What are the Components of a Distribution Panel?

The Components of Distribution Panels

In past blogs, we have addressed what distribution panels are and when they have to be replaced. In this blog, we are going to explore the different components associated with your distribution panel. By reading our blog, you may have a better understanding of how electricity is transported and distributed throughout your home or business.

The 3 Components of Electrical Panels

There are three necessary components of your electrical panels in order to ensure that electricity is making it into your home and powering your appliances with the appropriate amount of electricity. The three components are as follows:

  • Main breaker
  • Circuit Breakers
  • Bus Bars

These three systems come together to formulate your main electrical panel system. The electrical panel, or distribution panel, is responsible for distributing electricity to the outlets of your home or business. But, as you might already know (by reading our past blogs), different appliances require different amounts of energy to power them. For example, your oven requires more electricity than your toaster. So, how is it possible for your distribution panel to divide the right amount of power to each of your home or business’s subsidiary circuits? Well, your breaker panel is responsible for transferring the right amount of energy to each circuit.
If you have ever looked at your current breaker panel, you will most likely see a variation of dark switches. Each of these switches correlates to a specific outlet or source of power. For instance, if you switch one of the breakers, your correlating appliance could turn off, such as your lights. This means that that specific switch is responsible for supplying electricity to your home to provide light. However, not all the switches are alike. There are different switches that provide different amounts of power. This is where the “components” of the breaker panel play a key role.

Main Breakers

Main breakers are large double-pole circuit breakers that can limit the amount of electricity entering inside your home from the outside. The main breaker’s primary purpose is to ensure that your home or business has a controlled amount of electricity coming to it from the power lines outside your home. Without a main breaker, your system could become overwhelmed by the raw power of uncontrolled electricity. In fact, without proper controls, your wires would fry up, your appliances may explode, and an electrical fire would likely start. So, because main breakers are so vital to the regulation of the power in your home, they are a key element to your distribution panel system.

Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers are responsible for the flow of power into your home. When you switch one of the circuit breakers off, you will turn off the flow of electricity to that correlating appliance. This perfectly describes our switch example made earlier. In that example, we explained how turning on of the switches could cut power to a certain item that the switch correlates to. Circuit breakers are connected to certain products in your home and give them power. Circuit breakers work on an On/Off basis. Once you switch them off, anything connected to that breaker switch will turn off.

Bus Bars

Bus bars are how electricity is able to transfer from the electrical meter to the actual circuits. Bus bars will receive power from two thick, black wires that transfer power from the electrical meter. Once the power is received by the bus bars, the power can be carried to their prospective circuits.

There are two types of bus bars:

  • Neutral Bus Bars:

This component connects to the main circuits neutral wire. The neutral bars are primarily useful for providing a point of contact white wires to return electricity back to the breaker panel once power has been sent to the product. Once the electricity is sent to the outlet, and subsequently the product, the electricity is sent back to the breaker panel through whites wires.

  • Grounding Bus Bars:

Grounding bus bars take all grounding wires from the breaker panels and connect them to the ground bar. The grounding bar is also connected to the grounding conductor that lies underground. In some systems, the main service panels also connect the ground bars with the neutral bars. This isn’t present, however, in subpanel systems.

Different Types of Breakers

There are different types of breakers, ranging in manufacturer, power capacity, and even what country the panel was made. For instance, American panels can be built differently than European breaker panels. The differences aren’t that drastic, but different enough where it could change how you use the panel. For instance, American panels are numbered and lettered to describe the amount of power to each panel and where the power is being sent to.
The most popular types of breaker panels are Main Breaker Panels and Main Lug Panels.
Main breaker panels have built-in main breaks that can be used to cut off all power, much like a giant circuit breaker. The main breaker is a large double-pole breaker that restricts the amount of power allowed into your home (as stated above). Main lug breakers differ from panels in that they do not rely on wires to connect to the main breaker. Instead, these types of breakers run energy by using lugs. Lugs are electrical connectors or clamps that are used to run power from electrical devices. Lugs can be an alternative to wires, especially if the system requires a separate disconnect (not connected to the main breaker). This disconnect can be advantageous if there were a house or commercial building fire. Why? Well, in the case of a fire, the fire department would have to enter the building to cut the power in order to clean up the mess of a fire disaster. This, of course, is for the protection of the firefighters. Having a disconnect can be beneficial, but your main lug breaker can be connected to the main panel if you would like it to be.

Nutech Industries Distribution Panels

Contact Nutech Industries if you have any questions about our electrical products or distribution panels. We have representatives on standby, ready to help answer some of your questions or concerns about your electrical systems. Shop online for electrical products today!

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