Electrical Panel Board Explained; Electrical Distribution Board

Are you facing a sudden power outage and wonder what it could be? This article on the electrical panel board would be helpful.

You can be using the microwave to warm your food, and then the electric power shuts down. The next thing you find out is that your neighbor has a light, and you don’t.

Well, do not panic because the circuit breaker in the panel board must have shut off the power. The panel board does the same as the circuit breaker fuse, protects the home from surges.

The panelboard is like the brain of the electrical system of your home. First, however, follow this article closely to get a clearer understanding of a panel board.

What Is An Electrical Panel Board

What Is An Electrical Panel Board

An electrical panel board is also called a distribution, electric, or breaker panel. Hence, a panel board is a basic part of the electricity supply system.

A panelboard is an enclosure that shares the electrical power feed into separate circuit units by providing a fuse protector or a circuit breaker for each circuit.

However, inside the panel board, there are two types of breakers. The main circuit breaker controls the power to the entire house or building.

Another is the individual breakers that control providing electricity to a specific part of the place. It does this with the use of switches to trip off automatically.

The electric panel is a metal box mostly grey in color. It has a door which you can only gain access to in front.

Thus, it can either be placed inside or against the wall. Also, you can find it in the remote part of the house like basements, storage rooms, or even laundry rooms.

Although, in most homes, you can find them inside a unit close to the entrance. An electric breaker works to protect each of the branch circuits from overloads and short circuits.

In a nutshell, an electric panel can share electricity to every aspect of the house. Also, it works as a load center for all electrical gadgets and appliances present in the place.

The way the electric panel works is like a router. It operates by directing electric current from the circuit to every appliance that requires it.

The circuits via the electrical board give the power that electrical outlets, lighting, and gadget require to function.

Components Of Electrical Panel Board

Components Of Electrical Panel Board


This is usually a box that houses the other components of the electric panel. It has an element of galvanized or painted steel to protect the internal equipment.


This is the internal component of the electric panel. It is composed of the overcurrent protection device, control device, busbars, and other components which mount on support rails.


It provides information regarding the unit’s amperage rating, voltage rating, interrupting capacity, manufacturing date, panel vintage, and renewal parts.

Dead-Front and Trim

This is the front cover piece of the enclosure. They cover the surface of the front surface of the panel board.

They also provide a hinge access door that gives access to the circuit breakers. The dead-front and trim also prevent contact with the interior component when operating.

Filler plates cover any unused pole space that the circuit breaker has not yet utilized.


These are aluminum or copper conducting strips. It is a conductor that serves a standard connection between two or more circuits.

Hence, it carries a large amount of current from the incoming meter line to the different circuit breakers in the panel board.

Types Of Electrical Panel Board

Types Of Electrical Panel Board

There are two common types of panel boards they include;

Lighting and Appliance Branch Circuit Panel boards

This type is a component of power distribution. It is the closest to the load and commonly has a single-phase over-current protection that feeds light and receptacles like electric outlets.

This panelboard has over-current protection, and it is usually smaller than the power panel board. It also has a way of disconnecting lighting, appliance, and other small load circuits.

Power Panel Board

This type is an intermediary component of the power distribution system and has three loads. These three loads can either connect to a three-phase piece of equipment or serve as a three-phase feeder to another panel board.

This type is mainly used for commercial and industrial purposes. This is because they power heavy-duty equipment like motors, generators, and other sizeable power-consuming equipment.

However, there are other classifications of panel board like the main breaker panel, main lug panel, subpanel.

Main Breaker Panel

This panel controls the electricity in the whole building. Also, it is a housing unit for the main breaker switch that could either switch OFF or ON the power supply.

Another thing is that it determines the highest amount of current that the panel can handle. It also conducts every activity that happens on the board.

However, it controls the circuit breaker and the amount of electricity a home utilizes. The main breaker panel also protects the circuits.

Main Lug Panel

The central lug consists of line wires that run into lugs as an electrical connector, ending the main breaker’s need. Instead, it can play the role of a sub-panel where it connects to the breaker from the main panel.

This panel has an extra security feature wherein you can disconnect the board quickly in case of an emergency. This feature for disconnecting the board makes it similar to the main breaker.

Sub Panel

The sub-panel is usually a smaller electrical panel. It applies basically to where there is a need to have multiple circuits in a particular area.

This panel absorbs its power from the mainboard using the circuits. Also, it helps to adjust the current distribution throughout the area it requires it.

However, it is convenient because it is not usually far away from the area it powers.

