With electricity playing a bigger role in our lives more than ever before, it’s important to know how your home electrical system works. This is especially true for your home’s electrical panel. If something goes wrong, reacting in time can save you both money and time spent fixing damages. One of the easiest ways you can better understand your home is by setting up your circuit breaker panel labels.
Below is a simple guide to label each circuit breaker effectively so you can shut off or turn on your power when it matters most.
1. Setting Up Circuit Breaker Panel Labels: Everything You Need to Get Started
Before you begin, we recommend doing this on a bright sunny day earlier in the morning or early afternoon. This is because this is when you’ll have the most natural light, and you’ll definitely need that to see since you’ll be powering down most of your home while you test various fixtures.
Labelling your circuit breaker panel labels is also done best with at least one other person. One person can walk around inspect the fixtures that have power and another person can flip the circuit breaker.
Finally, you’ll need:
- Sticky labels that fit inside your electrical panel
- Paper and a pen/pencil and a permanent marker (to record what each fixture is connected to)
- Nightlight, phone charger and phone, or electrical tester (to test outlets for power).
2. Locate Every Fixture and Outlet in Your Home
Think of this at a mini-scavenger hunt. Go room to room with your partner and write down every outlet and fixture in the room. This will ensure you don’t miss any when you’re testing them later.
When you get to the kitchen, don’t forget to record the outlets for the microwave, stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher.
If your furnace is electric, it’s important to record it as well.
3. Number Each One of Your Circuit Breakers
The best way to set up your circuit breaker panel labels starts with numbering them effectively. We recommend starting with the circuit breaker at the top left column and labelling that as “1” and going down that column until you reach the end.
Once you reach the bottom, jump back up to the top of the second column and continue at whatever number you left on and continue down until you’ve numbered each column in your electrical panel.
4. Test Each Circuit Breaker to Find Out What Fixtures and Outlets Each Is Connected To
Now the fun part, shut off every circuit breaker in your home. Your entire house needs to be powered down to make it as easy as possible to find what’s powered.
Now just flip the “1” circuit breaker in the top left on. This will make it easy to find the exact circuit any fixtures are on. Go room to room until you’ve noted all the fixtures and outlets that are connected to it on your piece of paper.
It’s likely that each circuit breaker will only turn on the fixtures in one room, but that’s not always the case. Especially don’t rely on any previous labelling in your electrical panel as renovations or repairs may have changed what each is actually connected to.
Once you’ve identified each powered outlet and fixture, turn off the “1” circuit breaker and move down your electrical panel to the next one and turn it on. Log each powered fixture again and repeat the process until you’ve recorded what every circuit breaker is connected to.
In some cases, power may just be going to certain appliances like fridges, stoves, or water heaters depending on how your home’s electrical system was set up.
5. Label Each One Effectively
Your first inclination might be to label each circuit breaker with the room that’s powered by it, for example, “Guest Bedroom.” However, this is not a good idea since rooms can change purposes. Instead, label rooms based on their position in the house, i.e. “West Second Floor Bedroom.”
We also recommend drawing up a floorplan for each floor with each circuit breaker number corresponding to each fixture and putting it on the inside of your electrical panel door for quick reference.
Now that you understand how your home is connected, you’re much more prepared in the event anything goes wrong. You may have even found outlets you didn’t know existed! In any case, you can easily flip overloaded circuits, turn off power to the right area if you need renovations, and can keep you and the people you’re living with safe knowing which circuit breakers to turn off.