What Is a Breaker Box and How To Use It Safely

What Is a Breaker Box and How To Use It Safely

Breaker boxes are necessities in modern homes. If you don't have an older home with a fuse box, then you have a circuit breaker box. 

But what is a breaker box? These boxes manage the electricity that enters the home, sending it to rooms and appliances. To take care of small troubleshooting issues, homeowners should know where the circuit breaker box is, how it functions, and how to access it safely.

How Does a Breaker Box Work?

A breaker box is also called a circuit breaker box or breaker panel. It functions as a large switch that sends electricity to different areas of your home. This panel brings power in from the main power grid and small switches — or breakers — control the power to individual areas and appliances in your home.

The power comes from a service drop through power lines connected to a pole or buried underground. The electricity enters your home, then branches through circuits to power your outlets, lights, HVAC system and more. 

What Is a Breaker Box and How To Use It Safely | Notion

Why You Might Need To Access It

As a homeowner or renter, you may need to use your circuit breaker box if the power turns off in an area of your home. You also should know where to turn off the power if you have to make a DIY electrical repair. 

All electrical panels have amperage capacities. Most breaker boxes have about 200 amps to power all of the devices and appliances in your home. Sometimes, the circuits become overwhelmed with too many amps. When this happens, they trip and shut off power to an area of your home. You might have to access it to flip the switch and reset the power to the tripped location. 

While the safest way to do any electrical work is to hire a licensed electrician, homeowners can do some small projects. For example, many homeowners can easily change ceiling light fixtures or replace broken outlets. To do electrical work like this, you'll have to turn off the circuit that connects to the fixtures or outlets to prevent electrocution. 

Where Can You Find the Breaker Panel

Electricians install breaker boxes in convenient locations, usually on a basement wall that is closest to the street. If your home doesn't have a basement, then the breaker panel could be in your garage or a utility room. An easy way to find the panel is to look where the power lines attach to your home, as that is usually where electricians install the panel. Look for a rectangular gray or green box on the wall with an access door on its front.

In condos, duplexes and townhouses, some breaker panels are in closets, such as a pantry or utility closet. Older homes can have breaker panels on exterior walls. 

How To Use a Breaker Box

Most homeowners only need to use their breaker boxes if a circuit breaker trips. You might have to open the door to access the collection of circuit breakers. Each one has a switch that will be flipped either to the left or right — on or off. Often, circuits that have shorted will have an orange box in them. Ideally, your electrician or a previous homeowner labeled the circuits so you know which one belongs to which room or appliance. If an appliance was running when the power went out, be sure to shut it off, then flip the tripped breaker to restore power. 

If your circuits short too often, you might have not had a large enough breaker box. Circuits are designed to short when too many amps move through them. Otherwise, they could cause fires or other electrical problems. An electrician can install more amperage so your circuit breaker can meet your needs. 

When the Power Goes Out

If the power goes out to your home, it could be a problem with your circuit breaker box or with the main grid. Ask your neighbors if their power is out, too. If it's a community power outage, you'll have to wait until the power comes back on. If it's only your home, check your circuit box to see if all of the breakers have tripped. If the circuit breakers are still switched on, then it's best to call an electrician. 

Notion Sensors Bring Peace of Mind Near Circuit Breaker Boxes

Homeowners who have concerns about a power outage and other circuit breaker issues can rely on Notion Sensors. Storms and weather events can trigger power outages, and Notion Sensors will send a notification when events like power outages occur so you can make decisions when you're away. 

Notion Sensors can also alert you if someone accesses your circuit box. If you have small children in your home, you can strategically place Notion Sensors to alert you if they get too close to the box. These affordable and easy-to-install sensors bring peace of mind — even when you know your way around a breaker box.