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The Importance of Labeling Your Electrical Panel

labeled circuit breakers

The Whys and Hows Behind Electrical Panel Safety


Your electrical panel is the power hub for your entire house. This panel, also known as a breaker box, circuit breaker panel, fuse box, or switchboard, is where electricity is fed from your utility company and divided into different areas of your home. Since your electrical panel is made up of various circuits, it is critical that you properly label them. An electrical panel label is more than just a smart idea; it plays a significant role in keeping your property safe.


As the premier electrical contractor in Gilroy, CA, and the Santa Clara Valley, Watsons Charging Stations & Electric put together a quick guide to help you understand the importance of labeling your breaker panel along with how to quickly and effectively complete this task. Here is what you need to know:


Why Should I Lable My Electrical Panel?

There are several reasons why labeling your electrical panel is a prudent idea. Sometimes, your circuit breaker panel may already have labels, but they’ve faded over time. Relabeling, in this situation, is just as important as creating the original labels.


Properly labeling an electrical panel is, first and foremost, about safety. If there is an emergency where you need to shut off power to a particular part of your house, clear breaker box labels could be the difference between life and death.


In the event that you or an electrician needs to troubleshoot an electrical issue, make repairs, or install new electrical devices, you will need to shut off power in the appropriate location. A mislabeled or missing label on the electrical panel could mean turning off the wrong circuit.


If you are simply troubleshooting, it will be much more work to figure out what is going on without the correct circuit breaker labels. When your circuits are clearly labeled, you can quickly identify which circuits are overloading and causing tripped breakers or blown fuses.


Additionally, you may find that your homeowner’s insurance company will deny coverage for damage caused by the lack of proper electrical panel labels. That means you could be on the hook for an accident in your home due to a mere technicality in your policy.


A Step-By-Step Guide to Electrical Panel Labels

Now that you know why it is essential to have circuit breaker labels, you can take the necessary steps to do it right. The process is straightforward, but there are several best practices:


Make it Permanent

The last thing you want to do is use a pencil or other labeling option that won’t stand the test of time. Some writing utensils will fade and become illegible in just a few years. If you recently purchased a used house, you might find that you can’t read the breaker box labels because of how they were created.


Most electricians use a pen or permanent marker to ensure the label lasts. You can also use an actual label maker to keep the label legible if your handwriting is not pristine. Another great idea is to create an electrical panel map on paper. You can print this off your computer or write it out by hand. Tuck the paper inside a plastic sleeve that you can tape inside the door of your electrical panel.


Keep it Simple

It is tempting to get creative or overexplain which circuit each breaker controls. You may want to call a particular breaker “the playroom” or “office,” which may make sense for how you currently use the house. The playroom might turn into a nursery or game room as the years go by, and the office may not be used as an office by the next people to own your home.


More importantly, when someone is responding to an emergency, they may not have time to try and figure out who “Jason” is, let alone which bedroom is his. Keep your labels simple and explanatory. Use labels like “garage outlets,” “primary bath,” and “kitchen lights.” These electrical panel labels will be easy for anyone to use.


If you create an electrical panel map, you can add a generic map of your house with labels indicating which circuits go to which breakers.


Map Your Circuits

If you move into a house that does not have electrical panel labels or the existing labels are too challenging to read, you may need to create a new map. In theory, turning off a breaker and identifying which rooms no longer have power should be a simple process. The challenge is that circuit breakers can be divided in several ways, so not every room will get its own breaker. This is especially true in older houses or properties that had a lot of DIY work completed.


To create a thorough circuit map of your house, turn off one breaker. You can now check every outlet and light fixture to see which works. Mark any outlets or switches that do not work with the number of the circuit you turned off. Now you can turn the first breaker back on, move to the second, and so on. You can save some time by identifying various amperages on each circuit. Large equipment like AC units, HVAC systems, electric ranges, and electric dryers will have larger fuses and are often on dedicated lines.


Once you have identified the circuits, you can create names that make sense. While this may seem like a lot of work, it is worth the effort. Of course, you can also upgrade to a smart electrical panel. A smart electrical panel gives you more control to identify circuits, monitor electricity usage, and control your breakers. Of course, upgrading your electrical panel is not a DIY job, and you will want to hire a Gilroy electrician to handle the job. While your electrical contractor is there, they can use specialized equipment to create a quick map of your home’s various circuits.


Watson’s Charging Stations & Electric

Electricity is a dangerous force in your home, which is why you want to bring in the pros for your project. Watson’s Charging Stations & Electric is the premier group of electrical contracts in Santa Clara County; from making upgrades and electrical repairs to your circuit breaker to helping you create an electrical map of your home, we can handle it all. Throw in our excellent reviews and competitive pricing, and you’ll see why everyone keeps returning to Watson’s Charging Stations & Electric. Contact us to set up your complimentary consultation, and let us get to work for you.