The electrical panel is a crucial component to understand when it comes to understanding how your house operates. Also known as the Electric Service Panel, Electric Panel Board, Load Center, or Fuse Box, it’s a metal box with one or two doors that contains all the elements that power your home’s electricity.
The panel contains a series of single circuit breakers in two columns, and a double-pole breaker at the top called the main. Each circuit breaker is rated based on how much current it can safely carry and has an on/off switch that is used to power each one. The main breaker switch controls the entire panel and is labeled with its amperage capacity, usually 100 amp today.
Each of the other switches in each column control a different electrical space in your home. 15-amp breakers control lighting and standard outlets, 20-amp breakers control appliances and electrical heaters, and higher amperage ones control larger spaces like the garage, laundry room, or kitchen appliances. A tripped switch means that something is overloaded and needs to be fixed, or it could lead to an outage.
When a problem happens with your panel, you’ll likely notice that your lights go out or you hear strange sounds when you turn on an appliance. The first thing to do is to check your breaker box to see whether it’s working. Then, if the problem is not there, you’ll want to start looking for the problem with your equipment.
Electrical panels are dangerous and should only be opened by licensed electricians. It’s important to know how each part works, so if there is a problem with the panel you will be able to find it and fix it before it becomes an emergency situation.
The most common types of panels are the electrical service panel, the fuse box, and the load center. The electrical service panel is the most important, as it’s where all the wiring for your house is connected and monitored. It’s located in the basement or garage and can be identified by its gray color and large, black letters that read “Electrical Service”.
The fuse box is an older version of an electrical service panel that protects household circuit wiring by using fuses rather than circuit breakers. A tripped fuse can still cause a fire or injury, but with a tripped circuit breaker you can usually reset it by flipping the breaker off and back on again. The fuse box is still commonly found in homes and may be located in a hallway near the garage or laundry room. The fuse box also is sometimes called a circuit breaker, breaker box, or power distribution box. Electrical Panel