What is a breaker box? How do you turn it off? And why would you want to? So many questions! We’ve got answers.
The breaker box is a kind of “command center” for your home. It’s an incredibly important component in managing and maintaining power and electricity for your appliances, tools, and fixtures. And yet, many folks do not know where their breaker box is located, how to use it, or why you would even need to. Although you don’t need an HVAC license or electrician’s certification to be a well-prepared homeowner, you should have a working knowledge of your breaker box. In this article, we’ll talk about all of the basics. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have learned everything you need to know about “Circuit Breakers 101.”
What Is a Breaker Box?
First things first: What is a breaker box? It is a panel in your home, located on a wall. Most often, the location is in a utility space, such as a basement or storage room. In a warmer region, the breaker box may even be located outdoors. Some homes have more than one breaker box.
The breaker box contains individual breakers or circuit breakers that power specific areas of electric power in your home. It is also commonly known as a circuit breaker box, electric service panel, or electrical panel. Anytime you hear those names used, consider them largely interchangeable. There are a few subtle differences between the distinct parts of the breaker box.
The Breaker Box
The breaker box is the whole unit: The panel, door, and all of the individual breakers contained inside.
The circuit breakers are the individual panels and switches inside the breaker box. These look like large light switches, also known as toggle switches, and should be labeled clearly so you know which area of power each one corresponds to.
When Should You Turn Off Your Breaker Box?
You should always turn off your breaker box before starting electrical work or repairs. If you are hiring an electrician for maintenance work, he or she will perform this task. But for DIY repairs and fixes, this should be the first step you take.
You may also need to “flip” a switch on your circuit breaker. If you suddenly lose power in one portion of the house (for example, when drying your hair in the bathroom), but other areas are still lit and powered, you should check out the electric panel for a quick fix. We’ll discuss how to do this in the next section.
How Do You Turn Off Your Breaker Box?
Turning Off Individual Breakers
For the most part, you can turn off individual breakers when you need to do electrical work. To do so, locate the area you want to work on and flip the switch to the “off” position. Return to that area and test the power by turning on a device or light. If it does not turn on, the power has been successfully turned off. However, it is recommended you test appliances with voltage meters before proceeding work; this adds extra insurance and safety.
Turning Off The Main Breaker
There’s no need to cut the power in the whole house to rewire a doorbell, but occasionally you may need to. In this case, locate the main switch, typically at the top or bottom of the panel. Be aware that this will kill all of the electricity in your home — so you should bring a flashlight with you! What this does NOT do is cut off power from your utility company. The lines inside your electric service panel are still “live” and dangerous.
Resetting A Breaker
If you’ve tripped a breaker, you’ll need to reset it. This can happen as a result of overloading a circuit. Sometimes, it seemingly occurs at random. To reset it, inspect the electric service panel or breaker box. The toggle switch corresponding to that line of power will likely be somewhere in the middle between “on” and “off.” Turn it all the way to “off,” then back to its “on” position. Check to see if power has been restored. If not, you may need to call in a service technician for further repairs.
Your breaker box is a crucial part of the bones of your home. Every member of your household should know where it is located, and all adults should have a basic working knowledge of it. It’s also helpful to keep a flashlight near the panel, in case of emergencies. Finally, if the individual breakers aren’t labeled properly, now is a great time to do so.