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Circuit Breaker Panel

How to Read Your Circuit Breaker Panel

A circuit breaker panel or a “breaker box” is a nest of electricity received outside and distributed through your home. This mysterious, usually gray box is the reason we can enjoy watching TV, turning on the lights, doing laundry, and many other things, which are impossible without electrical power.

People never care about their circuit breaker panels until they experience electrical issues. And often, when opening a metal door of the box, they get perplexed by dozens of small switches. For example, you have a problem; you plug in a dryer in a bedroom outlet, but it doesn’t work. So how to read your breaker box panel to reveal and fix the issue?  

let’s start with the basics.

Locating Your Breaker Box Panel

Most breaker boxes are found outside the house. But they can also be installed in a utility room, basement, storage room, or garage. If you live in an apartment, it can be in a cupboard or hallway.

Metal Door

Sometimes it’s difficult to locate a breaker panel as it can be recessed into the wall. But if you see a mate gray color door that looks like a metal cabinet, congratulations, you’ve found it! Now, let’s look at what is inside the panel.

Big Breaker Box Switch

While opening a circuit breaker’s door, you will notice a large switch on the top that powers the whole house. It is larger than the other switches below. During an emergency, you should turn it off in the first place.

Small Breaker Panel Switches

Smaller switches are placed on either side of the vertical line. Each controls power to a specific area in the home. For example, one breaker box switch controls a kitchen, the other a living room, etc. Some 15-amp circuits may power electrical switches and outlets, while higher amperage separate breakers are meant for larger appliances, such as washing machines, dryers, and so on.

AFCI and GFCI Switches

Your panel may have arc-fault circuit-interrupter (AFCI) and Ground-fault circuit-interrupter switches that protect homes from arc and ground faults. They help to avoid shock and fires. 

Labeled or Not?

It’s easy to read your breaker panel when each switch is numbered and labeled. For instance, you may see a switch labeled “Bedroom,” which powers all the outlets and lights in the bedroom. But what if there are no labels on the switch? Well, you have to label them on your own. This is how you can do this.

  • Turn off all circuit breakers (switches) and leave only one.
  • Go to every room and test each outlet with a small lamp. Also, check the light switches.
  • Once you identify a room that has power, label a breaker box switch.
  • Continue testing the rest of the rooms to label other switches.

When You Need to Read Your Circuit Breaker Panel

Knowing how to read your circuit box will help you address situations such as an electrical emergency. If an outlet gets hot or even sparks in the living room, you can go to your breaker and flip the switch that controls the living room. This is just one example. Other reasons you may want to use a panel box are:

  • Resetting a tripped switch. Sometimes when a certain circuit is overloaded, the switch trips. You can easily locate such a switch by noticing that it isn’t lined up with others. You should reset it by turning it on. However, you have to be cautious if your breaker keeps tripping. The problem can be fixed by unloading a circuit; don’t use high-voltage appliances on one circuit. Otherwise, you should call a professional electrician to inspect a breaker.
  • Replacing a new outlet or light switch. Working with electrical systems is very dangerous. So before installing a new fixture, make sure you have turned off the circuit.
  • Cutting power from some circuits. You may want to do that when on a business trip or vacation. By turning off some circuits, you can save money.

Get Help With Your Circuit Breaker

If you need help with a circuit breaker, contact RG Electric today or request a free estimate.

We can inspect your electrical panel wiring, upgrade a box in case circuits get overloaded and a tripped breaker has become a frequent problem. Also, call us if you tried to label switches, and it seems they don’t lead to any room or outlet.

Expert Tips

Need electrical repair tips? RG Electric is an expert on electrical installations and repairs. We have collected valuable guides about safety, codes, and other related topics to boost your electrical system know-how.

Have an electrical emergency? Contact us now!

Whether you experience an emergency at home or in your place of work, trust our fast responses and solutions to fix it for you.
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