The electrical panel is the heart of your home’s power system. It controls the flow of current to your lights and appliances, protecting them from sudden voltage fluctuations and power surges. It also allows you to quickly and easily switch off circuits in emergencies.
The panel is mounted in the garage, basement or laundry room and can be accessed by opening the cover. Inside, you’ll see circuit breakers arranged in two columns with a main switch above them that can be turned off to shut off power to the entire house. Each circuit is rated with an amp capacity, which tells you the maximum amount of power it can safely allow in your home.
Most homes with newer panels have 100-amp service, which is adequate for most home loads. Older homes may have 60-amp fuse boxes, but this size of service is becoming obsolete and most banks or mortgage companies won’t loan on these houses. If you’re planning to add heavy power tools, large appliances, a hot tub or any other significant renovations, consult with an electrician to perform a load calculation and ensure your home’s panel is up for the job.
Before you open your panel, make sure to remove any tools from the area and stand back to keep from touching any exposed parts. Electric shock can occur if you touch the wrong parts and aren’t careful, so wear gloves and a pair of safety glasses to prevent injury.