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15 Amp Circuit Breakers For Your Home - Square D and More

15 amp breaker

What is a 15 Amp Breaker?

A 15 amp breaker is an overcurrent protection device that is designed to automatically shut off electrical flow when too much current passes through the circuit, before overheating can start a fire.

15 amps refers to the trip rating of the circuit breaker, meaning it will shut off power when the current flow exceeds 15 amps.

Typical Uses for a 15 Amp Breaker

Some common places you might find 15 amp circuit breakers installed include:

  • Small household appliances like blenders and microwave ovens
  • Individual outlets, especially in kitchens or bathrooms where small appliances might be used
  • Lighting circuits
  • Electric water heaters in some cases
  • Window mounted AC units

Essentially a 15 amp breaker provides protection for any normal household 120 volt branch circuit where larger appliances are not connected. They cover small to medium electrical loads around the home.

Key Specifications

Some key specifications associated with 15 amp circuit breakers include:

  • Voltage rating - 120 or 240 volts typically
  • Trip current - designed to shut off at 15 amps of electrical flow
  • 1 pole vs. 2 pole - 1 pole has one 120V hot wire, or 2 pole has 240V across two hot wires
  • Terminal type - compatible with either screw terminals or push-in connectors
  • Mounting style - can be snap-in mounted to a breaker panel enclosure

15 amp circuit breaker

How a 15 Amp Breaker Works

A 15 amp circuit breaker works by connecting an electrical path between the incoming and outgoing contacts when switched on.

If too much current passes through, a metal strip heats up and bends, releasing tension on a spring-loaded mechanism that flips the contacts open. This cuts power to the circuit to prevent overheating.

The breaker can manually be switched back on easily to restore power once any issues are addressed.

Most 15 amp breakers also have an automatic reset function, allowing them to cooldown and switch power back on after shutting off without needing manual intervention. This helps prevent nuisance outages.

Signs Your Circuit Breaker May Need Replacing

If your 15 amp breaker is constantly tripping even when not overloaded, or fails to shut off when needed, it may indicate problems with the product itself. Some signs it’s time for a new one include:

  • Frequent unexplained tripping at less than 15 amp loads
  • Not shutting off despite severe overcurrent conditions
  • Unusual noises, burning smells, or visible damage
  • The breaker feels warm or hot to touch frequently
  • Flickering lights, electronics turning off randomly, or odd device behavior on the circuit

Replacing old or faulty 15 amp circuit breakers is important to maintain safe, reliable electrical systems. A licensed electrician can determine if replacement is needed.

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FAQs About 15 Amp Breakers

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about 15 amp circuit breakers:

How much load can a 15 amp breaker handle safely?

A general rule of thumb is a 15 amp 120 volt circuit can safely accommodate around 1,800 watts of devices, appliances and lighting combined at one time. This assumes a typical 80% safe load level.

What wire size goes with a 15 amp breaker?

14 gauge copper wire is standard for branch circuits protected by a 15A breaker. This safely handles the expected amperage of the circuit without risk of overheating.

Can I upgrade to a 20 amp circuit breaker for more power?

It depends. A qualified electrician would need to evaluate if the full circuit wiring is rated to handle 20 amp service first before upgrading the breaker alone.

14 gauge wire used on most 15A circuits cannot safely handle the increased loads of a 20 amp breaker.

Should I turn all my breakers fully off while away?

It's generally not necessary to shut off breakers while away.

Many crucial systems like freezers, refrigerators, security systems, etc would lose power.

Instead, consider getting an electrician to install selected circuits on switchable breakers if desired for convenience.


In summary, a 15 amp circuit breaker is a vital safety device designed to prevent overheating and fire issues for small to medium 120V household branch circuits.

If you experience frequent tripping, signs of a faulty breaker, or just want your home's electric system inspected, contact a licensed electrician for assistance. They can troubleshoot issues and replace aging 15 amp breakers to keep your electrical systems running safely.