Know Your Home: Figuring Out Your Home's Electrical System

Your home's electrical system act as its brain, powering the many devices you enjoy and rely on each day. Understanding the various parts of your electrical system is essential for understanding how your home works and knowing what to do if the system fails.

Electrical Panel

Knowing where your electrical panel is and how it works is invaluable knowledge to have when addressing basic power issues like resetting a breaker switch or wiring a new ceiling fan. Larger homes sometimes have two or more electrical panels. This depends on the power demands of the home and local building codes.

The electrical panel is within a box usually situated outside your home and contains a panel filled with switches. There is a main power switch for the home and larger switches for power heavy zones in your home. Next, there are smaller switches for certain rooms within the house. In older buildings, the smaller switches may only power certain parts of a room. For example, the master suite may have three breaker switches - one for the en suite bathroom, and two for the main room. Make sure each breaker switch has a label next to it. A black, permanent marker is best for this job. It helps to quickly know which switch powers which room in the house.


Lighting is another important aspect of the electrical system in your home. A mixture of task lighting, overhead lights, and accent lighting make the difference between a house and home. The type of light bulbs used are also important. Fluorescent lighting is often preferred in the garage while LED bulbs make great, long lasting porch lights, and incandescent bulbs are often used inside the house.


Safety is a major component of electrical systems. This includes things like security systems, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide alarms. While security systems aren't required, building codes do require smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in all homes. Electrical safety is always improving. Many builders are switching to AFCI, arc fault circuit interrupter, outlets for homes. This outlet prevents dangerous electrical arcs by interrupting the circuit when arcs are detected.

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy is growing in popularity for home electrical systems. Sources include solar and wind energy. These systems still create electricity and use your control panel, but the electricity comes from a bank of batteries that are charged by the sun or wind. This may be an attractive option for some because it has the ability to reduce your power bill.

An engineer with an Electrical Engineering Master's degree says understanding the basic parts of your home's electrical systems will help you take care of it for many years to come. All homeowners should familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of their home, of which the electrical system is an important part.

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Emma Sturgis

Emma Sturgis

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