Electric furnace/heatpump - do built in breaker satisfy a “local disconnect”?

The breakers most likely can eliminate the possibility of most electrocutions that could happen while servicing, but what about replacing the unit? Wouldn’t it also need a disconnect before the wiring connects to the unit?

The breaker and the safety disconnect switch are two different things


That’s what my thinking has been. I recently saw a heatpump that had a sticker on it saying “the built in breakers are for disconnect purposes only, they should not be relied upon for overcurrent protection”, which made me wonder.

So it’s better than nothing, in the context of safe servicing, but not good enough?

If you imagine the built-in breaker was a “switch” instead of a breaker, you can see the difference.


I’m confused, is that a yes?

No, they’re different devices that serve different purposes.


The breaker in the unit is the disconnect, but is a switch only. Overcurrent protection needs to be in the feeder panel.

When replacing a unit the breaker in the panel is turned off.l


There are molded case switches that look like circuit breakers but provide no OCP capabilities.


The switch/breaker is for stuff downstream of that device.
Is there upstream protection for the wire?

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Thanks for the confirmation! Yes, in this case there was a switch on the other side of the wall for the heatpump. It just reminded me of past situations where I called it out as missing and worried that I was being overzealous. I feel much better now.