The 4 Types of Electrical Service Panels You Need to Know

Electrical service panels are at the heart of your home electrical system. There are multiple types. Whereas you can live without having to know these different types of panels, there is no harm in having a better understanding of the electrical system in your home.

Whether you are looking for an electrician such as to replace or upgrade your panel or just want to know your electrical system better, take note of the four types of panels. Note that not every house will have the four panel types. The panel types in your home will usually depend on the size of the home, your electricity consumption and your electricity needs.

1. Main Electrical Service Panel

As the name suggests, this panel is primarily responsible for the distribution of electricity throughout your home. It is the most widely used panel. Not only does it relay power to different rooms and areas but also protects circuits and identifies amperage capacity.

Within the main electrical panel is a two-pole main circuit breaker. The breaker can be used to shut down power in the entire home in the event of an emergency or if electrical works need to be carried out.

The electrical panel is home to neutral and ground bus bars which are a safety feature. They reduce the risk of circuits overheating due to defective appliances or wiring issues. Breakers may also trip if there is a dead short. A dead short often occurs when a hot lead comes into direct contact with metal.

The ground bus panel serves as a backup for the neutral connection in case the neutral is lost. The ground wire connects to the neutral wire and the grounding bar connects to the neutral bar.

2. Main Lug Panel

The main lug panel is similar to the electrical service panel. A key distinction is that the main lug panel does not have a main breaker. The line wires of the panel go to a lug, a form of electrical connector.

In a lug panel, the main breaker is located at the meter. However, it may also be connected to the breaker at the main electrical service panel. In the event of electrical fire, the separate disconnect allows you to cut off the power without actually venturing into the house.

Main lug panels are sometimes deployed as a sub-panel.

3. Sub-Panels

If you are looking to have multiple circuits within the same location of the home, a sub-panel could be just what you need. Sub-panels are small panels meant to service a particular area or room. You use them to adjust current distribution in your home. They have circuit breakers separate from those in the main electrical panel.

Sub-panels receive their power via the main electrical panel via a circuit. They do not have dedicated disconnects. You cannot have a greater number of sub-panels in the home than you have available circuits on your main circuit breaker panel.

4. Transfer Switches

A transfer switch transfers generator power into electrical power. They are a sub-panel often used in places where severe weather conditions such as hurricanes, tornadoes and strong winds are relatively common. Many of the homeowners in such locations rely on power generators as a backup when the utility supply is disconnected.

The backup power may be wired to the circuit breaker panel of the home. That ensures there is correct switching between the backup power and the power service in the event of an outage. Power generators may have an equal rating transfer switch main panel.

Transfer switches may be either manual or automatic. With manual switches, you have to start the generator manually then switch the load onto the backup power. Automatic switches change the electricity source from the utility supply to the backup power without manual intervention.

There are Other Ways to Categorize Electrical Panels

This is not the only way electrical panels may be categorized. You can also classify panels by amperage capacity. That said, this is arguably the most common way to classify electrical service panels.

Cover photo by R ARCHITECTURE on Unsplash

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