How to Label Your Circuit Breakers
August 31, 2018
If you need to shut off power to a circuit, replace a blown fuse, reset a tripped breaker, or conduct any work on your electrical system, it’s extremely useful to have all of your circuits labeled. Your home service technician will thank you too!
While labeling your circuits is possible with one person, it’s much easier with two. You won’t have to run back and forth to your electrical panel, which saves you a lot of time and energy.
How to Label Your Circuits
Label the breakers/fuses in your electrical panel so you can quickly identify circuit and turn off or restore electricity when needed. Although this isn’t something you’re necessarily looking forward to, the good news is that you only have to do it once.
If you don’t already have a circuit breaker label/directory to write on, you can buy one online, use a label maker, or slip a paper into a clear plastic sleeve. Use a permanent marker and clear writing to index each of your circuits. For those with illegible handwriting, we recommend the printed option.
And make sure you don’t use nicknames such as “Peter’s Room” or “Dan’s Man Cave.” You want the names to be universally recognizable. Think “Garage,” “Utility Room,” and “S.W. Bedroom.” In the case you run into a breaker that’s not connected to anything, label it as “Spare.”
The two best ways to label your circuits are with a circuit breaker tracer or the help of a friend or family member. You really don’t want to do it alone.
But, If You Are Alone
If you do try mapping your circuits alone, you can limit the amount of running around by using an extra-long extension cord. Simply plug it into the circuit you want to test and then plug anything (radio, lamp, etc.) into the end of it while flicking the breakers on and off.
Another option for some folks is using a portable security camera/baby monitor connected to your mobile device. This way, you can watch the video feed on your phone/tablet to see which breakers are associated with which rooms.
Circuit Breaker Tracer
If you absolutely cannot find someone to help you, you may want to invest in a circuit breaker finder/tracer. These transmitter devices cost about $30-$60 and can reach up to around 1000 feet. They only work when the circuit is on, so if you need to test a breaker with the power off, you will need a circuit toner kit.
Circuit breaker tracer normally come in 2 parts. Basically, you plug one part (the transmitter) into an outlet or socket (with the power on) and use the other part (the receiver) to scan all the circuit breakers in the panel.
As you scan the circuits, the breaker that is connected to the transmitter will cause the receiver to light up. This will tell you which circuit breaker is connected which outlet or light fixture in the home. Make sure you read the directions carefully though. Many people report false readings, but this is usually due to poor attention to detail.
Still, we recommend double-checking the accuracy of your circuit breaker tracer by flipping the breaker off and then checking the outlets and fixtures connected to the circuit to verify they are no longer receiving power.
If you want to save $40 and you have an assistant, continue reading for instructions on the manual method.
To find out which breaker is connected to which circuit, it’s best to have an assistant. Do this once, and you won’t have to ever do it again:
- Flip the breakers off one by one and have a friend or family member tell you what turns off in the house.
- Instead of yelling, use cell phones. Your friend will call you to confirm which area of the house lost power.
- Try to label with generic names so that if rooms change, nobody will be confused by your markers. For example, label a room “Downstairs Guest Room” rather than “Suzie’s Room.”
- When circuit sleuthing, you may discover that only one appliance turns off. In this case, you’ve found a dedicated circuit. Label the breaker appropriately with the appliance name. Usually, air conditioners dryers, and ranges will have their own dedicated circuit.
Tip: Keep a flashlight right next to your panel. If you notice any damaged or corroded breakers/fuses, contact a professional electrician right away.
If you want to save the time and have a professional label your circuits for you, contact the OnTime Service. We can help you label your circuits, conduct electrical safety inspections, and much more. Call us anytime.