How to Label Your Electrical Panel

Are you sometimes baffled by which circuit breaker to shut off, because the legend on your electrical panel is not properly labeled? Or perhaps there have been so many changes made by previous owners, that nothing makes any sense.

Not only is this an inconvenient and frustrating situation, it can be downright dangerous! If you should ever experience an emergency situation where it is necessary to terminate the power to a specific circuit quickly, you want to be able to identify the correct circuit breaker at a glance.

Important Note: Never turn off the Main Breaker (identified by its larger physical size and the panel’s amperage noted on the handle) except in an emergency situation such as a flood or fire. Your electrician may also turn off the Main Breaker to complete testing or work on the panel.

Here are a few steps to help you decipher the mess and properly label your panel:

  • Lights: Turn all the switched lights in the house ON. One by one, turn OFF each circuit breaker taking note of which circuit breaker controls each light.
  • Receptacles: Use a circuit tester ( not a nightlight or small appliance ) to test each receptacle for power. Shut OFF circuit breakers one by one, until power to the receptacle is removed. Note which breaker interrupted the power to that receptacle. Remember to test both the top and bottom portion of each receptacle to identify the receptacles that are wired as “splits”, meaning that they are controlled by 2 different breakers. Return the breakers to the ON position and continue with the next outlet.
  • Equipment and Large Appliances: Receptacles for the fridge, microwave, washing machine, dryer, furnace, electric hot water tank and sump pump should each have their own separate breaker that controls nothing else in the house. Identify breakers for the stove, dryer, air conditioner and furnace by running the appliance and turning OFF each breaker until one kills the power to it. To identify the hot water tank, electric baseboard heaters or sub-mersible water pumps, you need a proximity voltage tester and knowledge on how to use that device.

Your panel should now be correctly labeled and its probably only taken you a few hours, a very productive way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

If you have any difficulty with this task, our electricians are always happy to assist you. Contact us here or just give us a call at any of the numbers listed on our contact page.