Transfer Switch

The transfer switch works by transferring load between two electrical sources. It simply transfers generator power to electrical power.

This type does this through the breaker panel, and it is best for generator backup. It has two types: a manual transfer switch and an automatic transfer switch.

The first has to do with directly starting the generator and switching the electric load to the backup power. On the other hand, the second has to do with changing the power to the backup power automatically whenever there is a power outage.

How Does An Electric Panel Board Work?

How Does An Electric Panel Board Work_

Powerlines deliver electricity to houses via poles or underground cables. As a result, the wires transmit power from the electric meter into the breaker box via the electric meter.

It is now from here that power is shared throughout the circuits or sub-panels of the house. Since the powerline connects to the electric meter, the main circuit breaker pulls the power to complete the circuit.

This is further transferred to the charged bus bars. The bus bars then transfer the electricity to the remaining circuit breakers.

The electric panel’s standard function is mainly switching a breaker when it trips or replacing a fuse when blown.

For simplicity, the working principle of an electrical panel is very interesting. This is because the electricity supply comes from a network to the building through the main feeding cable.

However, the cable transfers the electricity from the electrical board to the house, which is connected via an electrical distribution board.

Electric Panel Board Vs. Switch Board

Often, people tend to confuse a panel board with a switchboard. Although they both perform the same function, there are also differences in how they function.

Therefore, I will be comparing a panel board with a switchboard.

The panel board and switchboard are similar because they have a maximum rating of 600volts. However, the switchboard handles a higher fault, unlike the panel board.

Another difference is that the panel board mounts against the wall while the switchboards mounts in the ground. Also, the switchboard is more profound and larger than panel boards.

The panel board operates at a lower amperage of 1200A, while the switchboard operates at less than 1200A with a maximum of 5000A. Therefore, the switchboard is more expensive than the panel board.

The only access to the panel board is the front, whereas the switchboard is also the front, but it can also require side and rear access. Also, they both have multiple purposes – design and layout.

The switchboard distributes power across multiple sources, while the panel boards manage all commercial electrical systems. Also, a panelboard applies to residential and small commercial usage, while a switchboard applies to commercial and industrial use.

A smaller panel board can house plug-in or bolt-on breakers. The larger one only makes use of the bolt-on breaker.

On the other hand, the switchboard utilizes bolt-on and draw-out breakers. However, they both protect the circuits against overcurrent all over the facility.

How To Install A Electrical Panel Board

How To Install A Electrical Panel Board

The installation of a panelboard involves some steps to follow for its perfect working. Hence, it is advisable to use a professional to install the panel board rather than do it yourself.

This is because you would not want anything to go wrong. However, here are the steps to follow.


The first step is to ensure no electricity in the power feeder. Next, it is important to make sure that the power utility company shuts off the electricity, and you can use a voltmeter to test this.

The next thing is to open the metal knockouts for the main service conduits and each branch circuit that will enter the breaker box. It may also need to be opened for the main grounding wire.

The knockouts are round metal discs at the top, bottom, sides, and back of the box. The knockouts come in different sizes to the various conduits that connect to the box.

Next is to mount the panel board. To do this, you need to position the panel board, level it, and fasten it to the wall with a screw.

Also, anchors can be driven through the back of the panel and into the board. After mounting the panel board, the next thing is to install the main service wire.

To do this, you need a put fish tape through the opening of the main service conduit from inside the panel to the entry point outside. There are three main service wires: two hot wires, black in color, and a white neutral wire.

The Connections

After this, the next thing is to connect the main grounding wire. The main ground wire is usually a sizeable bare copper wire.

It is usually fed into the panel and connects the main grounding connection. Hence, this is a metal lug on the back of the panel or at the end of the bus bar.

The next thing is to connect the main service neutral wire to the neutral bus bar. The neutral bus bar is mostly far away from the two hot bus bars.

Next is connecting the main breaker. To do this, you need to bend the two hot wires for an easy connection to the main breaker.

The main breaker in most panels is a large 240V circuit breaker. It is usually located at the top of the panel and controls all the home’s power.

After this, the next thing now is to pull the wires for various branch circuits into the panel. Again, you can use fishing tape to draw them into the board.

Connecting the branch circuit ground wires is the next process. Here, you combine all the green and bare copper wires for the branch circuit to the ground bus bar inside the panel.

Thus, you can now insert the end of the wires into the openings of the bus bar. Then, you will tighten the setscrew down.

The next thing is to connect each branch circuit of the circuit breaker one at a time.

Complete Installation

Here, once all the process is done, the next thing is to install the cover of the panel board. Then, the utility power can turn on the power back.

