Open breaker box

Breaker Box

Originally contributed by • last updated 2/25/2021

John Eisenschenk CC-BY-2.0

If you suddenly find yourself in the dark or you there doesn’t seem to be any power flowing to your devices or appliances, you may have a tripped breaker that needs to be reset. Not to worry! You can fix it yourself. Whether you're looking for a tripped breaker or you’re cutting the power before you repair an appliance, knowing how to locate and operate your breaker box is an essential homeowner skill.


The term breaker box, sometimes called a fuse box, typically refers to the main electrical panel or circuit breaker panel that distributes power throughout a house or building. It typically contains both a larger main circuit breaker, which supplies power to the entire panel and house, and several smaller circuit breakers that supply power to different areas, devices, and appliances throughout the house. When opened at the front, most household breaker boxes display a panel cover with two vertical rows of breaker switches and a larger main breaker switch, which is either located at the top or bottom of the panel cover.

What Size Breaker Box Do You Need?

Typically, homeowners won’t be required to change out their electrical panel, unless they’re doing some major upgrades or repairs. Also, the calculations for determining the exact amount of electricity needed in a home can be a little complicated but there are calculator tools available to help if need be. But it’s still important to understand how the size of the breaker box in your home determines how many electrical fixtures and appliances can safely be wired up and connected:

  • Typically, residential breaker boxes come in four main sizes: 100 amp, 125 amp, 150 amp, and 200 amp, although larger ones are available for homes that require more power.
  • Most smaller homes, without electric heating, can comfortably operate on a 100 or 125 amp service, whereas larger homes with more outlets, fixtures, and appliances will require bigger boxes, such as a 200 amp service.

WARNING! Working with electricity can be dangerous, even for experienced DIYers. If you’re unsure about working with electricity, you should probably consult a professional electrician.