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The Basics of The Electrical Service Panel

The electrical service panel is the command center for the home’s electricity system. It contains buttons and switches that control lighting in various parts of the home. Every homeowner should know the basics of their electrical service panel to ensure they’re prepared to act in case of an electrical emergency.

What is the electrical service panel?

The electrical service panel connects the external wires coming from the city’s power source to the internal wires of the home’s electrical system. The service panel connects the main wire coming into the home to the exit wires that travel to different parts of the home.

In single-family homes, the homeowner is responsible for issues related to the electric service panel.

What are the circuit breaker service panels and fuse boxes?

An electric service panel can also be called a fuse box, fuse panel, or circuit breaker panel. However, a circuit breaker is slightly different from a fuse box, because it contains mechanical, toggle-switch circuit breakers, rather than fuses. But the circuit breaker and fuse box have the same overall function.

Older fuse boxes have fuses that screw or pull in or out.

A residential electrical service panel can provide 100, 200, or more amps of power. Older homes built between 1950 and 1965 may have 60-ampere fuse boxes.

Where is the electric service panel located?

The electrical panel may be located in the garage, basement, pantry near the kitchen, closet, or in the hallway leading to the garage or outdoors. In other cases, the electrical panel may be located on the home’s exterior wall.

What are the key components of an electrical panel?

An electrical panel will contain the following:

  • Outer panel door
  • Protective cover with spaces for the circuit breaker switches
  • Circuit breakers
  • Lugs or main breaker and thick wires that travel up and connect to the service drop
  • Wires that run from the circuit breakers to the circuits that service areas of the house

Is it safe for homeowners to repair the electrical service panel?

Homeowners may turn the circuit breakers on and off in normal conditions. However, it’s dangerous to work with an open electrical service panel. A shock from the service lugs can be fatal. Homeowners should call in a licensed electrician for repair or replacement of their electrical panel.