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How to Map Your Electrical Panel

Have you ever tripped a circuit breaker? If you have, you probably made your way to your home’s main electrical panel to restore power to the circuit. You may have noticed labels or a map indicating which breakers correspond to which circuits -- but what if there is no guide?

Even if there is, it could be out of date if it was made by a previous homeowner or if you’ve had electrical work performed on your home. If you’re unsure of the accuracy of the labels, it’s important to map your electrical panel so that you can quickly restore a tripped circuit or confidently perform electrical maintenance.

Plan Your Breaker Map Layout

First, you’ll need to locate your home’s main breaker box. This is often in a basement, garage or utility closet. When you open the box, you’ll see a series of switches of various sizes. There should be one large switch set aside from the others -- that’s the main disconnect switch, which shuts off power to every breaker on the panel.

The remaining breaker switches control the flow of power to one or more outlets or fixtures in your home. Larger breaker switches usually control major appliances and systems, such as your home’s furnace or air conditioner. Smaller switches may control light fixtures in part or all of a room, or a group of electrical outlets.

If there’s not enough space to place detailed labels next to each breaker switch, you can simply number the breakers and post a full guide on the door of the breaker box. This can be a numbered list or even a copy of your home’s floor plan.

Buddy Up

The fastest way to map your electrical panel is to have a friend help out. Use walkie-talkies or cell phones so that the person standing at the electrical panel can talk to whoever is in the house.

Keep in mind that the power will be disconnected to every part of the home at some point. You may want to shut down computers before you begin, and you will need to re-set digital clocks after.

Turn off one breaker at a time, starting with the largest ones. The person inside the home should check switches, outlets and appliances until the disabled area is found. To test unused outlets, use an outlet tester or a small electronic device. Each circuit may include several electrical sources, so take your time to check thoroughly.

As you work through the breaker box, keep a detailed list of what is connected to each circuit. When you’ve checked them all, complete your breaker box guide and affix it to the electrical panel or door so that it’s always right where you need it.

If you need help locating your breaker box, mapping your electrical panel or sorting out any other electrical issue in your home, call your local electrical experts.

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