CB as Water Heater disconnect when leaving house unoccupied.

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by JerryR, Oct 13, 2020.

  1. JerryR

    JerryR Active Member

    Jul 27, 2011
    Whenever we leave our house for anything more than 24 hours I always turn off water to the house and flip the circuit breaker to the water heater. We have been doing this for over 20 years while traveling weekly between two homes. By my math that’s been well over 1000 times and never had a CB failure.

    My vacation cabin that we have owned for about 3 years has a 240v toggle switch in the WH closet which we use.

    I just had a conversation with a friend who refuses to use the CB as a disconnect at his recently purchased cabin stating he read somewhere that you shouldn’t use a CB as a disconnect switch. His water heater is within eyesight of his breaker panel just as mine are.

    I don’t believe it’s against code. My question; is it poor practice or is there a valid reason not to do this?
  2. wwhitney

    wwhitney Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2019
    Berkeley, CA
    So apparently you should be good for another 5000 operations:


    But you can play it safe and replace the breaker after another 2000 operations.

    Cheers, Wayne
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  4. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

    Oct 28, 2009
    Orlando, Florida
    What your friend may have read and slightly misinterpreted in using a CB as a switch. Circuit breakers are designed for overload protection, not as a switch, a switch is designed for daily use as a switch. You have a home and once a week or so you use the CB to turn off power is no harm. I used to do it all the time when I had two homes. Another confusing part could have been that a cutoff switch is needed for certain motors and appliances. Cutoffs must be within site and no more than 50', if not in sight then a cutoff is needed even if it's ten feet away such as around a wall.

    Actually, operating or switching your circuit breakers is a good maintenance practice. One time I helped out a coworker, she had a water heater circuit breaker suddenly tripping every few hours after a house inspector switched all breakers off and on. It turned out that someone, previous owner, hack the wiring of the water heater that exceeded the 20 amp breaker. Instead of tripping the breaker, the contacts fused (welded) together. When this breaker was switched off it broke the welded connection, then the breaker started to trip. In my father's house the electrical conduit from the mast leaked rain water directly into the breaker panel. It rusted one breaker and it broke internally. Switching if off didn't disconnect the power to the circuit. I found that out after I though the power was off.

    There are circuit breakers that are designed for "switch use" and usually found on power strips where the switch is designed to trip from an overload. The switch is labeled ON-OFF and also RESET.

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