Electric Circuit Panel Identification

It is very important that you have an accurate circuit board index mounted on the interior of the panel box, which identifies what is being controlled by your circuit breakers and or fuses.

What is a circuit board or a fuse panel?

When electric power is supplied to a structure, the primary electrical line, for a residential structure,  enters directly into a panel board, circuit  board or fuse box.  This singular, supply  source of electricity, is then broken up into different circuits, to be used in the distribution of electricity throughout the structure.

Note that this is normally different in a commercial structure.

Depending on each circuits use, the sizes of the circuit breakers or fuses will determine the amount of amperage that is allowed to flow to the device, without either tripping the circuit or burning the fuse.  This limitation is designed for safety purposes, to eliminate the possibility of overheating the wires, switches or fixtures being serviced by the circuit. 

It is important that this circuit or fuse panel be identified to allow the resident to control the electrical distribution throughout the structure if the need arises.  In addition to control, if some electrical item should stop functioning, with a properly and accurately identified panel, a quick glance will indicate what has either tripped, or burned to break the circuit and cause the device to stop functioning. 

The easiest method of electric circuit panel identification is as follows.

  1. Find the panel.  This is the most obvious requirement prior to attempting any identification of individual circuits.  The easiest way to find the panel, is to identify the entry point of the primary electrical line into the structure.  Due to code limitations, once the entry point is identifiable, then the panel will be very close to this point within the interior of the structure. 
  2. Request that someone assist you in the identification of the individual circuits of the electrical panel. It is almost essential that you have a helper to call out to, from the various sections of the home, to identify the shutting down of power to an area or fixture and where it is occurring.
  3. Secure a lamp or some type of lighting device, that will allow you to plug this device into an electrical outlet to determine if the outlet is functioning and controlled by a specific circuit breaker of fuse.
  4. Turn on all of the light fixtures within the residence.
  5. Starting from the top of the panel, have your partner either remove the fuse, or flip the circuit breaker on and off at the panel.  You should be observing the lights in the structure to try and determine which fixtures are being controlled  by the circuit breaker or fuse.  This will take some patience and time, to identify what is being controlled by the breaker or fuse. 
  6. If no lights are turning on and off, by the switching of the breaker, or the removal of the fuse, then this would normally mean electrical outlets are being controlled.  This is where your handy light fixture comes into play.  You will need to plug the light fixture into each outlet around the home, until you determine what is being controlled by the circuit breaker of fuse.  This will be initially a tedious process, but will get easier as the circuits are identified.  In most situations, once an outlet in a room is identified, the other outlets will be controlled by the same breaker or fuse.
  7. Obviously the easiest and most accurate method of identifying circuits and fuses, is to have an electrical contractor identify the panel box.  An electrical contractor is very aware of standard practices that establish how the normal residential panel is wired.  They will quickly establish the circuit distribution and label the panel board correctly.
  8. In most instances, the doubled circuit breakers will control the larger and more electrically demanding appliances or pieces of equipment.  For example the stove top, air handler, furnace, heat pumps, etc. could require a higher voltage and may require more than one space in the panel to accommodate this service.

Although this exercise can be tedious, it is important that the panel be properly identified for both safety and convenience.

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