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Electrical Wire and Cable

Home Circuit Breaker Panel

Circuit Breaker Panel Summary: The home circuit breaker panel contains several circuit breakers that are carefully installed by experienced electricians and electrical contractors.
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How Circuit Breakers are Installed Into a Panel

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Each manufacturer of circuit breaker panels has its own unique design and layout containing terminals strips for attaching the neutral wire conductors and the ground system that is bonded to the panel and the entire home electrical system. The circuit breaker panel also contains the metal contact surfaces that make connection to the circuit breakers that are installed into the electrical panel. These metal components are also known as the panel bus assembly.

The Circuit Breaker and the Panel Assembly

A Circuit Breaker Sub-Panel

The Sub Panel

This series of photos show a 100 amp circuit breaker sub-panel. The most revealing factor is that the neutral wire conductor and the bonded ground wire are located in separate lugs and terminal strips. The only location where the neutral and ground wires are actually bonded are at the main electrical panel. Notice how the metal bus assembly has exposed parts in the center area where the circuit breakers are connected to. The panel bus assembly is energized with live electrical, power whenever the main panel circuit breaker is in the on position. Each circuit breaker panel has its own unique characteristics which an experienced electrician is familiar with. Homeowners or do-it-yourself ers should not perform any work in any electrical circuit breaker panel.

The Connection with the Circuit Breaker Panel

The Breaker Connection with the Panel

The buss of this particular circuit breaker panel is arraigned so that two columns of circuit breakers may be installed back-to-back. This photo shows how the metal contact surfaces of this circuit breaker makes contact with the panel buss by sliding down over each side of the centrally located metal bus. This creates a good connection with the panel bus and enables electricity to pass from the panel bus into the internal parts of the circuit breaker.

The Circuit Breaker Installation in the Panel

The Installation of a Circuit Breaker

The circuit breaker has been installed using the black plastic side rail of the panel assembly. When the circuit breaker is installed correctly it will be noticeably level or line up evenly compared to other circuit breakers. If a circuit breaker appears to be uneven or not level then the circuit breaker may no have been installed correctly.

The Circuit Breaker Panel Bus Assembly

The Panel Bus Assembly

This photo shows how the circuit breaker is fully seated into place with the panel bus and the same bus is available for another circuit breaker to be installed on the opposite side of the panel. The first circuit breaker is possibly the one that could be installed out of alignment because it does not have any other breakers to serve as a reference or guide.

The Side Rail of the Circuit Breaker Panel

The Side Mounting Rail of the Panel

This photo shows the side rail of the circuit breaker panel which has a clip which is designed to line up with the end of the circuit breaker and serve as fastener for the side of the circuit breaker. If the circuit breaker does not slide into the side rail clip then the side of the circuit breaker will appear high and uneven, and the circuit breaker will not be installed correctly. Shown here is the brass screw terminal where the circuit wire conductor will be attached and securely fastened.

More about Circuit Breaker Panels

Question: I have two wires coming from breaker panel I need to run a porch light and two room lights plus ceiling fans.
I have a double switch (one for porch light) (one for room lights and fans) its all wired with three strand ( Red, Black, White) wire except for the porch light its two strand.
When I wire it all up I have to have both switches on in order for the room to get power, how can I separate them?
Thanks, Bud.

Answer: Bud, you stated that the wires were the Red, Black, White wires, if so did you run 2 separate circuits, or just one? Because you really only need one circuit for this type of load. I'm also assuming you also have a Ground Wire.
It sounds like you have wired your room light in series through the porch light. Typically when wiring two switches from one power source I wirenut two wires off of my one hot coming in,then attach each one of these wires to one side of each switch, then attach the porch light to one, and the room lights to the other.This will enable the power to enter the switches and serve each load individually.

