Can Two Single Pole Breakers be Used for a 240 Breaker?

The working world of an electrician is complicated and confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing. Electricity is a powerful element, and harnessing it in a way that provides power to people when they need it can be tricky. A common question that people have regarding electricity at the breaker box is if two single pole breakers can get used on a 240 circuit. 

While it’s possible to use two single pole breakers to produce 240 volts of power, it isn’t safe or recommended that you do so. There are strict regulations and code requirements for your breaker box, and tying two single pole breakers together might be violating them. Using two single pole breakers in this way is also dangerous if you do it wrong. 

Just because it’s possible to use two single pole breakers to create 240 volts doesn’t mean you should. This article will look at the risks involved with doing so, but we’ll also look at how to do it safely if there’s no other option. 

What’s the Difference Between a Single Pole and Double Pole Breaker? 

Before you try to use two single pole breakers on a 240 circuit, it’s important to understand the difference between single pole and double pole breakers. Breakers are available in these two styles for a reason, and once you understand how they work, you’ll see why it’s not a good idea to use two single pole breakers in tandem. 

Single Pole Breaker 

Single pole breakers get designed to handle smaller amounts of power and usually range in size from 10 amps to 20 amps. They also carry 110 or 120 volts. This breaker type will usually only take up one space in your breaker box and comes with a single switch or lever. These breakers usually get used for light circuits and other circuits that don’t use up much power. 

Double Pole Breaker

Double pole breakers are wider and thicker than single pole breakers and usually occupy two slots in your breaker box. They look similar to two single pole breakers stuck together and consist of two hot buses and one neutral wire. Double pole breakers are used to power higher voltage appliances like air conditioners, hot tubs, and dryers and carry an average of 20 to 60 amps. 

Double pole breakers are more complicated than single-pole breakers. They span over two terminals in your breaker box but work together to power a single circuit. They’re designed so that if one of the terminals trips, the other will follow suit and shut down the entire circuit rather than just a single terminal. This safety feature that connects both sides of the breaker is a bridge, and all double pole breakers have one. 

Risks of Using Two Single Pole Breakers Together 

Using two single pole breakers together is possible, but only if you do it correctly. Not tying the breakers together so that both will trip together if there’s a problem is dangerous and illegal in most cases. 

  • Only One Breaker Flips

If you’re using two single-pole breakers that aren’t properly tied together, the biggest risk is that only one of the breakers will trip. If only one breaker trips, whatever circuit you’re trying to power now only has half the electricity that it should. The appliance you’re powering will fail to start, and it could become damaged. 

  • Danger to Electricians 

Because only one of the breakers has tripped, there’s still power at the other single pole breaker. Unfortunately, because the breakers aren’t tied together, an electrician won’t know that the two breakers are powering a single circuit. A live wire puts them at risk of touching a wire, thinking it’s not active, and electrocuting themself. 

  • One Wire Stays Hot

When a lone wire stays hot in a breaker box, and you or your electrician isn’t aware of it, accidents become more likely. Increased danger is especially true for you as the homeowner since you don’t know what issues to look for and be aware of a possible problem. 

How to Properly Tie Breakers Together 

There are several reasons why homeowners and electricians are tempted to use two single pole breakers on a 220 or 240-volt line. You may not have access to the double pole breaker you need, or it might save money to use two single pole breakers. There is a safe and legal way to tie two single pole breakers together no matter the reason. You can do this yourself or hire a qualified electrician to make sure the job gets done correctly. 

  1. You need a qualified tie product because the goal is to get both single pole breakers to trip simultaneously. 
  2. Regardless of the breaker box in your home, your manufacturer will have their version of a breaker tie. 
  3. Because most manufacturers have different types of breakers, you will have to locate your specific brand of breaker tie. 
  4. Once you have it, tie the breakers together before installing them into the breaker box. 
  5. Ensure the main power is turned off anytime you’re working with a breaker box, especially if you aren’t an electrician. 

Related Questions 

Can I use two 120-volt breakers for a 240-volt connection? 

The risks and methods of tying two single pole 120-volt breakers are the same as tying two single pole 110-volt breakers together. As long as you do it correctly with the appropriate breaker tie, it’s ok. 

Can two single pole 110-volt breakers be bridged? 

Bridging is the same thing as tying two breakers together. As long as you do it correctly and use the correct ties or bridge, bridging is ok. 

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, it’s ok to use two single pole breakers for a 240 breaker as long as you do it correctly. If you fail to tie the breakers together or use the wrong type of tie, you will be violating building codes and, in some cases, the law. If you don’t have access to the materials you need to tie two single pole breakers together, you should opt to use a double pole breaker. 

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
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