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Home Circuit Breakers

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Summary: A visual guide to home circuit breakers and the home electrical panel system.

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Circuit Breakers Commonly Used in the Home Electrical Panels

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Home circuit breakers are at the heart of your home electrical power system and are the main component of power distribution for the circuits providing electricity to every area of your home. Home circuit breakers have evolved away from the screw in fuse where they hardly ever wear out and can be simply reset and turned back on in the even of a circuit failure or fault.

Electrical Circuit Breakers and The Electrical Service Panel

The electrical service panel is the power distribution center of the home electrical system.
The Home Circuit Breaker Panel

Circuit Breaker Panel

The home electrical panel is where the circuit breakers are installed and can be checked or manually turned on or off for when necessary. The home circuit breakers are covered by the service panel cover which serves as a protective barrier to keep unskilled individuals out of the area to avoid the possibility of electrical shock.

Circuit Breakers Clearly Labeled

Labeling Circuit Breakers

The circuit breaker panel cover typically has an index which allows labeling or identification of all the installed circuit breakers. Accurate labeling of circuit breakers is extremely helpful when trying to locate the exact circuit breaker that supplies power to a home circuit, device or area of the home.

Access to Home Circuit Breakers

Inside the Electrical Panel

Home circuit breakers may be accessed by qualified individuals for testing or servicing as necessary. This area typically has several wires of different colors that identify them for a specific purpose. Each wire is carefully routed to its appropriate location and securely fastened. Keeping the wiring neat and orderly will be very beneficial if extensive work will be required in the future. Wiring should not be too long, or too short, and adjusted as needed depending on the space provided inside the panel.

Special Purpose Home Circuit Breakers

Special Purpose Breakers

While each circuit breaker has a specific purpose and assignment, one is the most important of all. This is the Main Circuit Breaker also known as the Main Service Disconnect. This circuit breaker will turn the power off to the distribution area of the electrical service panel. An experienced electrician knows however that even when the main circuit breaker is in the off position that there are still areas of the panel or primary electrical cables leading to the main breaker that will still be energized with live electricity.

Home Circuit Breakers for Power Distribution

Power Distribution

Depending on the size of the home, several circuit breakers will be found. You will notice that many electricians will identify the circuit cables showing what the circuit will be used for which is very helpful when the panel cover has been removed by the electrician. This makes it easy to trace cables and check the connections for specific wire conductors if needed. This also serves as a convenient way of testing the circuit wiring for voltage or amperage readings.

Applications with Circuit Breakers

My dryer is single phasing and certain other wall plugs are out after lightning storm. The dryer tries to come on but does 't have enough power to start. We looked in the circuit box and nothing is tripped. Is this repairable by us or do we need an electrician?

Hi Dornida - Great Question! I will begin by stating that I advise homeowners not to perform work In their main Electrical Service Panel, especially when it come to trouble shooting the loss of the Main Service or part of it.The extent of which you can safely perform checks would be Visually Inspecting the Breakers to see if they are Tripped.

In some cases a breaker may appear to be in the ON position when in fact it is tripped off internally. If this is the case, then by turning the breaker OFF all the way, then back ON should remedy this situation, otherwise there may be another problem, and it still may be with the breaker or the attachment of the breaker to the Panel Buss. After making these Visual Checks, if you do not have Normal 240 volt Power, then I would consult a Professional Electrician.The typical home has a 240 volt service, which is a result of two 120 volt lines entering the Main Panel from your Local Electric Utility Company.It appears that you have indeed lost one of the 120 volt lines .A test must be performed to discover where the trouble is, this comes through A Process of Elimination and Inspection, starting with the Main Service Feeds entering the Breaker area of the service - NOT inside the Electric Utility Company area of the panel (this area is off limits to anyone while the electrical service is energized from the utility company.The process usually starts by checking at the Main Breaker or any 240 volt breaker - Using a tester that can test for 240 volts, checking Line One across to Line Two - this area should have 240 volts on the secondary side of these breakers. If the reading does not show 240 volts then the problem is on the Electric Utility Company side of your service and you will need to call the Utility Company and explain the situation to them.

This question is based on a specific project. Ask The Electrician provides help for your electrical project: Ask Electrical Questions

Questions about Home Circuit Breakers

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Planning and Installing a Garage Sub Panel: I want to add a panel to my attached garage, what size circuit breaker do I need?

Why Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping Off

Why does my circuit breaker keep tripping? The Most Common Causes of a Tripped Circuit Breaker.

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See more at the Electrical Questions Category Listing.

Questions about Home Circuit Breakers

Let Us Hear Your Question!

Karl in Tennessee asks:
Type of Circuit Breaker Panel

I need to install a new 200 amp circuit breaker panel on a covered porch. I want to place the new panel in the exact foot print as the old indoor panel. can I use an indoor rated panel on the covered porch? Do they make a flush mount panel for outdoor use?

Dave’s Reply:
Replacing a Panel

The panel is basically still being mounted in an outdoor location, therefore it must be a panel that is Type NEMA 3R which is rated for an outdoor location.

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Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.


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