What temperature is too hot for a circuit breaker?
Sunday, June 13, 2021
All circuit breakers generate a small amount of heat and may be several degrees warmer than surrounding surfaces. But the temperature of a residential circuit breaker in a panel should not exceed about 140º F; or, on hot days, it’s better to only call it out when the temperature difference between the breaker and surrounding surface exceeds 50º F. The surface temperature should not be established using adjacent AFCI or CAFCI breakers, which run about 20º F hotter than regular breakers due to the heat generated by the AFCI device—even when there is no load on the circuit. The yellow breakers are AFCI in the infrared photo below.
Using an infrared thermometer is a standard way to check temperatures and, of course, an infrared camera is even better. But putting your finger on the flat plastic surface of any breaker is also a simple way to test: if it’s too hot to keep it there, then you have an overheated breaker.
For a rundown of the potential causes of overheated breakers, see our blog post What causes a hot circuit breaker in an electrical panel?
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