What Is a Breaker Box?

It probably goes without saying that your home’s circuit breaker is extremely important. After all, it plays an essential role in regulating how it handles electricity. Without one, turning on one of your devices would immediately overwhelm it with power.

While it may not be overly important that you understand how a breaker box works, it’s still helpful, given its important task.

For that same reason, it would be wise to understand one of its essential components: the circuit breaker panel.

Understanding What the Circuit Breaker Panel Does

A circuit breaker panel is the central point of distribution for all of the electrical circuits in your house. Generally, it’s responsible for providing 100 to 200 amps of electricity. However, that exact number depends on your panel’s rating.

Power enters your home through the service entrance. Upon entering, an electrical meter immediately records your usage. Then, the electricity passes through your circuit breaker panel.

Your system may also feature a sizable disconnect switch between your home’s electrical meter and the circuit breaker panel.

Inside Your Home’s Circuit Breaker Panel

At the top of the panel, the service entrance’s wires are connected to lugs, which are just two big terminals.

Unless the utility company literally shuts down the power completely, assume that are always energized.

A dead front cover is in charge of protecting the lugs and the wires that connect it to the circuit breaker panel box. You will see it right away anytime you open your breaker panel’s door. It has openings that let you access your home’s breakers, which is really as much access as you should ever need.

The Main Breaker

In the vast majority of breaker panels, the breakers are organized in two rows, side-by-side. Either above or below them, you will see a larger breaker. This is the main breaker and it controls the electricity to all the others.

If you were to switch it off, you’d be doing the same to all of the circuits in your home.

However, that doesn’t mean that your panel isn’t energized anymore. The lugs will remain energized no matter what, which is why you need to always keep the dead front cover in place and never try getting past it.

The Branch Circuit Breakers

The two columns of breakers are your home’s branch circuits. They are the sources of electricity for the individual circuits throughout your home.

Circuit breakers that supply more than 30 amps are called “double-pole breakers.” If you have a larger home or added an addition to it at some point, you may also have subpanels, which is basically a smaller breaker designed for that specific space.

Knowing When to Replace Your Circuit Breaker Panel

As you can see, your circuit breaker panel’s job is to stroke the vital components that all your home to successfully – and safely – accept electricity from your utility company and send it throughout the house as necessary.

For the most part, breaker boxes don’t need any maintenance, but if you realize it’s been damaged – especially the dead cover – you should replace it right away to ensure proper operation.


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