1 for every 13 outlets, lights etc plus one for each major appliance ( heavy duty ) The minimum *required* number of circuit breakers will be dictated by your local building codes, so there is no one answer that will fit all. If you are planning on building or remodeling a house and are just interested in a back of the envelope estimate, keep in mind that up to a point, more circuits, and thus circuit breakers, are better than fewer. At a minimum, I would use a dedicated circuit for each of: - the furnace - the air conditioner - the refrigerator - the stand alone freezer - the basement lights (or the lights for where ever the breaker box is located) - the sump pump (if you have one) - the water pump (if you have one) - the garage door opener By using a dedicated circuit for each, you minimize the chance of a malfunctioning device or frayed extension cord causing the shut down a critical house hold system. From there it's a matter of how many rooms and outlets. For a family room with an entertainment center, computer equipment, etc., two circuits for the outlets and one for any overhead lights would not be unreasonable. On the other hand you might have two bedrooms share the same circuit for wall outlets and another shared circuit for the ceiling lights. If each room has its own air conditioner, the ideal situation is to locate an outlet by the window which is a circuit dedicated just for that air conditioner. As an aside, ground fault detectors are a must for the kitchen and bathroom, but use self contained ground fault outlets rather than a ground fault circuit breaker for these areas. Ground fault circuit breakers are best for outdoor circuits, like outdoor lighting, swimming pools, etc. While the building codes may dictate a minimum number of circuits needed, based on the size of the house, there is nothing to stop you from having more. What you will need to do however, is make sure you do not exceed the capacity of your electrical service. For that the services of a licensed electrician are highly recommended.
A circuit breaker(s) is what you will find inside your electrical box in your house the idea behind them is when a room in your house draws too many Amps the circuit breaker will turn off all the power to that room to re-engage them you simply switch it back on. There are many types of circuit breakers with different rattings like 15A or 100A, this tells you at what point they will 'break' the circuit and turn off the power.
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