An electrical panel on a wall with the front door open

The Anatomy of an Electrical Panel

Parts of Your Electrical Panel

Your electrical panel is the nucleus of power in your home. It’s where electricity from the grid enters and is then distributed to outlets around your house. It also protects high voltage from causing damage to your appliances and safety risk to your family.

We’re breaking down some of the most important parts of your electrical panel so you can be prepared in case of a mechanical problem or electrical emergency.

Panel Box/Cover

It’s the stereotypical gray box you see in almost every home: the containing unit for the electrical components of your panel. The box door usually has a latch to keep it closed, and opens for easy access to the rest of the panel.

Ensure the panel is securely closed, especially if you have children and the box is in an area where they might have access.

Service Switch

Inside your panel box, you’ll see a large switch that can control the entire electrical supply to your home. In an emergency, or when extensive work is being done on your home, you’d want to flip this switch to prevent damage.

Breakers

The bread and butter of the panel are the breakers, usually laid out in two lines. They’ll each be noted with the amperage that they can handle. These breakers control specific areas of your home, and sometimes specific appliances like your heating and air conditioning units.

Switches

On each breaker is a switch, which can be turned on or off, controlling the electrical current to parts of your home. These switches may also “trip” on their own, which is a built-in reaction to prevent damaged circuits. If you notice your breaker switches tripping frequently on their own, contact an electrician to investigate the issue.

Labels

Each breaker should have a label next to it. Some panels have a built-in spot to label the breaker, but if not, you should create your own. There may also be a guide with corresponding numbers or symbols that tell you what each breaker controls.

If you’re new to your home, it may be helpful to test each breaker to make sure the label is accurate. Simply flip the switch and see which area of the home is affected. Make any necessary changes ASAP.

Wires

While you won’t see them when your panel box is fully put together, behind the scenes are many wires running from the panel to the various outlets around your home.

Wires connect to parts called “buses.” There is a neutral bus and a hot bus. Hot wires come from your electric meter and connect to dedicated buses. And neutral wires are connected to long, neutral buses running vertically on either side of your circuit breakers.

Electrical connections happen in the background, and you should never mess around with the wiring in your panel on your own, for your safety.

Optional: Surge Protection

Electrical panels don’t always come with this feature, but it’s a great tool to provide greater protection for your home. Whole-home surge protection can help protect your home from electrical surges, whether caused by malfunctions in the electrical grid or lightning.

You’ve likely seen (or used) outlet surge protectors, but these do little to stop major surges from causing damage. A whole-home surge protector is wired to your electrical panel and will stop surges from burning or melting wires.

Reliable Electrical Service

For the absolute best service whenever you need it, the Sylvester Electric, Inc. team is the only way to go. Contact our experts today at (978) 910-0021 to learn more about how we can help take care of your home electrical system.