Circuit breakers provide an important function in your home's electricity output. As you likely know if you've ever had an overload, these breakers are designed to keep your home safe. But finding a replacement for a circuit breaker can be difficult, especially if you aren't sure exactly what your limitations are. If one or more of your circuit breakers need to be replaced, a substitute may be an option, but only if you choose the right one.
Look at the Old Breaker
Before you start working on your breaker, first make sure you shut it off. To be extra cautious, use a multimeter to check the voltage on the breaker in question, as well as surrounding breakers, to make sure no power remains. Remove the breaker you'll be replacing by either pushing it in or prying it carefully from its position, depending on the type. Notice how the breaker fits into the panel, since you'll need to replicate this once you have the replacement.
Look at the serial number and branding on your breaker. Even if it has GE branding, note any other identifying marks on the breaker. If it's an off-brand, don't assume you can merely order the same replacement part and it will work with your panel. You'll still need to conduct research to make sure you're choosing a replacement that is safe for your home's electric system.
Validating New Breakers
If you contact GE, they will tell you that you should only use GE parts. But you may be able to broaden your selection and save money by going through the breaker manufacturer. Often you'll find companies with catalogs that list breakers that are suitable GE replacements. It's important in this instance to make sure the part is UL listed for use in the service panel you have. It can be tempting to assume that because a breaker promises to be a replacement and physically fits into the slot, that it's the right fit.
When a replacement is UL listed, it has the stamp of approval from the organization dedicated to keeping consumers safe. In addition to UL listing, you'll need to pay close attention to the type and model of the GE breaker you're replacing, as well as having all the information about your panel. If you have doubts about the part you're about to choose, contact the manufacturer and verify that it's safe to use with your panel.
Most manufacturers will say they aren't responsible for any damage that occurs as a result of using off-brand parts. However, with a little diligence, you can save money and expand your buying options while also keeping your home's electrical system safe.