You don’t have to be a master electrician to own a home, but every homeowner should know the basics about how the electrical system in their house works and what to do when it doesn’t.

Whether you plan on tackling electrical wiring problems around your house or prefer to leave them to the professionals, resetting tripped circuit breakers and replacing burned-out fuses are things you need to know how to do.

Understanding Electrical Service Panels

An electrical service panel is a metal box mounted on a wall or the outside of your house that contains either circuit breakers or fuses to control the wiring in your home.

Circuit breakers and fuses serve to limit the amount of electricity flow to prevent fires, shocks, and damage.

The panel may also include a main breaker, or fuse, to turn off all the circuits controlled by the electrical panel. If not, the main for the house may be located at the electrical meter or elsewhere in your home.

The purpose of circuit breakers and fuses is to limit the amount of electricity (expressed in amperes, or amps) allowed to flow through the wires of an electrical circuit to prevent fires and electrical shocks. The maximum number of amps allowed before the breaker trips or the fuse blows is printed on the breaker or fuse and usually ranges between 15 and 30 amps for standard 110-volt circuits.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

Make sure you are dry and standing on a dry surface before working on an electrical service panel or doing any other electrical work.

How to Turn Power On and Off to a Circuit

Each circuit should be labeled next to the breakers or fuses or inside the service panel door to indicate which breaker or fuse controls the wiring to each part of your home. If the circuits aren’t labeled, you’ll need to flip the breakers or unscrew the fuses one by one until you find the one that controls the circuit you want to turn on or off.

To turn the power off to an electrical circuit, flip the breaker switch toward the outside of the panel or unscrew the fuse. To turn the power to a circuit back on, push the circuit breaker switch toward the center of the box or screw the fuse back in.

How to Reset a Tripped Circuit Breaker

A circuit can become overloaded by having too many devices, such as hairdryers, microwaves, gaming consoles, etc., plugged in and running simultaneously.

When a breaker trips or a fuse blows, it’s usually because of a power surge beyond the rated amperage of the breaker or fuse. This tripping could be the result of:

  • A short in an appliance, light fixture, lamp, or other electrical device
  • An overloaded circuit with too many electrical devices on it
  • Faulty wiring, such as a short in a wire or a loose connection
  • Lightning or a power surge from the main line leading into the house

It’s also possible that the circuit breaker or fuse is defective, and you need to replace it. 

You should not repeatedly reset a circuit breaker or replace a fuse since it’s often a sign of an underlying problem with the wiring, which, if not addressed, can lead to a fire or electrical shock.

To reset a tripped circuit breaker:

  1. Turn off or unplug devices on the overloaded circuit.
  2. Locate the tripped breaker by identifying the switch in the off position. You may find the tripped breaker as being in between off and on, and it sometimes jiggles because it is not in place.
  3. Switch the tripped breaker completely off, then flip it back on.
  4. Test circuit power by turning on a light fixture.

If it trips again, you likely need a certified electrician to repair the wiring.

So, Is Properly Sizing and Maintaining Your Home’s Electrical Service Essential?

To ensure safe home operation, you must have an updated and appropriately sized electrical service panel with functional circuit breakers or fuses. The electrical panel controls the flow of electricity within the house. Without proper circuit protection, the risks of fires, shocks, or electrocution increase, along with the possibility of damage to electrical system components and devices.

While you should leave upgrades and repairs to licensed electricians, every homeowner needs to learn the basics of their home’s electrical system to stay safe. You must monitor your electrical panel, know how to turn circuits off and reset tripped breakers. Arranging timely professional inspections and maintenance is necessary to protect your home and family.

Get Your Estimate From Expert Electricians
Match with an electrician to help you with your project.

FAQs About Home Electrical Systems

What does it mean if multiple circuit breakers keep tripping?

Frequent tripping of multiple breakers indicates a larger electrical system issue needing professional inspection and service.

How often should I have my home's electrical system inspected?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends a professional inspection of your home’s electrical system every 10 years or when you have recurring issues with tripped breakers, blown fuses, flickering power, or outages.

Can I upgrade my fuse panel to use circuit breakers?

Yes, you can upgrade your fuse panel at any time. In facUpgrading an outdated fuse panel to a modern circuit breaker panel that electricians install provides better protection and flexibility for home electrical systems.

How do I know if my circuit breaker panel has enough capacity?

Signs of an overloaded electrical panel include frequently tripped breakers under normal use, a lack of open slots for new circuits, buzzing components, discolored outlets, and flickering lights. Consulting an electrician best determines if your home needs a circuit panel upgrade.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Abbie Clark

Abbie Clark


Abbie Clark is a writer and blogger. She is the founder of "Hey She Thrives", where she writes about all things motherhood, coupled with expert cleaning tips that echo the warmth and order of a loving home. She is also the co founder of "RideRambler." There, you can find all of the info you'll ever need on DIY car fixes and Auto news.When not writing, you can find Abbie chasing her toddler, trying a new cookie recipe, or fishing with her husband.

Learn More

photo of Sabrina Lopez

Sabrina Lopez


Sabrina Lopez is a senior editor for Today’s Homeowner with over 7 years of writing and editing experience in digital media. She has reviewed content across categories that matter to homeowners, including HVAC services, home renovations, lawn and garden care, products for the home, and insurance services. When she’s not reviewing articles to make sure they are helpful, accessible, and engaging for homeowners like herself, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her family and their two parrots.

Learn More