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What is an Electrical Breaker Panel?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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Also known as a circuit breaker panel, the electrical breaker panel the central mechanism for distributing the flow of electricity throughout a building. A main breaker panel makes it possible to quickly and safely activate or shut down power to any section of the facility, a feature that is very important when an emergency arises or there is a need to work on wiring in a given area of the building. The exact structure of an electrical breaker panel will vary, based on designs that are common for the country of origin, as well as the size of the building that is served by the panel board.

An electrical breaker panel in the United States is typically configured with two columns of circuit breakers. Each of the breakers controls the flow of power to different rooms or areas of the home. When some event threatens to overload the circuit for a given room, the breaker shuts down and must be reset. The rest is accomplished by returning the toggle switch attached to each breaker to the “on” position.

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In the United Kingdom, the arrangement if an electrical breaker panel is somewhat similar, in that there is one row of breakers on the panel. There is also a design that arranges the breakers in a pattern that is more or less square. In order to make the most use of standard and off-peak rates on usage, it is not unusual for two panels to be installed in an arrangement that is known as a stack.

In general, an electrical breaker panel is not considered a particularly visually appealing element of the home. For this reason, the panel is likely to be secreted in an area that is easily accessible, but out of view. A circuit breaker box may be found in an attic, basement, the back of a closet, or inside a kitchen pantry. In situations where the panel is recessed into a wall, it is not unusual for homeowners to equip the breaker box with a decorative front panel that serves as wall art. This decorative panel is often hinged, making it an easy task to quickly move the panel out of the way and get to the breaker box when necessary.

While it is not unusual for homeowners to replace fuses and individual circuit breaker cartridges, it is usually a good idea to call in an electrician when there is a serious issue with the electrical breaker panel. Because the panel is directly connected to a power source and carries current to every room of the home, a malfunction can lead to fires and a great deal of damage. If there is suspicion that the panel is not functioning properly, it is a good idea to shut off the power supply and call an electrician immediately.

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