How Your Home’s Electrical Panel Works

A man flipping a circuit breaker on a home electrical panel.

An electrical panel is one of the key elements to a safe and functional home. Here’s more about how it works and why we need it.

What is an Electrical Panel?

If you live in a home with electricity, you have an electrical panel or circuit breaker that controls everything. Wires from outside the space connect to the panel at a central location in the house, and electricity is then distributed to outlets and appliances. It is also referred to as a circuit breaker or a distribution panel.

The circuit breakers in the panel protect your home from an uneven flow of electricity, especially when appliances or outside elements cause a spike. Surges can damage the entire system and can be dangerous.

How Does an Electrical Panel Work?

An electrical panel will have a master breaker that can turn off every electrical outlet in the home. It also has rows of circuit breakers that control individual outlets and lights. This gives you both the option of localized control for specific functions or broad control in an emergency.

Individual circuit breakers that control specific outlets are usually labeled or can be labeled if your system is new. If you move things around, make sure to relabel the breaker switches so you know how to control each outlet. If you look at your panel, you’ll likely see labels for “washing machine” or “oven” and other major appliances.

The panel is usually located in a garage or basement, out of the way of common areas in your home. If you just moved, make sure to seek out your panel and get accustomed to how it’s set up.

Using a Sub-Panel

Sometimes, an area of the home or one appliance uses a large amount of electricity and needs greater control. If this is the case, an electrician may recommend a sub-panel. This is a smaller version of the main panel that only controls a specific area or appliance. If you have a hot tub, sauna, studio, or other electricity needs, a sub-panel may be necessary.

Why a Panel is Necessary

Safety and control are the top priorities for home electrical usage, which is where the electrical panel comes into play. Electrical current enters your home through the meter, but you don’t need the full power all at once. The circuit breaker helps to regulate energy and distribute it at a safe level.

What Is a Circuit Breaker?

When your electrical panel is hooked up by a professional, the electrician will set up the wires and breakers to handle the same voltage. This means the breaker will supply the wire with a voltage it can handle, and no more. Giving a wire too much power could cause a short circuit or a fire.

If a surge in power should reach the panel, the breaker will automatically flip an individual switch to the “off” or “center” position, protecting the appliance at the other end of the outlet. If you notice a switch is in one of these positions (and you didn’t flip it yourself), this may be why.

Safety Precautions

Always hire a licensed electrician to make repairs to your electrical panel or diagnose a problem when something goes wrong. Dealing with raw electricity is still dangerous, and a licensed professional knows the right steps to stay safe while working with power.

Residential Electrical Services in Albany & Pittsfield

If you need a repair or upgrade in your electrical system, look no further than. Comalli Group, Inc.. Our electricians have done it all and have earned a stellar reputation in the Northeast. Call us today at (413) 213-3661 to schedule an appointment.