Electrical Panel 101: Do You Know the Basics of Your Electrical Panel?

One of the things that you may be taking advantage of in your home without really thinking much about is your electrical panel. As long as it’s working correctly, and providing electricity for your home you more than likely don’t give it too much thought. However, when something goes wrong do you know the basics of your electrical panel? Let’s go over the different basics of your electrical panel to help you when it comes to doing maintenance on your panel. In some cases, understanding the basics can make it easier on you when you try to describe the problem to the professionals to get your point across.

Type of Electrical Panel

In many newer homes, the electrical panel is called the service panel or the load center. This area is the point in your home where the main wires, located outside of your home, connect to the exit wires that go from the panel to different locations inside your home. The primary wire is called the service drop or service wire. The various cables that exit out of the service panel are called branch wire circuits or just branch circuits. This setup is very similar to a fuse box. You’ll have circuit breakers inside of it.

Many older homes still have a fuse box. It may also be known as a circuit breaker panel or a fuse panel in addition to the term fuse box. Inside of this box are fuses that are replaced when a fuse blows. Fuses typically can be pulled out and pushed back in or screwed in and out. Older homes may have fuse boxes with four fuses that are 60-amperes.

Identifying Your Electrical Panel

When it comes to electrical panel basics, it’s important to know what your panel looks like. No matter what type of electrical panel you have, it will look about the same as others. Typically, you’ll find it in the basement or utility room in homes without a basement. You’ll see a box that’s usually grey with a door on the front of it. It will have a thick cable going into it.

Opening the Panel Door

Inside the panel door, you’ll see either circuit breakers or fuses. Each circuit breaker or fuse goes to a specific area of your home. It’s always helpful when everything has a label, so you know which goes with what section of your home. This setup is great for when a circuit breaker pops, and you need to know which is the problem. In most set-ups, you’ll have one large panel that will serve the entire home with circuits inside of it.

In some cases, it’s necessary to have more than one. A smaller panel, which is known as a subpanel, is usually used for a specific area. For instance, you may have one for your garage, any home additions, or if you have a larger-sized kitchen. This smaller panel works in the same manner, but rather than having the electricity come from outside the home; it comes from the main electrical panel.

Electrical Panel Parts

Here are some common electrical panel parts that you can familiarize yourself with when it to help you understand the basics of your electrical panel.

  • Circuit Breaker – a switch used in more modern systems
  • Single Pole Breaker – a circuit breaker that runs most of your smaller electricity needs as it handles up to 120 amps
  • Double Pole Breaker – a circuit breaker that runs your larger appliances, such as your dryer or water heater, as it handles up to 240 amps
  • Fuse – found in older systems similar to a circuit breaker
  • Expansion Slots – an area where a new circuit breaker can go at a later date, such as when adding an addition to your home
  • Service Disconnect Switch – a switch that allows you to turn off all the power to your home in case you need to work on something, or there’s an emergency that requires the electricity to be off

Understanding the Basics of Your Electrical Panel

Homeowners can handle the electrical panel when it comes to the easy things. Changing a fuse or flipping a circuit, are relatively safe to handle for most people. In fact, homeowners can handle all of their electrical needs. However, many make a choice not to do so. Electrical systems may not be overly complicated, but they can be dangerous. Making a mistake with your outlets can result in a shock or other injury, but making a mistake with your electrical panel could have much more dire results. Your best protection is to have a handle on the knowledge of the basics of your electrical panel. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, it may be best if you call in the professionals.

When something is going on with your electrical panel, or you’d like to improve it, it’s a good idea to talk to the professionals. They understand what safety precautions are necessary to handle repairs and upgrades to your electrical panel. In addition, they can often recommend updates that you need to remain up to the current codes. In fact, did you know that some insurance policies require your electrical panel to be up to date or your coverage may not include damage done by an old panel? Contact us today to learn more about how our service can benefit your electrical panel.