How to Test an Electrical Panel

By Charles Judd

Use a multimeter to test your household's electrical panel.
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Your home's electrical panel is the place where all of the electricity is distributed throughout your home. If you are having issues with an electric receptacle somewhere in your house and cannot find the problem, it's possible something has gone awry in the electrical panel. With some care, you can easily check to ensure your panel box is properly functioning.

Inspect each breaker in the electrical panel to see if it is tripped. Visually check each one to make sure the switch is set to the ON position. If you find one in the OFF position, this breaker has been tripped from an apparent overload or faulty circuit.

Reset any tripped breakers inside the electrical panel. Do this by simply switching the breaker to the ON position. If the breaker trips itself back to the OFF position immediately, you have a serious problem in your circuit. Contact an electrician.

Test each individual breaker with a multimeter. Switch the multimeter to the "Volts AC" setting. Each breaker will have a terminal screw in the end where the hot wire runs. Touch one prong to the terminal screw of the breaker and the other to the ground bar inside the electrical panel box. If no power is detected, you have a faulty breaker that needs replacement. Repeat this for each breaker inside the panel.

Power off the main switch to the electrical panel if you need to replace a breaker. This is located at the top of the box in the center of the panel. This switch will power off all of the circuits inside your home, so have a flashlight handy.

Remove the faulty breaker from the electrical panel. There may be screws holding this in place or it may be a snap-in style of breaker. Be sure to replace this with a breaker of identical amperage. Unwire the old breaker and rewire the new one in its place, then install the breaker into the electrical panel box.

Switch the main power back on and test your new circuit.