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What Size Breaker for an Air Compressor? Find Out Here!

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

what size breaker for an air compressor

Using the wrong-sized breaker can promote disastrous results, especially when the device it supports uses a lot of energy, like an air compressor.

Choosing the right circuit breaker for air compressor typically demands paying attention to certain factors like the unit’s horsepower and voltage requirements.

You can also refer to an online calculator if you need help figuring out the size and amperage rating of the breaker. Keep reading this article on what size breaker for an air compressor to gain additional insight, so you can make an informed buying decision by the end of this post.

How Big of a Breaker Do I Need For an Air Compressor?

The correct air compressor breaker size often depends on certain factors, such as the outlet and voltage needed to run the machine properly. Some example circuit breaker sizes for air compressors are:

  • 3 HP: 30-amp circuit breaker
  • 5 HP: 40-amp circuit breaker
  • 5 HP: 40-amp circuit breaker

Take note that the amperage ratings mentioned above only consider 230V single-phase compressors. Use other circuit breakers, particularly those with different amperages if you’re using three-phase models.

For example, use a 30-amp circuit breaker for 5 HP three-phase air compressors that require 200 to 230 volts. A 3-phase 200V 10 HP compressor will go with a 60A breaker.

Generally, you can find the right circuit breaker to use on the air compressor’s manual or packaging. If the information isn’t available, use an online calculator in calculating breaker size for your particular machine.

It might also be wise to use an online air compressor wire size calculator. Some online tools may have options that allow the filling of specific fields for the convenience of their users.

What Size Breaker Do You Need for a 220v Air Compressor?


The right-sized circuit breaker for a 60 gallon 5 HP 220-volt air compressor should have a 30-amp rating. Also, use a 10/3 wire and ensure the hot wires are in their correct terminals to ensure the machine won’t run into electrical issues during use.

On the other hand, some members of certain hobbyist communities recommend using 40-amp breakers for 80 gallon, 220-volt compressors.

What Happens if I Use the Wrong Size Breaker?

Using the wrong-sized circuit breaker for an air compressor or relatively any electronic device can promote different hazardous events. Some possible incidents to expect are:

1. House Fires

An incorrect breaker used with a relatively high-powered air compressor can cause the circuit to overload or trip. Failure to install the right circuit breaker can make these issues reoccur, causing the setup to ignite and lead to fires.

2. Electrocution

Frequent tripping caused by overloads and short circuits from using the wrong circuit breaker may cause the attached wires to become exposed. If so, touching these wires, particularly without proper protective gear, may give you electric shocks.

Aside from installing an incorrect breaker, you also need to pay attention to the circuit’s surroundings. For example, failure to use a non-GFCI breaker for an air compressor in a fairly damp area may also promote risks of issues like ground faults.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Much Does A New Circuit Breaker Installation Cost?

Expect to pay about $30 to install a circuit breaker in your service panel while using DIY techniques. Taking advantage of a professional electrician’s service may increase the expense to up to $280.

Take note that some factors should be considered in thinking about the overall expenses of installing a circuit breaker, especially for your air compressor. Some of these elements may include:

  • Local labor rates
  • Circuit breaker specifications
  • Type of circuit breaker to use (e.g., standard or GFCI)
  • Task complexity
  • Number of breakers to install and/or replace


Now that you’ve reached the end of this post, you should now have a good idea of what size breaker for an air compressor to use. Remember, don’t hesitate to use an online amperage calculator if you can’t find the information on the compressor unit or its packaging.

Also, call a professional electrician if you don’t have the confidence or the expertise to handle circuit breakers and other electrical assemblies. Making mistakes, such as using the wrong breaker, can promote risks.

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