The electrical panel is the system that distributes electric current to different circuits in a building. It transfers current between circuits while ensuring that the transfer is safe. The panel also breaks up electrical power into sub-circuits. But there are even more purposes to it. It also plays an important role in protecting you against accidents like short circuits. There are different types of panels that vary in terms of their technologies and applications. Explore the different options available in the market.
1. Main Breaker Panel
The main breaker panel is the most commonly used electrical panels. You can use it to control the electricity that reaches different rooms and areas in your home. It protects the circuits and keeps track of the panel’s amperage capacity. The breaker panel is also known as distribution panel. It can be used to cut power to your house including all the circuit breakers.
The panel prevents your circuits from getting overheated due to defective appliances or wiring issues. A breaker is connected by 3 wires to several connection boxes or outlets along each circuit. Electric current is passed through the live/hot wire. The ground and the neutral serve as the safety features and are connected to the breaker terminal that is further connected to the panel’s grounding system.
Breaker panels are classified based on their amperage and the number of circuits they can handle. The panel is selected after considering the following factors:
- When a panel is replaced, you should match the amperage capacity of the existing panel or consider upgrading.
- The amperage is determined on the existing panel’s main breaker.
- The amperage ranges from 60 amps for old homes to 200 amps for new buildings.
- Usually, 100 amps to 150 amps are acceptable, but you can find breaker panels in the 200-400 amps range too.
2. Fuse Boxes
Fuse boxes are designed for preventing circuit overloads. They consist of small fuses that fit into an electrical panel. The fuse will short out whenever there is an excess flow of current. These types of panels are typically found in homes that were built during or before the 1970s. If the fuse boxes in a home don't allow sufficient current to flow to the appliances, you will have to upgrade the panel.
3. Main Lug Panels
These types of panels don’t feature the main breaker. They use lugs and the line wires run into these lugs. They feature the main breaker as the separate disconnect at the meter. The main lug panel can also be connected to the breaker at the main panel when the main lug panel works as a sub-panel. So if a fire breaks out, the separate disconnect will make it possible to cut power without the need to enter the house.
4. Sub Panels
Sub panels are perfect for homes where multiple circuits are required in the same area. These electrical panels get their power from the main panel through a circuit. These panels don't have dedicated disconnects. They allow you to adjust current distribution throughout your house.
5. Transfer Switches
This is a type of sub-panel that is suited for circuits where a backup power generator is used. It works by transferring generator power to electrical power through the breaker panel. You can have the backup power wired into your home’s breaker panel. This can provide faultless switching between utility service and backup power whenever there is a power outage.
Most homes in areas with unpredictable weather conditions have backup power generators. The generators can have a transfer switch with the same rating as the main breaker panel. There are two different types of transfer switches.
- Manual: These transfer switches, as the name suggests, involve manually starting the generator and then switching the electric load to the backup power.
- Automatic: These transfer switches ensure that there is seamless automatic switching to the backup power whenever there is an outage.
These are the different types of electrical panels used in homes. It is important to exercise care when working with a panel. They should never get wet. If the panel gets heated or if there is any other problem, you should get it checked by a licensed electrician. It is also important to ensure that the panel in your home meets the latest electrical codes. If not, you should get it upgraded. Again, an upgrade should be handled only by certified electricians.