How to Install a Circuit Interrupter

How to Install a Circuit Interrupter

Read the step-by-step directions to learn what's involved and how to add an arc-fault circuit interrupter.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required

  • Flashlight
  • Screwdriver

Materials Required

  • AFCI devices

Before You Begin

Installing AFCI breakers (arc-fault circuit interrupters) is a project for an experienced do-it-yourselfer who has successfully completed electrical work in the past. Unless you have that experience, hire a qualified electrician. This project involves replacing breakers with AFCI breakers in bedrooms.

  • Step 1 : Locate the breaker to be replaced

    Locate the breaker that controls the electricity to the area of the bedrooms. If you are short-handed you can plug a radio into one of the outlets in the bedroom and turn up the volume so you can hear it in the basement or wherever the main panel is located. Then flip off each breaker until the radio goes off. Identify that breaker and then move to the next bedroom. There may be more than one breaker controlling the electricity to the bedrooms.

  • Step 2 : Turn off the main circuit breaker

    The main circuit breaker is located at the top of the main panel in the center. When you flip this switch all the lights in the house will go out, so plan to do this project during the day and have a flashlight handy.

  • Step 3 : Remove the old breaker

    Remove the old breaker by pulling on the end of the breaker where the branch wires are attached. The end of the breaker will lift and then you can remove the breaker from the buss. Loosen the screw holding the wire to the breaker with a screwdriver and pull it loose from the breaker.

  • Step 4 : Install the AFCI breaker

    Slip the new breaker into the slot with the screw terminal end facing away from the center of the buss. Push the inside edge of the breaker down first and then push it towards the center of the panel to engage the electrical buss. Then push the terminal end of the breaker down until it is fully seated and flush with the other circuit breakers. Loosen the screw in the end of the breaker, insert the branch wire and then tighten the screw.

  • Step 5 : Turn on the main breaker

    After you have installed all the new AFCI breakers turn on the main breaker and close the panel door.