Home Improvement | 29 September 2015Understanding Your Home’s Electrical Panel Share article facebook twitter google pinterest This old electrical panel with four screw-in fuses and two pull-out fuses looks new compared to the panel in my first apartment. Source – HomeSkills Wiring Even if you aren’t deep into do-it-yourself, and even if you aren’t doing your own wiring projects, it is important as a homeowner, or as an apartment dweller, to understand your electrical panel. If, say, you’re moving into your first apartment, you may discover an antiquated electrical system that will not allow for you to use your hairdryer with the bathroom or bedroom lights on. Newer homes and apartments have 100 amp service with 15 and 20 amp receptacles (outlets), but some apartments out there only have 30 amp service with, say, 10 amp receptacles. The electrical panels for those old apartments will likely be located in the utility room in the basement, while newer apartments now have the electrical panel within the apartment itself. A large, new electrical panel with capacity for 30 circuits. Source – HomeSkills Wiring Here is some great information and explanatory photos about electrical panels from Cool Springs Press HomeSkills Wiring book. Every home has a main service panel that distributes electrical current to the individual circuits. The main service panel usually is found in the basement, garage, or utility area, and can be identified by its metal casing. Before making any repair to your electrical system, you must shut off power to the correct circuit at the main service panel. The service panel should be indexed so circuits can be identified easily. Service panels vary in appearance, depending on the age of the system. Very old wiring may operate on 30?amp service that has only two circuits. New homes can have 200?amp service with 30 or more circuits. Find the size of the service by reading the amperage rating printed on the main fuse block or main circuit breaker. Regardless of age, all service panels have fuses or circuit breakers that control each circuit and protect them from overloads. In general, older service panels use fuses, while newer service panels use circuit breakers. In addition to the main service panel, your electrical system may have a subpanel that controls some of the circuits in the home. A subpanel has its own circuit breakers or fuses and is installed to control circuits that have been added to an existing wiring system. The subpanel resembles the main service panel but is usually smaller. It may be located near the main panel, or it may be found near the areas served by the new circuits. Garages and basements that have been updated often have their own subpanels. If your home has a subpanel, make sure that its circuits are indexed correctly. When handling fuses or circuit breakers, make sure the area around the service panel is dry. Never remove the protective cover on the service panel. After turning off a circuit to make electrical repairs, remember to always test the circuit for power before touching any wires. A circuit breaker panel providing 100 amps or more of power is common in wiring systems installed during the 1960s and later. A circuit breaker panel is housed in a gray metal cabinet that contains two rows of individual circuit breakers. The size of the service can be identified by reading the amperage rating of the main circuit breaker, which is located at the top or bottom of the main service panel. A 200-amp service panel is now the minimum standard for all new housing. It is considered adequate for a medium-sized house with no more than three major electric appliances. However, larger houses with more electrical appliances often are equipped with a 400-amp service panel. To shut off power to individual circuits in a circuit breaker panel, flip the lever on the appropriate circuit breaker to the OFF position. To shut off the power to the entire house, turn the main circuit breaker to the OFF position. The lines on the panel labels are small; create your own circuit index with room to write details. Source – HomeSkills Wiring Every house should have a properly labeled service panel. This makes it much easier to find a circuit that has been tripped. If the same circuit is regularly tripped, you are either overloading the circuit, or there is a problem with the wiring or the circuit breaker. Each circuit typically has a number of outlets or lights in the same room or same area of the house. In old houses that have been re-wired sometimes there is no logic to the circuits. A house I lived in had three different circuits that fed the bathroom outlets and fixtures. A plug-in tester is a great investment. Not only does it tell you if a receptacle is working, it tells you if it is wired properly. Source – HomeSkills Wiring If the electrical panel in your home is not properly labeled, take the time to label it in detail. And use terms that are specific, but not specific to you—for example, North Bedroom, not Kid’s Bedroom. This task is easiest with two people and two phones. One person flips off a circuit breaker on the panel while the other checks every outlet and fixture in the area of the circuit. Use a plug-in tester or a small lamp to check outlets. As part of our comprehensive HomeSkills DIY series, HomeSkills: Wiring will make you the brightest thing in your house. Few trades are more dangerous to the novice than working with electricity. In wiring, understanding the finer details is crucial to your personal safety—it is a craft that demands only the most reliable information, and HomeSkills: Wiring provides just that. Its skills-based approach to electrical work does more than simply tell you to connect the black wire to the brass terminal; it familiarizes you with each step along the way so you understand the larger purpose for every task. The book sensibly distills the fundamental components of successful wiring: an overview of home electrical service and how it works; discussion of tools, tool usage, and materials handling; and step-by-step instructions for stripping insulated wire, making connections with a wire connector, running cable through walls, wiring ceiling lights, hooking up receptacles and switches, grounding electrical loads safely, navigating your electrical service panel, and other common wiring jobs. Add to these dependable lessons the book’s 300 beautiful how-to photos, with content updated to meet current electrical codes, and you’ll soon be conquering your home’s electrical projects safely and efficiently—without paying a premium for it. Check out our five other HomeSkills guides on carpentry, deck building, landscaping, plumbing, and tiling. Buy from an Online Retailer Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.