I have a 50 amp breaker that runs the auxiliary heat on our heat pump. It keeps tripping. Can I replace it with a 60 amp breaker?

  • 6
    Probably not, depends on the wiring, and your tolerance for burning down your house. If this is new behavior, it's probably better to find out why the breaker is suddenly tripping, there may be a fault in the heater (or less likely, a fault in the existing breaker) – Johnny Dec 2 '15 at 23:22
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    This is analogous to using a penny in place of a fuse. One dumb move. – Tester101 Dec 3 '15 at 1:39
  • If you suspect its a problem with the breaker, why not replace it with one of the same size? Of course the equipment should be checked first. – JPhi1618 Dec 3 '15 at 14:50
  • Can we have a nameplate or make/model for your heat pump air handler unit? Also, what gauge of wire was run for this circuit? – ThreePhaseEel Jan 31 '17 at 23:07

Larger amperage requires larger wiring. It's possible but probably not likely that the existing wire can handle the larger current.

The heater is probably not rated for the larger breaker, so even if the wire is big enough, still might be a real bad idea.

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    BP's right here. A 60 amp breaker would require #6 wire. Is that the size of your wiring? If not you would be risking the fire and death Tester speaks of. If you do have #6 wire you could still be risking the aforementioned blaze if the equipment is malfunctioning and that is why it is tripping. You need to get more information and take an amprobe reading while it is operating. – ArchonOSX Dec 3 '15 at 7:55

No, almost certainly not. The heat pump documentation specifies the breaker and conductor size, and that's what must be used.

Increasing the breaker size could lead to damage to the equipment and/or property, injury, death, and fire.

If the breaker is tripping, it means there's a problem with the equipment. Locate and fix the problem, or replace the equipment.

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Only if...

  • The heat pump auxiliary load is actually listed to take a 60A breaker. AND
  • All the wiring between service panel and heat pump is listed for 60A

First clue: the heat pump auxiliary heater is tripping a breaker often. That shouldn't happen at all. I've never heard of a 50A auxiliary heater, but I often hear of 60A and 70A units. I suspect you have one of those, and that's why it's tripping, and this is an improper install, which is just typical of HVAC people. They're not electricians.

The wire size is a really big deal. My sources are telling me that to have a bigger breaker than 50A, the cable must be 4 AWG copper, or 2 AWG aluminum (which is totally OK to use) - however in that case you are good for 60 or 70 amps.

Usually heat pump cable travels through unimproved areas, so you can inspect/replace without tearing up a bunch of drywall.

You might contact the heat-pump manufacturer and ask them if the heating unit can be "split" and powered off two 30's or a 30 and a 40. Then you could use the existing 6AWG run for the 40, and run a new 10AWG for the other 30.

Lastly, this is an absolutely crazy option, but think about how a heat pump works. It takes heat from outside, and moves it into your house. It quits working when it's very cold, because there isn't any heat out there. Okay, so build a shed around it... and heat the shed. You laugh, but that's exactly what they do in large installations, the heat pumps interchange with service water instead of air... in the winter, a central boiler heats that water to 70F using fuel, which is cheaper than electric. And the heat pumps run very efficiently, since there's plenty of heat in that water.

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