If you're a homeowner, then one of the things you need to master is your electrical panel. Also known as a distribution panel or distribution box, it's situated near the electrical meter.

More than just knowing its location, it's vital that you master these essential things about your electrical panel:

What is the Purpose of an Electrical Panel?

This box is the focal point of all the electrical circuits in your home. This switchboard diverts the power from the electric company to the many circuits in your home.

        ·        Circuits are connected with the use of three wires. The live wire supplies the power, while the ground and neutral/return wire serve as protectors.

        ·        Appliances such as the refrigerator or water heater make use of a dedicated circuit. This often comes with a single outlet or unique housing.

        ·        In some cases, the circuit has one or more ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). These are used in safety outlets, such as those in the bathroom where shavers and hairdryers are often used.

You can turn everything off and on – except the incoming electricity – through an electrical panel. Because of this feature, it keeps your home safe in case of an overload.

Electrical panels are often found inside the garage, basement, hall closet, laundry room, or utility room.

Parts of an Electrical Panel

Main Breaker

An electrical breaker has a switch called the main breaker. It dictates the maximum amount of electricity that enters every home.

In essence, the main breaker can help reduce the chances of fire or electrocution in case of an unforeseen event. That's because you can turn this off if there's a need to cut the electricity supply to your home.

Moderns homes with an area of 2,000 square feet usually have 200-amp service. Larger structures have as much as 400 amps. The lowest amperage service of 100 is found in older homes.

If you're unsure about your home's amperage service, you can determine this by checking the number on your panel's largest breaker.

Secondary Circuit Breakers

The electrical panel also comes with secondary circuit breakers. They are linked to a connection box or a series of outlets.

Like switches, secondary breakers can prevent their respective circuits from overheating. This may happen because of a malfunctioning appliance or defective wiring.

As with the main breakers, they can switch off the circuits in case of overload and other electrical problems.

Types of Electrical Panels

Main Breaker Panel

As the most commonly used electric panel, the main breaker panel is the gold standard for modern homes.

It's safer than an electrical fuse box, even if they trip. That's because you can reset this manually after you have recognized the problem source. 

Fuse Box

If you live in an old home, you may have the fuse box. This is an early panel that helps prevent circuit overloads.

Unfortunately, these ancient panels are not as safe. As such, it will require much care and precision to be replaced.

You may need to pay a higher price for fuse box service if you're thinking about how much to replace electrical panel in Canada.

Main Lug Panel

This is a panel that is devoid of the main breaker.


This panel is installed in homes that require multiple circuits in a specific area. It obtains its power source from the main board through a circuit.

Transfer Switch

This type of sub-panel is used for circuits that utilize a back-up generator.

How to Inspect your Electrical Panel

Ideally, the panel should be inspected as soon as you move in. As part of routine housekeeping, this should be done every year.

Even if you have a good idea about how panels work, you should not tinker with it. Not only is this unsafe, but it's illegal in provinces such as Quebec.

For this, you are going to need the help of a master electrician. Apart from thoroughly inspecting your electrical panel, he can help you replace your old, unsafe fuse box.

The cost of replacing electrical panel in Canada depends on the services rendered and the materials needed. For example, replacement services are sure to be more expensive than a simple routine inspection.

How to Reset Your Breaker

In case electrical overload occurs in your home, your breaker will trip. This often happens when you're using multiple appliances at the same time.

Before you reset your breaker, you need to switch off and unplug your appliances that might have caused this. If not, they can cause another overload when you reset the breaker.

After unplugging everything, go back to the panel to check for the tripped breaker. This switch is usually between the off and on positions. Switch this off before turning it back on. This should bring back power to the tripped circuit.

To prevent your circuit from re-tripping once again, don't use your appliances all at once. If this cannot be avoided, make sure to plug your machines in different outlets.

If your electricity doesn't come back after you reset your breaker, this may point to a worse problem. Don't switch it off and on repeatedly. It could be overloaded, which makes it a considerable fire risk.

Such could be a sign of a short circuit, wherein one hot wire comes in contact with another. Another possibility is a ground fault, which happens when a hot wire touches a ground wire or the side of an outlet box.

Either way, this should prod you to call an electrician to check your panel.

Safety Reminders

As mentioned, it's best to have any panel-related issues checked and repaired by a pro.

But if an emergency happens and you need to do something right away, you must follow these safety reminders:

        ·        Before tinkering with anything in the panel, make sure you have dry hands. Also, see to it that you're standing on a dry surface to prevent electrocution.

        ·        If you see exposed wires, don't touch or do anything with them. Wait for an expert to inspect them.

An electrical panel may look complicated, but knowing its essential features can significantly help you out. As always, make sure to call a professional if you see anything unusual or alarming.


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