Know How Your Electric Panel Works

electric-panelThe electric panel is a main component in your home, so it is necessary to know its structure. Also known as a circuit breaker, electric panels are usually mounted in an inside or back room, such as in a laundry room, in a garage, or in the basement. There are two columns in a circuit breaker. Above these columns is the main switch that controls the power to your home.

An electric panel controls the flow of electrical current to a specific outlet. It protects your home from current overloads or surges. A surge is a sudden trip in the electrical current in your home. It usually happens when large appliances, such as air-conditioners or refrigerators, had a rapid, forceful thrust or lightning strikes nearby. When more amperage passes across a circuit than it can handle, excess current occurs.

This is the reason why electric panels are created to fail safely, so they can prevent fires and other accidents. The switch automatically sets off once it detects an overload of current flowing through one of the breakers. This, in turn, protects everything beyond that switch. Power flows through the outlet when the switch is set in the “on” position. If it switches to “off” position, it means that there is excessive current. Excessive current will power surge and will automatically set the panel into the “off” position or if someone turned it off manually.

It is important to label your breakers so you can properly identify what circuits connect to each specific outlets. This will help you identify the specific appliances connected to a specific outlet, as well as the actual location of the outlets in the other rooms of your home. You can either do this yourself, or ask a licensed electrician to label your panel.

How to Label Your Electric Panel:

  • Leave the main breaker (located above the single switches) on.
  • Turn the other switches off.
  • Turn on one switch on at a time.
  • Look around your home for outlets or appliances that are working and label that switch.
  • Put the label on the inside cover of the panel or put the labels next to their corresponding switches.
  • Repeat the same process with each breaker in both columns.


Current leaves your electric panels on energized or “hot” wires. This works through the outlet or device. Then, the power returns to the panel along the neutral wires. When a person’s hands touch neutral and hot conductors, electrocution happens and this causes the current to complete its circuit through the person’s body. Electrocution is one of the leading causes of household death, where approximately 200 people die yearly.  

All of the neutral circuits connect to a neutral bar in your panel. They then connect to the main circuit neutral wire where it transmits the current to the transformers of the electrical company. The power from the utility company’s lines passes through your meter and into your electric panel. Remember to turn off the panel when working with electricity because it is very dangerous.

Electricity is the primary cause of approximately 4,000 injuries in a year. Therefore, it is best to seek the help of an electrician rather than trying to fix/adjust anything yourself.