NOTE: This question is based on a specific project. Ask The Electrician provides help for your electrical project: Ask Electrical Questions


Rewired Home Now Has Issues with Jenn Air Stove

Myra, from Delray Beach, Florida asks:
A few months ago our 5 yr old electric flat glass top Jenn Air stovetop popped and sparked thru the space around one of the knobs. After it blew, the stovetop stopped working so I turned off the breaker in the fuse box and discovered that several ceiling fans, lights in other rooms in throughout house stopped working as well. We have also noticed on occasion that the fans and lights will just turn on for no reason for various amounts of time as we have left switches on. The house was rewired after it was destroyed by a hurricane 5 years ago. We didn't get much from our insurance company and had to use electricians that were not really great. We have no money right now.
First, is there a fire hazard?
Second, could it just be a fuse issue and should we try changing them? Please advise.
Thank you!

What I would strongly suggest is that you have a qualified licensed electrician perform a series of inspections and tests on the electrical system of the home. What you are experiencing is not normal. It may be that there is another electrical panel which would explain why multiple devices are off when you turned off the circuit breaker. There is a good possibility that a voltage feedback is occurring due to a intermittent or lost connection with a 240 volt circuit which could be verified and repaired by the electrician.

Wiring for a 30 Amp 4-Wire Dryer Circuit

Nelson, from Vivian, Louisiana asks:
Dave, in changing a 3 wire dryer outlet to a 4 wire using a 10-4 circuit, what does the connection in the breaker panel look like.

Appreciate your answer,

The connections for the dryer circuit in a main electrical panel are the two power conductors commonly the black and the red to the 2-pole 30 amp circuit breaker, and the white neutral and the ground attach to the bonded neutral terminal bar. If the circuit wiring has been installed at a sub-panel then the white neutral attaches to the neutral terminal bar, and the ground attached to the ground terminal bar.
Please be aware that I recommend that wiring and connections in any electrical panel should be done by a licensed electrician.

More about Circuit Breaker Panels

  • Does Your Electrical Panel Need Upgrading

  • How to Upgrade an Electrical Panel to Ensure a Safer Electrical System: Upgraded Electrical Panels Provide Circuit Breaker Protection. Make plans to upgrade your main electrical service panel so that you can have a newer electrical panel that has a main circuit breaker.
  • How to Size an Electrical Panel

  • How to Select the Right Size Electrical Panel: Electric Circuit Requirements and Electrical Circuit Amperage, Common 120volt and 240volt wiring circuits and the circuit breakers with the different types and amperage sizes used for home wiring.
  • Upgrading a Home Electrical Panel

  • How to Upgrade Home Electrical Wiring and the Main Service Panel: Upgrading an Old Electric Panel with a New Circuit Breaker Panel.
  • What to do About a Tripping Circuit Breaker

  • How to Fix Tripping Circuit Breakers: Why Circuit Breakers Trip and What You Can Do When a Circuit Breaker Trips and the Electricity Is Off.

Learn more about Circuit Breaker Panel

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Questions about Circuit Breaker Panels

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Charlie in New Jersey asks:
Is a 3-Wire Circuit with a Shared Neutral Wire Legal?

The original electrician on my 20 year old resale house did some interesting things in the panel box that I didn’t notice at the time of sale. I guess to save wire he used three conductor with ground to run two circuits with a separate breaker for the red and black. This leaves one common to carry the load of two circuits. To make it more interesting, the breakers are one above the other in the panel box thus pulling from two different busses giving me 220 ACV in that line before it splits. Is this legal, or was the inspector asleep on this one?

Dave’s Reply:
The Mulit-Wire Circuit

Great question Charlie.
Actually this is a very common circuit which is known as the Mulit-Wire Circuit where the neutral wire is shared by both the black and red circuits. The key factor is that the black and red circuits must be located on separate power busses. Each of these power busses is out of phase from each other, which prevents the neutral wire from becoming over loaded. So what you see is completely legal, and the inspector was doing a fine job.


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Can I Replace a 15amp for a 20amp Breaker?
When I have the lights on and use anything it pops the breaker. Can I change the 15amp to a 20amp breaker?

Circuit Breaker for a Kitchen Cooktop
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How I Install Circuit Breakers in Electrical Service Panels
How to Install Circuit Breakers: Organizing the Circuit Cables and Wiring, Making up the Grounds and Neutral Wires, Installing the circuit breakers.

Why Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping Off
Why does my circuit breaker keep tripping? Here are The Most Common Causes of a Tripped Circuit Breaker.

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