction to find out.
What Breakers are Compatible with Cutler-Hammer?
Cutler-Hammer is one of the oldest electrical companies in the country and has produced electrical components for over 85 years. Circuit breakers were one of their biggest products in years past, but production has steadily declined in recent decades. For this reason, Cutler-Hammer circuit breakers aren’t always readily available in all parts of the country.
It’s probably a good thing then that Eaton bought out Cutler-Hammer in 1978. As a result, all Eaton and Cutler-Hammer products get made the same and are compatible. Keep in mind that Cutler Hammer breakers are still available; there are fewer of them in the world. Therefore, if you’re struggling to get your hands on a Cutler-Hammer breaker, you can use an Eaton breaker instead.
Cutler-Hammer and Eaton breakers are readily available at stores such as Lowes or Home Depot. They also get sold at Eaton stores throughout the country and specialty electrical outlets.
You should also note that there’s a possibility that you can swap out your Eaton or Cutler Hammer breaker with a Square D breaker. Compatability only applies if the model number of the Square D breaker gets listed as acceptable on the panel box.
Breakers Compatible with Cutler-Hammer
- Square D (if the model number matches)
What Breakers are Compatible with Murray?
As with all circuit breaker brands, it’s always best to replace a Murray breaker with another Murray breaker. However, most Murray products were phased out in 2019, which means that you might be out of luck in finding a Murray circuit breaker.
If you can’t find a Murray circuit breaker, your best bet is to use a breaker from the company that bought them out, Siemens. Unfortunately, if Murray made your breaker box or circuit breaker before 2002, there’s no guarantee that Siemens will be compatible with it. From 2002 on, however, all Murray and Siemens circuit breakers were made the same and are compatible.
In addition to Siemens, a few other circuit breakers might be compatible with Murray. Square D is the first brand that I would recommend, thanks to its sturdy construction, reliability, and easiness of working with. Square D is one of the more popular breaker brands and is available almost everywhere.
If Siemens and Square D aren’t an option, you can also try Air Circuit Breakers, but only for voltage loads less than 450. Finally, Cutler-Hammer is another brand that you can interchange with Murray. You can also use Eaton with Murray breakers because Cutler-Hammer and Eaton breakers are the same.
|Breaker Brand||Interchangeable With Murray||Interchangeable with Murray but with restrictions|
|Siemens||Yes, from 2002 on|
|Cutler-Hammer and Eaton||Yes, but check local code|
|Air Circuit Breaker||Yes, only up to 450 volts|
What Breakers are Compatible with Siemens?
As we’ve just discussed, Siemens bought out Murray and made it so that all their circuit breakers were compatible from the year 2002 onward. Siemens is one of the most popular names in the electrical world, and they are one of the top options for panel boxes and circuit breakers.
In addition to Murray, Siemens has several breaker subtypes that are often compatible with traditional Siemens breakers. The Siemens QAF, QPF, QT, and QP are the first options you should look for. However, if you don’t have access to the brand itself, there’s a very good chance that you can use UL classified breakers made by Eaton as replacements.
UL certified means that the Underwriters Laboratory had approved the breakers for use as replacement breakers. Therefore, you can use any breaker that is UL certified as an acceptable replacement to Siemens, as listed on your panel box. Eaton is the most commonly acceptable and readily available replacement.
Breakers Compatible with Siemens
- QUF, QPF, QT, and QP Siemens breakers.
- UL-certified Eaton breakers
What Breakers are Compatible with Challenger?
Challenger panels and breakers are one of the older circuit breaker manufacturers on this list. They’re also one of the longest discontinued brands, as they ceased operations in 1994. As a result, it’s extremely challenging to find a Challenger circuit breaker. (no pun intended)
Because Challenger panel boxes will be old and outdated, it could also be difficult to find the model number and breaker information you need to choose a replacement. You should note that even if you can find a replacement breaker with the Challenger brand, it may not be the best option for you. After all, the main reason they went out of business was because of faulty breakers.
