Why it’s Important to Label Your Electrical Panel

Labeling an electrical panel is an important step to the overall organizational health and well-being of your office or business. It’s a simple act that can prevent headaches, alleviate confusion, and save time, giving you the clear-headedness to control any part of your business with the flip of a switch. 

A circuit breaker is an automatically operated electrical switch designed to protect electrical circuits from damage and is usually found in a gray breaker box mounted to a wall. Common areas to find your breaker box include a utility room, secure cabinet, basement, or hall closet. It may also be located outside.

Take inventory of which areas are serviced by which circuit breaker so you can act quickly in the case of an emergency. Once you’ve located your box, give it an open. You’ll see two columns of switches, each switch sending power to a specific circuit. But it can be confusing and frustrating if you don’t know what each switch does. You never know when you’ll need to shut off the power. 

Why is it important to label?

Clarity and peace of mind, for one. Labeled circuits allow you to have a visual understanding of which switches to turn on and off if a circuit trips, or if you need to shut off a specific breaker for an electrical repair. Save yourself the mind games of trying to solve the mystery and make sure your panel is organized and up to date. 

What to do if the switches aren’t labeled?

If you’re dealing with an unlabeled electrical panel, it’s important to take the time to test and label all circuits for future reference. Here’s how:

  • Switch off all circuits but one

  • Walk through the space to see if any lights are on, and test outlets with a small electronic device to check if they're working

  • Once you determine the room(s) on the circuit, return to the breaker panel and label the switch

  • Repeat the process until every switch is labeled

You can also improve efficiency by taking on the project with a partner - designate one person to flip the switches in an area while the other remains at the panel to test. 

How to label 

Purchase some blank sticky labels that can easily be applied on each switch. This is easier than taping individual papers. Label either next to each switch or on the inside of the breaker panel door, matching each corresponding switch to a given number. You can write out the labels or just number them - it’s up to you! Just remember to refer to specific appliances or rooms on each circuit. 

Don’t be confused - larger appliances, such as ovens, water heaters, and washing machines, may require multiple breakers because of the high amount of power necessary to operate. 

On what occasion would you need to turn off the power?

Before working on any circuit, such as if you’re replacing a switch or upgrading an old outlet, turning off the power to the circuit is necessary. Simply flip the breaker’s toggle switch to the OFF position. 

The importance of this step cannot be overstated - you can turn off the breaker to a light or plug and still have an active hot lead in the box you’re working on. ALWAYS remember to turn off the power to a given fixture at the power panel, and do yourself a solid by turning off all power at the main breaker while performing your task. Avoiding electrical injuries is paramount. Safety should always be your number one priority. 

You’ll also need to reset your circuit breakers when they trip during an outage. To reset, simply:

  • Turn off or unplug all equipment that connects to the tripped circuit

  • Push the switch to the off position 

  • Flip it back on 

Your electricity should come back on after the overload is cleared. If your breaker is tripping often, you may have a malfunctioning panel. Pacman Electric can help!

It’s not advised that you turn off your circuit breakers before you leave for vacation. Each time you flip a breaker switch, you add a little bit of wear and tear. In addition, because most breakers control different areas of your business, you risk affecting important items that you want to keep on like refrigerators or sump pumps. Simply put, circuit breakers are not designed to be frequently turned on and off, and will only work for so long if you do so. 

This entire process can be time-consuming, but it is well worth it in ensuring that your business is operating as smoothly as it can be.

Need an upgrade?

If your electrical panel is unsafe and outdated, or if it isn’t able to handle your daily needs, our team here Pacman Electric would be happy to offer a free consultation. We are your resource for any and all questions you have regarding electrical issues at your home or business. 

Give us a call at (954) 577-7923 and we’ll get going on strategizing your next step! 

Chris Pacchioli