Electrical panels are an essential component of comfortable, modern homes, and yet, many homeowners aren’t familiar with how their panel works. In this article, we’ll explore the power and purpose of the panel.
What Is an Electrical Panel?
An electrical panel also called a load center, accepts the main power that comes into a home from the power line and distributes it into separate circuits that power each room. Homeowners should know the location of their panel so that they can address power issues as they arise.
If you’re building a new home, locating the panel is likely to be a part of your final walkthrough and orientation. However, if you’re moving into an existing home, you may need to track down the panel location yourself. Begin your search in unobtrusive locations such as a laundry room, utility closet, or garage.
Typically, each room will be labeled on your electrical panel. If it isn’t, you can figure out which room a circuit controls by cutting the power to it and tracking down which room has been disconnected from power.
Circuit Breakers vs. Fuses
Electrical panels are designed to cut power to specific rooms or the entire home in the event of a power surge, ground fault, or short circuit. The purpose is to protect the home and its inhabitants from dangerous electrical currents that can cause fires.
Not sure whether you have a circuit breaker or fuse box? Look inside your panel. If you have on/off switches that you can toggle, then you have a circuit breaker. If you have a fuse box, you’ll instead see a collection of round, screw-in plugs.
How Do Circuits Work?
Circuit breakers have a collection of switches that control the flow of electricity to individual rooms. They also have the main circuit, called the main breaker, that controls power to the entire home.
The panel connects the electrical wires coming into your home with a bus bar in the service panel. In the event of a power surge or ground fault, your circuit breaker protects your electrical wires from overheating and causing a fire by “flipping” to cut power to either one room or the entire home.
To restore power to a room, locate the switch that is “off” and return it to the “on” position.
How Do Fuses Work?
Homes built before 1965 that have not been updated are likely to have fuses rather than circuits. Fuses usually screw into a socket on the panel and have a thin metal strip inside that completes the circuit between a home’s exterior power supply and each room of the home.
The metal carries an electrical current up to a specific voltage, often 120 volts. If the power flowing into the home exceeds the fuse’s maximum capacity, then it will “blow” and melt the thin metal strip inside. When the electrical circuit breaks, power will not be able to flow to the rooms of your home. Fuses protect your electrical wiring from overheating and causing a fire.
Unlike a circuit breaker, homeowners cannot just flip a switch to turn the power back on to a room. They must take out the blown fuse and replace it with an identical fuse. It’s important for homeowners to ensure that the new fuse has the same amperage as the original. Providing circuits with more power than they are designed to handle is unsafe and can lead to fires.
Get in Touch with Barnett
If the same switch flips frequently or you find yourself replacing fuses often, there may be a serious problem with your home’s electrical system. Get in touch with Barnett to diagnose and remedy the issue.