The next thing is to turn on the circuit breakers and make sure all the circuits are working perfectly. Also, as part of the completion, you need to label the panel to identify the function of each circuit.

Factors To consider Before Buying A Electrical Panel Board

Factors To consider Before Buying A Electrical Panel Board

It is very important to select a perfect panel board that best suits your needs. Since the panel board also controls how the circuit breakers are arranged.

This arrangement can be adjustable depending on the structure or design of the panel board. Also, there can be more balanced in the electrical load unit with this.

However, there are key factors to consider before buying an electrical panel board. The first thing is the rating of the panel board.

The main bus current carrying capacity determines the rating of the panel board. Hence it is important to select a panel board with the perfect rating.

The next thing that needs consideration is the size of the panel board. The panel board should accommodate all the requirements for the wire gutter.

Another factor to consider is the voltage of the panel breaker as well as its frequency. Also, another thing that requires consideration is the interrupting capacity.

Finally, another thing to consider is the type of placement it has. Also, the number of rooms and appliances it will cover is another important factor to consider.

My Recommendations: 5 Best Electrical Panel Board.

Siemens S3054L3200 200-Amp 3-Phase Load Center

This type has an amperage rating of 220A with a maximum voltage rating of 120/240V. It also has a main lug with 30 spaces as well as 50 circuits.

The Siemen ES series has a three-phase load center, a standard line of the load center. In addition, it features a plug-on design with a flush or surface mount style.

Also, it has tin-plated aluminum bus bars and does not include a ground bar. However, it is an indoor panel board.

Square D by Schneider Electric HOM1224M100PRB Homeline 100 Amp

The amperage rating of this type is 100A. Again, it also has a main lug with 12 spaces as well as 24 circuits.

The load center has a plated aluminum bus bar tested and listed for the Homeline circuit breaker. It also has a ground bar that accepts up to 10-14 equipment grounds.

Also, it includes a rainproof outdoor cover. Therefore, it is suitable for residential and commercial purposes.

Siemens TL137US Talon

It is one of the electrical panel boards that you can use outdoor. The amperage ranges from 20, 30, 50, and 100 amp.

The interior part measures 125 Amp. Also, it has an elevated cover with a padlock which prevents power theft from occurring.

It has 20 spaces as well as a maximum of 20 circuits.

You can mount it on a pole or surfaces. In addition to the mounting, it has unmetered or metered options.

The metered option can be found in the top or bottom feed, coupled with its receptacles configuration.

Also, it has a nice appearance with galvanized steel with a white powder coat enclosure housing.

Siemens E0816ML1125S Surface Mount, 125 Amp

With an amperage rating of 125A, it can power your appliances with 120/240V. It is a single-phase with three-wire.

Also, it has 8 spaces and a maximum of 16 circuits. It has a central lug, but the breaker is not included.

The load center has a one-piece aluminum bus bar. This type is applied to a surface mount an enclosure rating for indoors.

Siemens SN4040B1200 SN Series, 200 Amp

This type has an amperage rating of 200A with 120/240V. It is a single-phase with three-wire.

Also, it has an interrupt rating of 22000AIC with a maximum of 40 circuits. The SN series has a plug-on neutral load center plus a factory-installed ground bar.

It also has a NEMA Type 1 enclosure that is good for indoor use.

My Conclusion; Electrical Panel Board

In modern times the importance of panel boards cannot be overemphasized. This is because it plays an important role in our safety regarding electrical faults.

Not only that, it protects both the user and the equipment and appliances against fire. However, the electrical panel board has been designed to withstand and even contain expulsion regarding modern technology.

Therefore, the panel board has a life span between 20 to 30 years. Hence, if it is well maintained, it should last up to 50 years.

It is very efficient and even cost-effective. However, I have given a set of recommendations for buyers to choose from that will best suit their needs.

I hope you found this PowerVersity pick helpful?

If you found it helpful, kindly share your thoughts with the “Leave a Reply” form found towards the end of this page.

Finally, you may want to read other articles like this. Visit our below pages.

How Do Wind Turbines Work?

What Is An Electrical Fuse; Best Home Electrical protection

What Is A Circuit Breaker

Oreoluwa Falujo
Oreoluwa Falujo
Oreoluwa Falujo is a Lead Content Editor at PowerVersity.com. She has a bachelor's degree in political science. She likes to watch movies, play games, and listen to music. At PowerVersity.com, Oreoluwa writes buyer guide articles, best picks, and technology-explained articles. She also leads a content writing team.


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