Every home owner should have basic knowledge about a few things — like when the house was built, when the roof was last repaired, and the ins and outs of their electrical panel.
The electrical panel receives power from the municipal power supply and distributes electricity throughout the house. All the outlets (and the electronics and appliances that plug into them), as well as the light fixtures, are powered thanks to a functioning electrical panel.
When there is a problem with the electricity in the house, the first thing to do is check your electrical panel. Are there any breakers that are switched from the OFF position to the ON position?
Your electrical panel operates like one big switch containing a bunch of smaller switches inside of it. Each smaller switch corresponds to an electrical circuit in your home, which is operated by either a light switch or a power outlet. Just like a light switch, if you flip a switch in the panel one way, you’ll have power. Flip it the other way and the power will be cut off.
These switches, also called breakers, are there for safety. They protect the wiring that carries electricity throughout your home from overloading. They also regulate the electricity so no one gets a shock and so that fires don’t start from surges to the system.
Here are some basic DOs and DONTs when dealing with your electrical panel.
DO make sure your hands are dry and that you are standing on a dry surface before you attempt anything. If that’s not possible — say there is a leak in your basement and your power is out, call an electrician instead of trying to fix things yourself.
DO NOT touch exposed wires under any circumstance.
DO keep your electrical panel clearly labeled. Perhaps you’ve moved into an old house where the labels have faded and you don’t know what is what. If your electrical panel is not labeled or labeled incorrectly, grab a friend or family member and a start going throughout the house flipping switches on and off so you can see what is being powered. Having an organized electrical panel will be helpful in case of an emergency.
If a breaker trips, this means that the circuit is overloaded and the switch popped off as a safety measure. If a breaker does trip, you’ll notice that it will be in a different position than the rest. Move the breaker to the fully ‘off’ position, then flip it back to the fully ‘on’ position.
DO NOT keep fiddling and getting frustrated if things don’t power back on. There could be a larger problem underway, or even a problem with the grid.
DO use caution and common sense. In stormy weather or scheduled work to the grid, it’s best to just wait it out rather than panic or attempt to fix things yourself.
If you have any questions or concerns about the electrical panel in your home, please DO call in an electirican professional. Electricity is not something to play around or experiment with, for your safety and the safety of your home.