Your electrical panel is considered the heart of your entire home electrical wiring system. It plays a crucial role in distributing power safely and efficiently throughout the subpanels or subcircuits in your home. Today, circuit breakers come in various shapes, sizes, and configurations.
In this article, let us take a look at the main parts of an electrical panel. Having at least the basic knowledge of the main components an electrical panel will enable you to handle power-related emergencies quickly and safely, help you identify typical culprits associated with common electric problems, and may even be able to troubleshoot minor home electrical issues that may arise.
Main Components of a Home Electrical Panel
Electricity comes into your house from a service drop which then connects to the service lugs within your electrical panel, and is split into each of the separate circuits throughout your home. The primary components of a home electrical panel are as follows:
- The Main Breaker
One of the fundamental parts of an electrical panel, the main breaker is the biggest breaker in your panel. It helps limit the amount of electricity to protect the subcircuits. It protects the rest of the circuits and the wires from coming in contact with moisture, dust, and other foreign particles. The main breaker is often situated at the top, bottom, or middle of the panel.
- Circuit Breakers
Every circuit in your home comes with a corresponding breaker. In the event of an electrical overload on a circuit, which is usually caused by a short circuit or too many appliances running simultaneously, the corresponding breaker helps protect your home minimizing the risks of potential electrical hazards by automatically tripping to shut off the flow of current to the troubled circuit.
Ideally, each of the circuit in your home must be clearly labeled on the inside of the main breaker panel door. This will make it easier to identify the corresponding circuit breakers that control the rooms in the house or appliances in case you need to turn them off to replace a receptacle or switch or perform some maintenance.
- Neutral Bus
It generally connects to the neutral wire of the main circuit that helps to return electrical energy to the breaker panel after flowing power to a machine. Unlike the hot bus bars, a neutral bus bar does not have an overcurrent protection device, so it is capable of maintaining 0 volts at all times.
- Grounding Bus Bar
The last but not the least component of an electrical panel to complete its function, the grounding bus bar, is mainly designed for grounding wires from the different circuits and connects them to itself.
Where Can I Find My Electrical Panel At Home?
The maximum amperage that an electrical panel can provide is typically marked on the main breaker. A 100-amp main is sufficient to handle the electrical needs of a regular household. However, most of the newer homes now are powered by 150-amp or 200-amp services to ensure more capacity to cater to the modern lifestyle of today’s household.
The electrical panel is usually mounted on the outside of the house, either combined with or separate from the electric meter, or on an inside wall, behind the electric meter. You may find them in the garage, basement, storage room, pantry adjacent to your kitchen or the hallway that leads to your garage or outdoors.
How Often Should I Replace My Panel?
Generally, electrical panels should last you for decades. They come in rigid structure to ensure safe transmission of electricity, and they are designed to protect your circuit breakers from dust and moisture.
It’s important to teach your children the basics of electrical safety, electrical panel covers are essential to make sure the internal components are inaccessible to children and those unfamiliar with electrical work, so it’s vital to keep your panel doors closed at all times. It is also recommended to have your electrical panel checked by a qualified electrician at least once a year to ensure they are in their best working condition possible. Signs you may need to consider replacing or upgrading your electrical panel include the following:
- Flickering or Dimming Lights
- Circuit Breakers that Frequently Trip
- Electrical Panel that Feels Warm to Touch
- Burning smells or Signs of Frayed and Charred Wires in the Panel