Using Your Electrical Panel

By: Ezra Plank

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Your electrical panel is an electrical safety device that shuts down an electrical circuit whenever it is using too much current, and might cause fire or electrical shock. Many people only think about looking at their panel when one of their electrical circuits stops working. However, the wise tenant or homeowner will have thought ahead, and labeled the circuits in the panel box, so that it is clear which switch or fuse controls which circuits in their residence.

When you have located your electrical panel, open it up and see if it contains fuses, or circuit breakers. Most modern residences use breakers, but some older homes may still have fuses instead. If the power has been shut off to one of your electrical circuits, here's a little home electrical repair you can do to restore it:

Using a Fuse Box

Fuse Box by William Mewes, on Flickr
Note: fuses are round,
and screw in and out.

When a fuse "blows", the current in its circuit has become large enough to melt a thin metal strip inside it. When this happens, of course, the current cannot be restored until the fuse has been replaced with a new one. Always use a new fuse that has the same rating as the one you are replacing. Using a 20 amp fuse to replace a 15 amp fuse is very dangerous, as it would enable way too high a current to exist before blowing.

Before you replace the fuse, be sure to turn off all electrical appliances on its circuit, particularly those that you suspect may have caused the fuse to blow. And also, for your safety, throw off the master switch for the fuse box, just to be sure you don't get shocked when putting in the new one.

Using a Breaker Box

When too much current passes through a circuit breaker, it "trips", and stops the current from flowing. The breaker switch goes to a neutral position between ON and OFF. To restore power, all you have to do is throw the switch to OFF, and then back to ON - but DON'T DO IT YET! First, turn off all appliances in the circuit.

Restoring the current

Patio Project 015 by roger_mommaerts, on Flickr
Note: breakers are switches,
and clearly show ON & OFF.

Turn the power back on, either by throwing the master switch or the circuit breaker switch back to the on position. If the fuse blows or the breaker clicks off right away, you have a serious problem with the wiring somewhere in the electrical circuit. Call an electrician immediately!

If everything seems OK, turn on the appliances in the circuit one by one. If one of them blows the circuit again, it is causing too high a current. There could be a short in the appliance, and you will need to get it repaired or replaced. Or when you turned it on, it could have added too much of a load to what's already turned on. In that case, consider having an electrical repairman install a new circuit breaker with a higher rating.

If things are good in the electrical panel, but an outlet still doesn't have power, turn on its switch if it has one. If it is not switched, then you will need to check its wiring, or call in an electrical repairman to do it for you.

This article was posted here for your convenience. It is a reprint of an original article of the same name, written by Ezra Plank for Ezine Articles, Electrical Safety Devices - Using Your Electrical Panel.