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The ABC’s of Electrical – The Service Panel

The electrical service panel is where the electricity entering the home is safely distributed to switches, outlets, and appliances. The service panel is usually found in the garage, utility room or basement. Depending on the age of your home, the service panel will have either fuses, circuit breakers or arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCI’s).

Fuses

If your home was built before 1965 and still has its original service panel, it most likely has fuses. In the past, fuses were commonly used in 30 and 60 amp service panels. Today, 100- to 200-amp service panels are needed in order to handle additional loads and properly protect the electrical system from overloading.

When a fuse is blown, it must be unscrewed and thrown away. When replacing fuses in your service panel make sure the new fuse matches the amperage rating of the circuit.

Never replace a fuse with one that has a larger amperage rating. This can cause electrical system damage and increase the risk of a fire.

Circuit Breakers

In most Chicagoland homes the service panel will have circuit breakers. A circuit breaker that has “tripped” can simply be reset to reconnect power to the circuit. It’s important to check the source of the tripped circuit before restting it. The most common cause of a tripped circuit is too many appliances plugged into the same circuit. If the circuit trips a second time after resetting, it’s probably time to call an electrician to have an additional circuit installed to handle the load.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

AFCIs are newer devices that replace traditional circuit breakers in electric service panels. AFCIs provide additional protection against fire hazards known as arc faults. An arc fault is a dangerous electrical problem caused by damaged, overheated, or stressed electrical wiring or devices. Without AFCIs, arc faults may be hidden from plain view until it is too late.

Have questions about your home’s service panel or other electrical system? Call ABC Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric. Our electricians are here to help.

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