How to Read Your Breaker Panel

Tips for taking care of and reading your breaker panel

Every home has the gray metal box somewhere.  While you may assume that you will never need to delve inside of it, you should know a bit about how it works, how to care for it and how to read what is on the inside.  Your breaker panel is the key to your home’s electricity.  You need to know a bit about it so you can utilize it properly when you need it.

Where is my breaker panel?

The first step in understanding your breaker box is knowing where it is located.  It is a gray metal box that is flush with the wall.  The most common areas for it to be located are the utility room, garage, laundry room, basement or a hallway closet.  If it is nowhere to be found, check around outside.  If you still can’t locate it, consult an electrician.

Breaker Panel Labels

When you open the box, you will see two columns of breaker switches.  Each switch is designated for a specific circuit in your home.  The circuits are generally grouped together by area. The switches should be clearly labeled either right next to the switch or on the door using corresponding numbers.   For example, one may be labeled “master bedroom”, which indicates that this breaker is attached to the lights and outlets in the master.  The labels could also relate to a specific appliance in your home.

The labels are extremely important because when a certain switch or appliance needs to be repaired, you will need to turn of the electricity at the breaker prior to working on the area to prevent shock. Also, if a circuit trips, it will be easy to tell which one it is.   Be sure to test the switch inside to be certain that it is off before any work is done.

What if the switches aren’t labeled?

If for some unfortunate reason your switches are not labeled or incorrectly labeled, you will need to label them yourself.  Here are the steps you will need to take to label your breakers.  This job is best done with a partner.  One person stays at the box and the other stays in the home checking where the power goes on or off.

  1. Turn on a light or two in each room
  2. Switch all of the circuits off except one
  3. Walk around your house and check for lights and outlets that are still on. A good tip is to carry around a small desk lamp so that you can easily plug it in to test outlets.
  4. Once you find what room or are is still on, label the switch at the panel
  5. Repeat these steps until all circuits are labeled properly

How do I reset a tripped breaker?

A breaker can be tripped if too much electricity traveled through the circuit at once.  In order to reset the breaker you need to find the breaker that is not lined up like the others.  You will then need to turn it all of the way off then pause a few seconds and turn it back to on. It should stay on and your items will gain electricity.  If it continues to trip then it is time to call an electrician who can determine and repair the problem.  Depending on what items you have going to the circuit, you may need an upgrade.  Also, a breaker switch can go bad requiring a replacement.

If you need help locating your breaker panel, labeling your panel or have any other electrical issues, call the experts at Any Time Electric today!


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