What does your electric panel do?
You may know the service panel as the breaker box, while in the trade it’s officially called a load center. The main service panel is like the switchboard for all the electricity in the home. It receives the incoming power from the utility company and distributes it to each of the circuits that supply the various lights, outlets, appliances, and other devices throughout the house. Everything but the incoming utility power can be shut off and turned on at the main service panel.
The maximum amount of electricity that a home can use at one time is dictated by the size of the main breaker. The breaker is a type of switch, set to flip off in case of an overload in the home, reducing the risk of fire or electrocution. Most modern homes will have 200 amp (short for amperage) service, while an older home might only have 100 amp service and a larger home 400 amp service. If you’re curious about your home’s electrical service, open the main breaker panel and look for the largest breaker switch in the panel, usually mounted at the top of the panel. The number on the switch will tell you the total amps of your home’s electric service.
- Find the main circuit breaker.
- Add together the numbers written on each of its two switches.
- Write down the number printed on each of the branch circuit breakers.
- Add together the amperage from all the branch circuit breakers.
- Multiply the sum from Step 4 by 0.8 to determine the actual amps in the circuit breaker.
- Main Breaker Panel: The main breaker panel is the most commonly used electrical panels.
- Fuse Boxes: Fuse boxes are designed for preventing circuit overloads.
- Main Lug Panels: These types of panels don’t feature the main breaker.
- Sub Panels: Perfect for homes where multiple circuits are required in the same area. These electrical panels get their power from the main panel through a circuit.
- Transfer Switches: A type of sub-panel that is suited for circuits where a backup power generator is used.