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Handling the electrical panel box is perhaps the most important part of any electrical repair. Be it a minor repair or a complete change, it is essential that you know how the system works. Commonly known as the breaker box or load center, the electrical panel box is the main switchboard of your house. It controls the entire distribution of electricity. As a matter of fact, you can turn off the power supply to your entire home from the panel box. Incoming power from the utility service provider is the only thing that you will not be able to control from this box. 

Know your panel box

Electrical panelElectrical panel finished, by scottbb on flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

If you open the door of the panel box, you will find multiple types of breakers. These circuit breakers will allow you to control the power flow of specific areas of your house. If the fault doesn’t concern the entire house, turning only the concerned breakers off allows easy repair without disrupting the electric supply to the entire building. You will also find your meter located inside the panel box. The meter allows the utility company to keep a track of your power usage and charge you accordingly. 

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Changing the circuit breakers

Circuit breakerCircuit breaker 2 pole on DIN rail, by Kae from wikimedia commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

It may so happen that one or more of your circuit breakers malfunction. The most common approach to tackle this is to go for a replacement. Replacing the circuit breakers is not very difficult, but requires you to take certain level of precautions to avoid any accidents. It is strongly advised that you turn the main switch off before trying to remove the protective layer of dead front cover. 

Handling the main circuit breaker

The main circuit breaker is usually located somewhere at the top of the panel box. It controls the power supply to all other circuit breakers. If you choose to replace any part of the electrical panel box, you should always turn this off first. However, please note that the main circuit breaker has no control of the incoming power supply. 

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The circuit wires

You will find three primary types of circuit wires inside the panel box, namely hot, neutral and ground. The hot wires connect to the hot bus bars, which carry the power to the circuit breakers. The neutral wires connect to the neutral bus bars and ground rod ensure that any sudden flow of power is controlled and the house is kept safe. 

Why replace the panel box?

The panel box is usually replaced once there is a consistent fault happening, or the set is too old to function safely. However, many families replace the panel box to make room for additional secondary circuit breakers. This is usually done during a complete home renovation or new air conditioner installations to adjust to the new power requirements. 

Can you replace the panel box?

Installing electrical panelImage by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay CC0

Yes, you can replace the panel box yourself if you have the necessary understanding and knowledge of electrical circuits, an electrical meter, circuit breaker panel and circuit breakers. However, it is always a good idea to let the experts handle such things due to the huge amount of risk involved in the process. If you are not careful about turning the right breakers off and touching the right wires, it could lead to a serious accident. 

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Points to remember

If you choose to go ahead with replacing the panel box yourself, you need to remember the following points.

1. Keep your kids and pets away

Handling the electrical panel box is a serious affair. You need to ensure that your kids and pets are nowhere close to the service panel avoid accidents. A reckless move can lead to a very serious accident. 

2. Always switch the main breaker off

Irrespective of how minor the work is, you need to keep the main circuit breaker off while handling the panel box. As a matter of fact, this is something that you should do before even opening the door of the panel box. 

3. Do not stand barefooted

You need to ensure that you are wearing your shoes or standing on a piece of wood while handling the panel box. However, the wood must be dry for it to act as a bad conductor of electricity. 

4. Do not touch the panel with wet hands

Water is a good conductor of electricity and touching the panel box with wet hands can lead to a serious accident. Make sure that your hands are completely dry while you work on the panel. Having the grounding wire placed correctly is another thing to remember in this regard.

5. Use a flashlight 

Always use a flashlight while you are trying to replace a panel box. You need to see the circuit breakers and wires clearly to be able to minimize the risk involved. 

6. Do not lose your concentration

While it is easy to get diverted by what is happening around you, it is important that you maintain your focus while handling the panel box. Try not to lose your concentration till you are done handling the box. 

7. Clean the area once done

If you have kids or pets at home, make sure to clean the area around the panel box, once you are done with it. Leaving unused screws or wires unattended can make your kids or pets curious, leading to an accident. 

8. Do not tamper with the meter

While changing and adding circuit breakers in the panel box, be careful to avoid tampering with the meter or the wires that run into it. It is best not to touch the meter to avoid a legal notice from your utility provider. 

So now that you know how to handle an electrical panel box, feel free to add or replace circuit breakers to customize the power distribution of your house. However, you must know why and when to upgrade your electrical panel equipment

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Electrical Panel Box: Can Anyone Replace It? was last modified: October 15th, 2019 by Kukun staff
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