Average number of circuit breakers in a home 2024

Author pictureAuthor picture
Author picture
By:
Author picture
Edited by:
photo of a circuit breaker in a home's basement

Circuit breakers are essential safety devices that protect homes, commercial businesses, and industrial facilities alike. They serve as safeguards on electrical systems, preventing fires and other damage that can occur due to faulty wiring or equipment malfunctioning. The circuit breakers in houses are generally simpler than those used in commercial and industrial buildings, which often have electronic components and are designed for use in places with higher electricity requirements.

Key insights

Electrical failure or malfunction is the second leading cause of residential fires in the US, leading to an average of 46,000 fires per year since 2000.

Jump to insight

The National Electric Code (NEC) sets safety standards for electrical wiring and equipment. The code has been adopted by all but five states.

Jump to insight

Types of residential circuit breakers include single-pole, double-pole, ground fault circuit interrupter, and arc fault circuit interrupters.

Jump to insight

An average-sized home has between 20 and 30 circuit breakers.

Jump to insight

Circuit breakers per average household

According to data from the US Census Bureau, the average size of a newly constructed single-family home was 2,299 square feet in 2022. The NEC requires a minimum of one 15-amp circuit for every 800 square feet to cover the general lighting load of a residence. However, most localities have additional minimum requirements for powering bathrooms, central heating or cooling, laundry areas and more.

For example, the government of St. Paul, MN requires a minimum of six circuits in addition to those required for lighting. In St. Paul, a 2,299-square-foot house with laundry, a garage and central air would require a minimum of 10 circuits (and, therefore,10 circuit breakers). Similarly, the state of Washington requires a minimum of five additional circuits beyond those required for general illumination.

However, most homeowners choose to go beyond the minimum. Many modern appliances, such as water heaters, clothes dryers, stoves, and central air, require their own circuits. Home Depot estimates that the average home has between 20 and 30 circuit breakers.

What is a circuit breaker?

A circuit breaker is a safety device that protects against damage from overcurrent, or excess current. Overcurrent occurs when an electrical circuit receives more electricity than it can safely handle. A circuit breaker protects an overloaded circuit by shutting off and interrupting the flow of electricity.

types of circuit breakers infographic

Circuit breakers are used in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Different types of breakers are used for different purposes. The table below summarizes the primary types of circuit breakers used in residential settings.

Most circuit breakers (and receptacle outlets) in modern homes have GFCI and/or AFCI protection, per NEC residential code. Combination arc fault circuit interrupters (CAFCI) protect against both ground and arc faults. According to the NFPA, the use of GFCIs has reduced electrocutions caused by consumer products by 95%.

Circuit breaker and house fire statistics

According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical failure or malfunction was the second leading cause of residential fires in the U.S. from 2015 through 2019. Approximately 46,000 residential fires are caused each year by electrical failures, numbers that have held relatively steady over the past several decades.

The National Electric Code (NEC) sets out safety standards for the installation of electrical wiring and equipment, including circuit breakers. Adherence to the NEC is generally required by state and local building codes. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation, the National Electric Code has been adopted statewide in all but five states (Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Mississippi).

FAQ

How many breaker boxes does a house have?

The number of breaker boxes and total circuits depends greatly on the size of the house. A 100-amp panel can safely provide about 19,200 watts of power. This may be enough for a 2,000-square-foot home.

How many circuit breakers do homes have?

The NEC requires a minimum of one 15-amp circuit for every 800 square feet to cover a residence's general lighting load. However, most localities have additional minimum power requirements and most homeowners choose to go beyond the minimum to power their devices and appliances. Home Depot estimates that the average home has between 20 and 30 circuit breakers.

How much power does the average home use?

In 2022, U.S. residential electric customers used an average of 10,791 kilowatt-hours. This translates to 1,232 watts per day.

How many outlets can be on one circuit?

It depends on what will be plugged into the outlets. Outlets for laundry rooms should have a dedicated circuit. Kitchens should have two circuits to handle outlets powering appliances. For standard lights and outlets, one 15-amp circuit breaker may be able to handle 8-10.


References

  1. Campbell, R. “Home Electrical Fires.” National Fire Protection Association. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  2. Campbell, R. “Home Fires Caused by Electrical Failure or Malfunction, Supporting Tables.” National Fire Protection Association. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  3. “The National Electric Code - Infographics.” Electrical Safety Foundation. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  4. “Electrical Circuit Interrupters.” National Fire Protection Agency. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  5. “Types of Circuit Breakers.” Home Depot. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  6. “Highlights of 2022 Characteristics of New Housing.” US Census Bureau. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  7. “Residential Electrical Code Requirements.” Home Depot. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  8. Department of Safety and Inspections. “Residential Dwelling Checklist 2023 NEC.” City of Saint Paul. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  9. Department of Labor and Industries. “Homeowner’s Residential Checklist Inspection Guidelines.” State of Washington. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  10. Brooks, B. Connection of Normal and Emergency Power Sources for Homes. Independent Alliance of the Electrical Industry. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  11. “FAQs - How Much Electricity Does an American Home Use?” U.S. Energy Information Administration. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here
  12. “Building Maintenance & Construction: Tools and Maintenance Tasks (Interactive): 5.6 Receptacle & Switch Wiring.” University of Hawai’i Maui College and the Construction Technology Program, Pressbooks. Evaluated Apr 15, 2024.Link Here

Figures