As a homeowner or renter, it’s important to be able to read your electrical panel. If you can’t tell what some circuit breakers are for, your safety may be at risk. The electrical panel distributes electricity that enters from the utility grid to all the circuits in your home. Electrical panel labels are needed for the following reasons:
- National Electric Code Requirements: Not labeling every circuit is a code violation and can result in a fine for not meeting minimum requirements.
- Emergencies: Labels are useful for when you need to quickly turn off the power during a flood, fire, power outage, or another emergency.
- Safety: If a wire is overheating or an oven catches fire, turning off the right circuit quickly can save time and prevent a major catastrophe.
- Electrical Repair/Renovation: If you’re doing electrical work in a particular room or area, knowing which breaker corresponds with that circuit makes things easier.
- Overloads: If a breaker trips, it’s because the circuit is overloaded. A label lets you immediately identify the affected circuit and check whether too many appliances are plugged in.
How to Label a Panel
Labeling an electrical panel does not have to be a complicated process. Here’s a look at our suggestions to do so in a short amount of time, yet be accurate and thorough:
- Draw a Floor Plan: First, create a diagram of your home, designating each room, wall, and where your outlets and receptacles are. Label where large appliances are, such as the furnace, washer/dryer, water heater, and sump pump (which should be on their own circuits). Also identify the location of doorbells, security components, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, thermostats, etc.
- Mark Every Receptacle: Do a walkthrough of your house and mark where each fixture, outlet, switch, etc. is. Look behind furniture to identify any hidden outlets. It helps to use some shorthand, using letters (F for the fixture, O for outlet, and so on), and even use colors or shapes to highlight the type of electrical component you’re representing.
- Test the Breakers at the Panel: Find your electrical panel and start turning off breakers one at a time, seeing which rooms and lights/appliances/electronics turn off. It helps to have one person at the panel and another in the respective room, communicating their findings via walkie-talkie, for example. Write down the circuit number for that room, its location, and the position of the electrical item in the room.
- Mount the Directory/Floor Plan: Place the directory on the inside of the panel door using double-sided tape. If you have a one-page floor plan, also attach it to the door (multi-page plans can be placed in a clear plastic protector and taped there as well).
Once you have the circuit number and corresponding items written down, you can create a directory for your electrical panel. There’s usually a sticker on the inside of the panel door with room to write down the corresponding rooms and areas for each breaker. If there isn’t, you can obtain a new sticker from a home improvement store, download a template online, or create one yourself.
Tips for Electrical Panel Labels
- For Kitchens
- Check whether the light in the fridge, LED display on the stove or microwave, or a cycle on the dishwasher works.
- For Bathrooms
- Check that lights, GFCIs, exhaust fans, floor heaters, towel warmers, or whirlpools/air jet tubs are working.
- For Basements
- Check freezers, wine fridges, sump pumps, water softeners, hot water tanks, furnaces, fireplace blowers, washer/dryers, etc.
- Exterior Items
- Check the garage door opener, overhead lights, or receptacles in the garage; receptacles and lights in a shed; pool pumps; and pond pumps.
- All label markings should be written legibly and with a permanent pen or marker.
- Avoid using nicknames; someone might move out, or the next owner may not recognize them.
- If you find unknown or spare breakers, label them as such.
Contact Black Hills Home Services
Electrical panel labels must be created when you update or replace your electrical panel, or make any changes to your electrical system. If you need assistance with creating a label or need panel repair or wiring/re-wiring help in the Olympia area, contact Black Hills Home Services at 888-338-1312 today!