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How to Install an AFCI Circuit Breaker

Ask This Old House master electrician, Heath Eastman, wraps up an electrical project he started over a year ago by replacing the circuit breaker at his panel with one that is up to code.

In this video, Heath Eastman explains how earlier in the pandemic, he installed a new USB receptacle in his kitchen but he never got around to installing AFCI protection. Whenever a receptacle is replaced, its corresponding breaker in the panel needs to be upgraded to an AFCI breaker. Heath demonstrates how this is done.

Steps for Installing an AFCI Circuit Breaker

1. Note: Only a licensed professional should touch an electrical panel. With the box open and the breakers exposed, there is a risk of extreme shock injuries and even death.
2. Shut the power off to the breaker panel.
3. Remove the cover plate for the panel.
4. Identify the breaker that needs to be replaced and flip it to the “off” position.
5. Grab the breaker by the center and carefully pivot it out of position until it snaps out.
a. There could still be live voltage running through the panel, so this must be done very carefully.
6. To install the new AFCI breaker, the same process is done in reverse.
7. Wire the breaker by connecting the hot wire to the screw and the neutral wire to the bus bar, and the neutral pigtail to the neutral screw.
8. Hook the breaker onto the bar in the panel and snap it into place.
9. Reinstall the cover plate with the two screws.
10. Flip the breaker on and then restore power at the electric meter.

Resources

Any work that is done on an electrical panel should be tackled by licensed professionals only.

When replacing a circuit breaker, the circuit should be compatible with the manufacturer of the panel itself. In this case, Heath’s panel is manufactured by Siemens and the AFCI circuit breaker he installed is also manufactured by Siemens.

Material

Tool