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Breaker box and Electrical Panel Troubleshoot and maintenance

How to Troubleshoot and Maintain Your Electrical Panel

properly functioning electrical panel is essential for the safety and efficiency of your home. However, electrical panels can develop problems over time, such as faulty circuits, wiring issues, or outdated components. In this article, we will show you how to troubleshoot and maintain your electrical panel, and when to call a professional electrician for help.

What is an Electrical Panel?

An electrical panel is a metal box that contains several switches, fuses, or breakers. Each switch, fuse, or breaker controls a specific circuit in your home, such as the lights, outlets, appliances, or HVAC system. The electrical panel also has a main switch or breaker that can shut off the power to the entire house in case of an emergency.

The electrical panel is usually located in the basement, garage, or utility room of your home. It may have a label or a diagram that indicates which circuit each switch, fuse, or breaker corresponds to. However, some older panels may not have labels or diagrams, or they may be inaccurate or outdated. In that case, you may need to use a circuit tester or a voltage meter to identify the circuits.

The breaker box and Electrical Panel

How to Troubleshoot Your Electrical Panel

If you experience any of the following problems with your electrical system, you may need to troubleshoot your electrical panel:

  • Power outage in part or all of your home

  • Flickering or dimming lights

  • Tripped or blown fuses or breakers

  • Burning smell or sparks from the panel

  • Hot or discoloured switches, fuses, or breakers

  • Buzzing or humming noise from the panel

The first step to troubleshooting your electrical panel is to check the main switch or breaker. If it is in the off position, you may have a power outage from the utility company. You can contact them to find out the cause and the estimated time of restoration. If the main switch or breaker is in the on position, you can proceed to check the individual switches, fuses, or breakers.

To check the switches, fuses, or breakers, you need to turn off the power to the panel by flipping the main switch or breaker to the off position. Then, you can use a flashlight to inspect the panel for any signs of damage, such as melting, burning, cracking, or corrosion. You can also use a multimeter to test the voltage and continuity of the switches, fuses, or breakers. If you find any faulty or damaged components, you need to replace them with the same type and rating. You can also label the circuits for future reference.

To restore the power to the panel, you need to flip the main switch or breaker to the on position. Then, you can turn on the individual switches, fuses, or breakers one by one, starting from the top and working your way down. If any of them trips or blows again, you may have a short circuit or an overload in that circuit. You need to identify the source of the problem and fix it before turning on the switch, fuse, or breaker again.

How to Maintain Your Electrical Panel

To prevent problems with your electrical panel, you need to perform regular maintenance and inspections. Here are some tips to maintain your electrical panel:

  • Keep the panel clean and dry. Dust, dirt, moisture, and insects can cause corrosion and damage to the panel and its components. You can use a soft cloth or a vacuum cleaner to remove any debris from the panel. You can also use a dehumidifier or a fan to reduce the humidity in the area where the panel is located.

  • Keep the panel accessible and visible. Do not block the panel with furniture, boxes, or other items. Do not cover the panel with paint, wallpaper, or other materials. You need to be able to access the panel easily and safely in case of an emergency or a repair.

  • Keep the panel updated and compliant. Electrical codes and standards change over time, and your panel may become outdated or unsafe. You may need to upgrade your panel if you have any of the following situations:

  • Your panel is more than 20 years old

  • Your panel has fuses instead of breakers

  • Your panel does not have enough circuits or capacity for your current or future electrical needs

  • Your panel has signs of wear and tear, such as rust, cracks, or loose connections

  • Your panel has been recalled or has a known defect

You can consult a licensed electrician to evaluate your panel and recommend the best option for your home. An electrical panel upgrade can improve the safety, efficiency, and value of your home.

When to Call a Professional Electrician

While some electrical panel problems can be fixed by yourself, others may require the expertise and skills of a professional electrician. You should call a professional electrician if you have any of the following situations:

  • You are not comfortable or confident working with electricity

  • You do not have the proper tools or equipment to troubleshoot or repair your panel

  • You do not know how to identify or replace the switches, fuses, or breakers in your panel

  • You encounter any sparks, smoke, fire, or shock when working with your panel

  • You suspect that your panel has a serious or complex problem, such as faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, or grounding issues

A professional electrician can diagnose and fix your electrical panel problem safely and efficiently. They can also advise you on how to prevent future problems and maintain your panel in good condition.


Your electrical panel is an important part of your home’s electrical system. It controls the power distribution and protects your home from electrical hazards. By troubleshooting and maintaining your electrical panel, you can ensure the safety and efficiency of your home. However, if you encounter any problems that are beyond your ability or knowledge, you should call a professional electrician for help. They can provide you with the best solution for your electrical panel needs.


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