How To Read Your Electrical Panel

Like most of us, you probably take the electricity in your home for granted. But if something goes wrong, it’s important to understand how to read and use your electrical panel.

If you’ve ignored the mysterious gray metal box, afraid opening it and touching it could cause disaster somewhere in your home, it’s time to demystify its contents.

Start by finding the electrical panel

How To Read Your Electrical PanelThe electrical panel is a gray metal box flush mounted to the wall. It’s commonly installed in a utility room, garage, laundry room, basement, or hall closet. It may also be outside if you can’t find it inside.

Open it and take a look inside

Once you open the electrical panel box cover, you’ll see two columns of switches. Each switch is connected to a zone and sends power to a specific circuit in your home. In some cases, these switches were labeled at the time of installation. There may be tags located near the switches, or on the inside of the breaker panel door with numbers matching their corresponding switches. The labels may refer to specific appliances or to zones within your home.

What if the switches aren’t labeled

If the switches in your electrical panel aren’t labeled, you should take the time to test and label each circuit for future reference. Labeling them makes it easy to tell which switch controls which circuit in your home, and makes it easier to shut off a circuit for repair, or to turn it back on in case the circuit trips.

The easiest way to label your electrical panel is to work with one switch at a time. Turn off all the circuit except one. Walk through your house and check for lights and outlets that still work. Bring a small electronic device with you to quickly test each outlet. Work room by room, testing, and labeling as you go. Repeat the process until every switch is properly labeled. Keep in mind that some of your major appliances may have a circuit all to themselves.

Resetting a tripped breaker

When a circuit breaker trips, it means too much electricity has traveled through the circuit at one time. To reset the breaker, open the electric panel and look for the circuit switch that isn’t lined with the rest of them. Switch the breaker to the off position. Pause and return it to the on position. Your appliances and outlets should begin working again.

If a circuit continues to trip repeatedly, it’s an indication that something is wrong. It may be too many high-powered appliances on one circuit. It may be a faulty connection. It may be time for an upgrade, to ensure your electrical circuits are up to code and working properly.

For more help reading your electrical panel, give us a call.

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