A Brief Guide on How to Navigate Your Home’s Electrical Panel

Ah, the joys of homeownership. It’s a big responsibility and a great learning opportunity. If you’re looking to upgrade or make any changes to your home’s electrical panel, there’s probably quite a bit of trepidation if you’re not an electrician.

Here’s a brief guide that can help you navigate your electrical panel more confidently. It’s not as scary as you may think. Let’s take a trip to your basement, laundry room or garage and get started.

The Main Shut-Off

Every breaker box, as electrical panels are sometimes called, is full of switches. These switches control the flow of power to various areas of your home. The main shut-off switch is what controls the flow of electricity to the whole house. It’s usually located separately from the rest of the switches near the top of the panel. This is useful when you have electrician experts doing work on your electrical system.

Arc Fault Breakers

These switches will have a white tab next to them. These are safety switches that will automatically trip the breaker when there is too much power running through a specific circuit.

When a breaker trips, it is simply shutting off a circuit to prevent electric shock or a potential electrical fire. The switch typically moves to the middle position. To make it operational, just put the switch into the off position before putting it in the on position to reset the breaker and restore the flow of power.


If your breaker box isn’t already labeled, you will want to do this for your own comfort and ease of use. The label is usually on the inside of the panel door, but sometimes the labels are by the switches themselves. Each breaker or switch has a number assigned to it, and each number represents a room in your home.

If you’re having a hard time reading the numbers on the electrical panel, just shine a flashlight on it or from the bottom to get a better view of them.

Adding Circuits

There are usually a few empty spots on the panel. If you were to finish a room in your basement, you would need to have a professional install a breaker switch for that circuit so that you can safely access power to the new room. This is very serious business, so if you aren’t a trained electrician, you definitely want to hire someone to do it right.


Sometimes an appliance will give you a little trouble, like an error code. When this happens, you can reset the breaker for that appliance if it has a separate switch, or the breaker for the room the appliance is in. This should restore the appliance to its factory settings and allow you to continue to use it safely.

On the surface, your home’s electrical panel can seem a little scary, but knowing that it’s there to make your home safer should give you a little more peace of mind. When something goes wrong with your home’s electricity, the electrical panel is the best place to start. Oftentimes, you just need to reset a breaker or the main shut-off. You’ve got this!