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I have the panel below, and would like to know if it's recommended and or easy to simply replace current breakers with more modern GFCI/AFCI ones. I think they provide extra safety, and it seems it's just a matter of replacing, something an electrician could do in maybe less than an hour?

I heard that GFCI/AFCI breakers are bigger, and the cutouts on the cover are exactly the size of the front of the current breakers. Would that be a problem?

enter image description here Thank you

panel

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    Can you post photos of the labeling on the inside of the panel's door please? Jun 17 at 3:15
  • @ThreePhaseEel added
    – igorjrr
    Jun 17 at 3:26
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    @ThreePhaseEel is asking for thei inside of the door, not inside the door. The inside of the door usually has the manufacturer's specs/wiring options. Jun 17 at 3:52
  • @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact thanks, but there is no writing at all, it's plain. Only the breakers have writing.
    – igorjrr
    Jun 17 at 4:00
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    OK not on the swinging door... How about the inside of the deadfront that you removed? Jun 17 at 5:26
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TL;DR Your panel should be fine for GFCI/AFCI but I wouldn't bother unless this is the easiest way to add GFCI for kitchens/bathrooms.

The typical problem with replacing regular breakers with GFCI/AFCI breakers is with "half-size" or "tandem" breakers. These are where a standard breaker "space" is split into two breakers in order to double capacity without requiring a full redesign of the panel. Your panel appears to have only 6 spaces (which is super-small, but that is a separate issue), with full-size breakers currently in all 6 spaces. So there should be no problem replacing some or all of those breakers with GFCI/AFCI breakers.

That being said, there are some additional considerations:

  • GFCI protection (which can be combined with breakers or can be combined with receptacles) is a huge safety upgrade for certain areas, particularly kitchens and bathrooms. As far as safety & effectiveness, breakers vs. receptacles makes no difference. However, GFCI receptacles are much more convenient than GFCI breakers, and often cheaper too.
  • AFCI protection is generally more effective the sooner in the circuit that it is done - e.g., AFCI breaker better than AFCI receptacle. There are some exceptions, particularly if you have wire inside metal conduit.
  • In general, GFCI and AFCI are not required unless you are adding or changing things. Simply "just because I heard it is better" is OK, but not required by code. That being said, GFCI is a life-safety upgrade that can help even if you never change anything else about your electrical system. On the other hand, much of the benefit of AFCI has to do with damage to wiring, old connections wearing out/getting loose (e.g., backstabs), etc.
  • If you put in GFCI/AFCI breakers, you rule out the possibility (depending on the particular panel specifications) of doubling up using tandem/half-size breakers to add more circuits.
  • GFCI is of almost no relevance for the "Kitchen Lights" and "Main Lights" breakers, assuming those labels are correct. AFCI could still be useful.
  • GFCI and AFCI may actually be contraindicated for the "Fridge" breaker, assuming that the only thing on that breaker is the refrigerator. That is because GFCI is of almost no relevance for a refrigerator, and both GFCI & AFCI protection should be balanced against the damage (spoiled food) from an unnoticed breaker trip.
  • AFCI is reasonable for all the circuits except the "Fridge" circuit.
  • GFCI is reasonable for "Outlets" (especially if that includes the bathroom) and "Outlet AC" and a very good idea for "Kitchen Outlet", provided they are not already protected at the receptacles. Having double GFCI protection (breaker and receptacles) does not improve safety and can complicate things when there is a GFCI trip.
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  • Thank you. It's a studio, and still two spaces left so expanding is not an issue. I do have wires inside metal conduit. In fact this is one of the reasons to consider AFCI breakers, because wires are old and it would provide extra safety. Do you agree?
    – igorjrr
    Jun 17 at 3:30
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    @igorjrr It doesn't look like you have spare spaces, the sticker that says "do not remove these twistouts" will not accept breakers because they align with the wire termination lugs. You have a cover designed to fit multiple panels. When they ship with the 6 space/12 circuit guts they just add the stupid little sticker. Jun 17 at 3:41
  • @NoSparksPlease You're right! I thought there were two more spaces below, but the cover makes it clear that's not the case - no more cutouts below and the top are covering the lugs. Jun 17 at 3:48
  • I don't really have a need for more circuits. Would it be ok to upgrade these 6 breakers to GFCI/AFCI? Would this generic cover work?
    – igorjrr
    Jun 17 at 4:02
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They'll work on the left column. Maybe not on the right column.

That's because of the small size of the box, and that's a reason this style of box has largely been abolished.

The AFCIs won't require any modifications to the cover. While the area behind the cover is larger, the part that sticks through the cover is exactly the same.

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People are asking about labeling because "UL" or other lab Listing is brand specific. I wouldn't really look to the panel cover for that information, all those custom screw holes make me suspect the cover isn't the right cover.

The guts do look like an Eaton panel and new Eaton short body AFCI breakers would fit.

But the neutral bar is suspect, not a good enough picture to see if it is actually is isolated from ground, it looks field cut and misaligned. I'm guessing it's actually a ground bar that isn't isolated from ground, and also isn't Listed as a neutral bar for this panel. That needs to be addressed to attempt to make this installation legal and safe.

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