While the circuit breakers from Challenger have always been iffy, the panel boxes themselves are sound. Luckily, there are several options at your disposal to swap out with Challenger breakers.
|Breaker Brand||Can be Interchanged with Challenger||Can be Legally Interchanged with Challenger|
As you can see, there are many options for replacing your Challenger breaker. However, you can only use Cutler-Hammer or Eaton breakers in Challenger panel boxes and not be at fault for a code violation. While these other breakers will work, there’s a good chance that they will violate your local building code or void the warranty on your panel box.
What Breakers are Compatible with Eaton?
Eaton is another mega-company that’s been a pillar in the world of electrical devices for decades. As mentioned, Eaton bought out the rights to Cutler-Hammer, which means that most of their products, including circuit breakers are interchangeable.
Eaton is also one of the industry leaders when it comes to UL-certified circuit breakers. UL certification means that their breakers are compatible with numerous other companies and vice versa. Another big reason that Eaton is compatible with numerous breakers is that the company that owns the production rights for Eaton breakers owns the same rights for various companies.
|Breaker Brand||Interchangeable with Eaton||Exactly the Same as Eaton|
|Thomas & Betts||Yes||No|
Because Eaton is interchangeable with so many different circuit breakers, it’s very common for electricians to install Eaton panel boxes in new homes. They’re also one of the more common replacements for old panel boxes. No matter where you are in the country, there’s a good chance that you can find at least one of these options that are interchangeable with Eaton.
However, despite being compatible with so many different breakers, it’s always vital to read your model numbers and labels and make sure they match up. Replacing an Eaton breaker with another brand with a mismatching model number is a recipe for disaster, and you should never do this.
What Breakers are Compatible with Square D?
In terms of overall popularity and use, Square D is almost always at the top of the list. It’s one of the most readily accessible and reliable circuit breaker brands on the market, which means that electricians often prefer it to other brands. Let’s go over the list of breakers compatible with Square D circuit breakers.
|Breaker Brand||Compatible with Square D||Sometimes Compatible with Square D|
|Bryant||May or may not be|
|Square D QO||Not compatible|
|Challenger||Not compatible with QO|
There’s a lot to dig into with Square D breakers and whether or not they’re compatible with other brands. For the most part, as long as the model numbers match up, Square D is compatible with other major brands such as Siemens, Cutler-Hammer, Eaton, GE, Murray, Homeline, and Westinghouse. Homeline is a subtype of Square D, as we’ll discuss in the next section.
There are restrictions as to which Bryant and Challenger breakers are compatible with Square D. Additionally, although QO is another subtype of Square D, the two breakers are not compatible. Ensure to check with your specific panel box before using another breaker in place of your Square Done.
It should also get noted that, while these brands are ok for use in a Square D panel box, the feeling isn’t always mutual. Square D isn’t always ok for use in the other panel boxes.
The line is a bit blurry regarding whether or not Bryant is compatible with Square D. Bryant is compatible with Murray and GE, and both of those brands are interchangeable with Square D. Therefore, with deductive reasoning, we can conclude that Bryant and Square D are most likely compatible, but you might violate your local building code.
What Breakers are Compatible with Homeline?
Homeline and Square D circuit breakers are essentially the same things. Homeline is often thought of as the cost-efficient version of Square D, as they get made by the same company and look identical, but Homeline breakers are slightly cheaper.
While Homeline breakers are interchangeable with many different breaker brands, the feeling isn’t likewise reciprocated. The lack of reciprocation is because Homeline panels have a small protrusion on their bus bars, making other breakers incompatible with them. You can only use Homeline and select Square D breakers in a Homeline panel box.
Luckily, Homeline breakers are available in most places at stores such as Lowes and Home Depot. They also get sold by most electrical companies and wholesale electrical outlets. While you likely won’t have trouble finding a Homeline breaker to replace your old one, it’s very inconvenient if you do.
What Breakers are Compatible with Westinghouse?
