Circuit breakers are a vital safety measure used in all modern electrical installations, protecting your home and family against wiring faults and power surges. They're installed in a device known as an electrical panel, breaker box or load center, and it's this box that you turn to when you have a sudden power outage in one part of your home.
The electrical panel is at the heart of your home's electricity supply and if it needs replacing or upgrading, it's important to get the right panel for the job. Learn what you need to know about circuit breaker panels to make the right choice for you with handy information from the friendly experts at Ace.
Types of Circuit Breaker Boxes
There are three main kinds of breaker boxes suitable for different homes and electrical installations.
Main Breaker Panels
These boxes contain a main breaker that can shut off power for all the circuits in an installation. This breaker needs to have an amperage capacity high enough to handle all the currents your home will need and can only be fitted when the panel is within ten feet of the meter and feeder cable.
Main Lug Panels
These panels don't contain a main breaker and need to be wired up to a separate disconnect breaker, which is usually connected directly to the meter. Main lug panels can be fitted any distance from your main supply inlet.
Subpanels don't have a main breaker either and are used to bring together circuits for different parts of an installation. For example, all circuits on the ground floor may be grouped together for convenience, with other floors having their own subpanel.
Amps and Volts
Each electrical panel is rated with the total current it can carry, measured in amps. If you're replacing your current load center, it's essential to use at least the same amperage rating to prevent overload problems, and it's often better to upgrade to a higher amperage that can support higher power use.
However, for safety reasons, it's important not to have a panel with a higher amperage than your home's wiring can support. We stock breaker boxes with amperages from 15 amps up to 225 amps so you can find the right choice for your needs.
The voltage of a breaker box decides which kinds of circuit breakers can be fitted. With a 120V panel, only single-pole breakers can be used. A 240V panel can use two-pole breakers to protect circuits needing more power.
Number of Circuits
The larger your home, the more electrical circuits it's likely to have. We stock panels that can protect anything from eight to 80 circuits, enough for homes of any size.
Power Transfer Kits
A transfer switch is a load panel accessory that connects a second supply into the main circuit. One common use for a transfer switch is to wire an emergency generator to your home if the main supply is down.
We also stock a range of accessories for fitting and maintaining your electrical panel, including:
- Ground bar kits
- Filler plates
- Power outlet and inlet boxes
Replacing or upgrading your home's electrical panel is a major job and it's vital to get it right. If you need any advice on choosing a breaker panel or other electrical parts, our expert staff are here to help both online and at your local Ace store.