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I lived in Europe where it is common to have on/off switches on all electrical wall outlets. I asked my electical parts store if I could replace the cicuit breakers in my home with switch rated (swd) breakers.

I was told that I would have to replace my entire panel as swd circuit breakers need a panel made specifically for there use.

My reasons for wanting to turn off all power when I'm not home are - our homes are filled with appliances and devices from various world-wide sources that are not always reliable especially when some of those items may be decades old. I know these items sometimes cause fires even when connected to proper circuit protection. Our homes are sometimes invaded by critters (mice, squirrels and others) that are attracted to the insulation on wiring. They have been the cause of home fires.

Is there a basic on-off power disconnect switch that could be installed upstream from my service panel? It is not likely that I will unplug all my appliances whenever I leave my home, that would involve pulling refrigerators, washing machines, etc. out from the walls to get access. I need a system disconnect switch.

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    Have you considered smart outlets that could be disabled through a mobile phone app for those appliances? Seems like shutting off power to all your clocks and HVAC hardware would be inconvenient. – isherwood Sep 23 '19 at 14:41
  • What make and model of electrical panel do you have? Today's 15A and 20A breakers are all going to be SWD rated, unless you have some weird/exotic panel type... – ThreePhaseEel Sep 24 '19 at 2:54
  • Generally, everything in Europe is likely to be DIN rail mount. You shouldn't need to replace enclosures. – SomeoneSomewhereSupportsMonica Sep 24 '19 at 11:01
  • You could install a safety switch. I have them all over my plant I think the largest is 800 amps. I don’t like opening breakers or safety switches under load but they are designed for this purpose. A quick look showed 200a 240v HD switch cost between $250-350 usd. – Ed Beal Sep 24 '19 at 14:48
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A much better plan would be to install a subpanel near the service panel.

Then, move the circuits you want to shut off to this new subpanel.

At that point, you have two ways to solve it: First, the individual breakers in the new subpanel could be SWD. Second, you could shut the feed breaker off to the subpanel.

Depending on the subpanel, you could also install Arc Fault protection, which will help a fair bit with animals chewing on wires and feisty old devices. I presume there is already a whole-house RCD.

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  • I wouldn't be so sure about "already a whole-house RCD". My take on "I lived in Europe..." is that OP does not live in Europe any more, and therefore likely someplace else (e.g., US) where whole-house RCD is not a common thing. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Sep 24 '19 at 14:54
  • Wait, RCD is not the standard in other places? What do you do in cases where it is usefull? Just sit out the shock? – Borgh Oct 24 '19 at 7:55
  • @Borgh, "whole-house" is the keyword there. In North America, the common practice is to put smaller RCDs (we call them GFCIs) on individual circuits, rather than one big one for the whole house. – Nate S. Oct 24 '19 at 16:10
  • @Natestrickland ah yeah, gotcha – Borgh Oct 25 '19 at 6:29
  • @Borgh also, since ours is per-circuit, it only deals with that circuit's cumulative natural leakage, instead of all the house. That allows a finer detection threshold without constant nuisance trips. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 25 '19 at 10:53

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