Thousands, if not millions, of older homes throughout the US, operate with Westinghouse panel boxes. Despite their former popularity, you may run into trouble when trying to find a new Westinghouse breaker if an old one goes bad. It’s a brand that’s gone slightly downhill as far as circuit breakers are concerned.
Additionally, Westinghouse no longer makes several of its breaker models. Luckily, the company that makes Westinghouse breakers makes several other breaker brands, as we recently discussed. As a result, Westinghouse breakers are compatible with Eaton, Cutler-Hammer, and Square D circuit breakers.
As always, it’s best to replace a bad Westinghouse breaker with a new one of the same brand. If that isn’t possible, as it often isn’t, any one of these alternative options is ok as long as the model numbers match up. You should also make sure that the construction of the new breaker is compatible with the bus bars and the construction of the Westinghouse panel box.
What Breakers are Compatible with Bryant?
Because Bryant circuit breakers no longer get produced, it’s extremely difficult to find a replacement breaker with the Bryant brand. Bryant is right up there with Challenger in terms of replacement difficulty. Luckily, there are several acceptable alternative brands that you can use in place of your Bryant breaker.
The first option you should look at for replacing your Bryant breaker is a CB made by Eaton or Cutler-Hammer. However, this compatibility isn’t one-size-fits-all, and there are restrictions on which Bryant breakers are compatible with Eaton and Cutler-Hammer. The BR-series from Eaton is your best bet for replacing a Bryant breaker.
Aside from the BR-series from Eaton, there are very few, if any, options available to replace a Bryant breaker. As a result, people sometimes replace their entire Bryant panel box. Replacing a panel box is expensive work, so you should locate an acceptable replacement for the breaker if possible unless the box presents a safety hazard.
What Breakers are Compatible with GE?
We’ve all heard of General Electric and likely have at least one appliance or electrical device made by the company. In addition to everything else they produce, GE is also a leader in panel boxes and circuit breakers. Although you should have no difficulty finding a second GE breaker to replace your old one, there are times when you won’t be able to or simply don’t have time to wait.
If you’re unable to locate or can’t wait for a GE replacement breaker, your best bet is to use Siemens as your alternative brand. Siemens breakers are almost always compatible with GE panel boxes as long as the model number on the GE breaker matches the one on the Siemens replacement.
Outside of Siemens, a few select third-party companies make breakers compatible with GE. However, anytime you use breakers from smaller companies and third parties, there’s an increased risk of a problem occurring. At any rate, you should always make sure to match the model numbers together to make sure they’re compatible.
Always Check for UL Certification
While certain breakers from different makers may appear similar in their construction or have the same load capacity, this doesn’t mean that they’re interchangeable. You should always check for UL certification when using breakers interchangeably. The UL or Underwriters Laboratory goes to great lengths to test different breakers with different panel boxes.
They won’t give their certification to a breaker unless they have proven firsthand that you can use it safely in other panel boxes. They will also specify which panel boxes and breaker brands are interchangeable.
What replaced Murray breakers?
Murray was bought out by Siemens. As a result, any Murray breakers newer than 20 years old are compatible with Siemens breakers.
What breaker will interchange with Cutler-Hammer?
Eaton bought out Cutler-Hammer, and most of their products, including circuit breakers, are interchangeable. Cuttler-Hammer is also interchangeable with certain Square D breakers.
What breakers are interchangeable?
The only way to know if breakers are interchangeable is by reading this article, matching up the model numbers on the different breakers, and checking for UL certification.
While panel boxes and breakers often look similar, many are not interchangeable or compatible. Like all electrical devices, circuit breakers have a limited lifespan and won’t last forever. You must know your panel box’s brand and which circuit breakers are compatible with them if you don’t have easy access to an exact replacement.
If you’re ever in doubt or questioning compatibility, consult a professional electrician. It’s never worth saving a few bucks to put the wrong breaker into your panel box and risk a fire hazard or electrocution. You should always put the safety of your home and family above all else when it comes to breaker replacement.