Electrical panels serve as the control center, or brain, of any electrical system, such as those in homes, businesses, and other such spaces requiring power. They consist of a metal box with a door that has been built into a wall, and they house all of the circuit breaker switches used in a particular system. Simply put, circuit breakers are automatic electrical switches that turn off power during an electrical shortage or overcurrent. They “trip” to protect wiring from damage, which in turn keeps people safe from electric shocks and their homes protected from potential fires. Circuit breakers are similar to fuses, but they do not require replacement after each use; this makes them a far more efficient choice. They also have up to 3 connection points and are used with high-voltage appliances like refrigerators or laundry machines. In this blog, we will discuss electrical panels and their relation to circuit breakers so that you can have a better understanding of these protective technologies.
When to Replace Your Electrical Panels
Built to store individual circuit breakers that correspond to different areas of a home or its wiring, electrical panels may require replacement if you want to upgrade from fuses or if additional circuit breakers are needed because your current panel’s capacity has been maximized. It is important to note that if your home requires more power, you will need to increase overall amperage as replacing electrical panels would not be sufficient.
Components of An Electrical Panel
Homes and other buildings are powered by wires that connect to electrical panels which feature a main breaker, circuit breakers, and bus bars. To start, the main breaker of an electrical panel works to limit the amount of electricity entering from outside for the purpose of protecting the circuits it powers. It additionally gauges the amperage capacity of any breaker panel. Next, the circuit breakers themselves are stacked inside the panel, featuring an on and off switch which controls the flow of power.
Bus bars take in power from two thick black wires connected to the electrical meter and carry it through circuit breakers to the circuits themselves, while neutral bus bars connect to the neutral wire of the main circuit. Neutral bars serve as the contact point for the white wires that move electricity back into the breaker panel following their movement through the black wires to provide power to a device. Most homes additionally have a main grounding wire that connects to the neutral bus bars. Grounding bus bars combine all grounding wires, connecting them to the ground bar, and they are also attached to a grounding conductor, but not to the neutral bar at sub-panels.
What Size Electrical Panel is Needed?
Before making any electrical upgrades such as large renovations, appliance replacements, or air conditioning changes, it is important to be aware of the size of your electrical panel so you can gauge how many and what type of panel meters are needed. Most homes feature either a 100 Amp 30/60 circuit electrical panel that has 30 spaces for breakers, or a 100 Amp 60/120 circuit electrical panel with 60 spaces available for breakers. Larger panels will offer more power to appliances and equipment, so as your load grows, so too should the panels housing components.
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