Most of us refer to our home’s main electrical panel as the breaker box. This is because it breaks the circuit which is required to do electrical work. However, it’s technically referred to as the load center. 

Main Electrical Panel Overview

The main panel functions like a switchboard for the entire home. Essentially, it takes the power coming from the main utility and directs it toward each of the circuits powering appliances, lights and other devices in the home. 

Most homes function with one main electrical panel, but others will have sub-panels that are used to power specific areas like an addition or a detached garage. 

Circuit Breaker Switches

Open the door of the electrical panel and inside you will see a series of switches for each circuit breaker. Each circuit breaker has an on and off position that allows you to manually control the power to the circuit. 

When a circuit in an overloading state, the switch moves to a neutral third position between on and off. This is a good thing and is designed to fail safely to prevent fires. 

Each switch should have a label that is clearly depicting which area or appliance it has a connection with.

Older homes predating the 1960’s may have fuses versus circuit breakers. 

Beneath the Dead Front Cover

Most homeowners never go below the layer of the electrical panel where the circuit breaker location switches are. The cover where the switches are is the dead front cover. This is typically held in place typically by a screw in each corner. 

To upgrade the electrical panel, an electrician first turns off the power to the main circuit breaker, then removes the dead front cover. 

The location of the main circuit breaker is typically at the top of the panel. It takes the power incoming from the utility and feeds the branch circuit breakers controlling individual circuits. The main circuit breaker also determines the total amperage capacity of the panel. The standard for newer panel is 200 amps. 

Bus Bars

A bus bar is a metallic strip or bar, housing inside the panel for local high current power distribution. The service wires from the main circuit breaker feed two hot bus bars in the panel. The circuit breakers snap into place onto the bus bars to provide power to the circuits. 

Once power leaves the circuit breaker, provides power to your appliances, lights, etc. it comes back into the breaker via the neutral wire connecting to a neutral bus bar.

If you need help with your electrical panel, you can request a service from us at Wire Craft electric. We are just one message away.