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Question DetailsAsked on 2/19/2016

New circuit breakers.

The apartment building recently upgraded it's electrical panel to 220 amps. My apartment is 125 amps. I'm buying new circuit breakers, do I buy 125 amps or 220 amps ? Thank You

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3 Answers


Call an electrician

Answered 3 years ago by Kestrel Electric


Not clear if you mean each unit's individual master breaker and service at the building service was upgraded to 220A, or if (more likely) the entire service (for all apartment units combined) was upgraded to 220A. If the latter, then you certainly could not pull all of that. This is far more likely, because a 220A service to an apartment would be VERY unusual unless house-sized all-electric units.

If replacing breakers, as Kestrel says, you should talk to your electrician about what size panel you should have - and whether you should be repacing your breaker panel as well as the breakers - like if replacing because that brand has a history of defects.

But if not needing to upgrade you power capacity, then your current panel would presumably be 125A capacity if that is your current main breaker size - normally more than enough for an apartment or even a normal size house. Just because the building upgraded its service is no reason to upsize yours if you are not pushing the capacity of your panel or intending to add a lot of new loads.

And of course, if you DO want to upsize your capacity, you would have to coordinate with the building management - because if they have not talked to you about your loads, they probably did not account for units upsizing their overall capacity when they upsized the service - usually that is only done if it is deficient, being replaced because of defects or very old, or they are looking at adding on more units or perhaps converting from gas to electric heat or boiler.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


BTW - if they upgraded to 220A capacity, and your apartment is 125A main breaker, sounds like a 3 or remotely possibly 4 unit apartment building ?

I presume you did mean 220A and not 220V building upgrade - i.e. that they upgraded load capacity, not upgraded from 110V service (so a very old building) to 220V service. If upgrading to 220V, then you would have to discuss with the management their plans for individual unit upgrading - because that would typically involve total rewiring from their main service panel to your breaker panel with a 220V three conductor (plus ground) wire, and generally a brand new breaker panel and at least some new breakers and circuits in your apartment too, to run 220V power to range and dryer and hot water heater locations and such, as desired.
Perhaps I should have clarified the breaker sizing thing a bit more.

1) just because the building had its service upgraded to higher load capacity, that is no reason for you to do anything on your panel unless you have another reason to do so - like upgrading your box capacity, or you have a brand of breaker which has been recalled or determined to be unsafe.

2) your breaker panel, assuming you have one just for your unit, will have breakers from probably about 15A (15 amps) for lighting circuits up to maybe 40-60 amps for the electric range and dryers. The total amperage of these breakers may, for an apartment, typically be in the 100-300 amp range, depending on whether your unit is mostly electric or is gas fueled. That would be the total of the installed breaker ratings - but your apartment would never pull that much load, because you do not use all circuits at full capacity at one time.

3) the breaker panel has a maximum load rating - say probably 125A in your case since you said your apartment is 125A, and the main breaker for that load center must be rated at or below that rating so it trips out if the total load on the panel reaches its rated capacity. That main breaker (a double breaker, with interconnecting bar between the two so they trip together) may be a top breaker in the actual breaker panel, or may be a separate breaker located at the meter or disconnect box (typically outside) on the wire that feeds to your breaker panel.

4) the individual breakers for each circuit in your apartment protect that circuit against overload of the wiring and should be properly sized for the loads on that circuit, and for the wiring size, which limits the amount of amperage it can safely carry. The main breaker protects the overall panel against dangerous overheating due to overloading - and also acts as a secondary protection against a massive overload due to a fault in any individual circuit if its individual breaker fails to trip.

5) you said "do I buy" - generally speaking, unless you are a competent electrical DIY'er which I doubt because of the nature of your question, or unless the electrician told you exactly what is needed, the electrician should be supplying the breakers so you are sure you are getting the right size and model/ for each one - which may or may not be the same as you have now, because improperly sized breakers are common in breaker panels. Also, with many old model boxes you do not want the same identical breaker as is in there now, because you would be buying maybe decades old breakers if they areno longer made. In some and brands, you would want to be buying current manufacture breakers designed as replacement breakers for that model. Case in point - I came across one breaker in a distributor's stock which was manufactured in 1960 - true, it might work OK - but why buy a 50 year old breaker which might or might not be deeteriorated if there are current new-manufacture replacements available, as there were in this case.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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