Rule number one when dealing with electricity: know where to turn it off. You do this at your service panel, otherwise known as the electrical panel or load center or circuit board or breaker box. They are all the same thing.
LOCATE YOUR PANEL
Your service panel is usually affixed to a wall behind a metal door. You may have to hunt for it. It can be on the exterior of the house, usually near the electricity meter, or inside, in the garage, in the basement, in the laundry, in the entryway or hiding in a closet.
WHAT DOES THE PANEL DO?
Your circuit breaker panel manages the electrical currents that run to and from all your electrical devices. When an appliance has too much current running through it, the circuit breaker automatically stops the flow of electricity, thus turning off the device until the problem can be fixed. The panel also enables you to manually turn off all your electricity at once by flipping the larger main breaker switch. Individual breakers allow you to isolate certain areas or appliances in your home.
NUMBER THE BREAKERS
Most service panels only have room for you to write one word next to the breaker, if in fact there is any space at all. If it has not already been done, number each breaker.
MAP YOUR WIRING
There are different ways of going about this job, but I find this method the simplest. First, make a table that states the location of all outlets, fixtures, lights and appliances in each room, described in a way that makes sense to you, and is also clear for someone else to understand.
SERVICE PANEL CIRCUIT MAP
|KITCHEN||Double receptacle next to fridge||3|
|KITCHEN||Double receptacle on right of island||3|
|KITCHEN||Double receptacle on left of island||3|
|KITCHEN||Dishwasher/garbage disposal unit||5|
|KITCHEN||Bank of 6 potlights, switch by door||3|
|STUDY||Double receptacle, inner wall behind desk||7|
|STUDY||Double receptacle, outer wall, printer plugged in||7|
|STUDY||Double receptacle, wall backing onto hallway||7|
BRING IN A BUDDY WITH A CELL PHONE
Make no mistake, this is a tedious and time consuming job but will be a lot quicker and easier if you bring in a buddy to help.
DO IT IN THE DAYLIGHT
Obvious you might say, but don’t be tempted to start as the light is fading.
TURN OFF FRAGILE EQUIPMENT
It is best to turn off delicate electronics such as computers before you start turning things off at the breaker panel.
CHECK WHAT IS WORKING
One of you, The Sentinel, is stationed at the breaker panel. The other, The Seeker, has the table or list, which at this point won’t have the breaker numbers written in. The Sentinel turns off breaker #1. The Seeker establishes which area of the house is affected, and writes #1 next to each item that is not working. Continue in this way for each breaker.
TESTING THE OUTLETS
A nightlight works well to test each outlet. You can also use a voltage tester. The ones that look like a pen are really easy to use and only cost about $20. When the tester is turned on, touch any wire, appliance or outlet and the pen will start ringing or buzzing and flashing if electricity is present. This removes any guesswork and makes it more fun for The Seeker. Make a note of anything unusual such as the top and bottom halves of an outlet being on different circuits. This can be a sign that something is not right with your wiring.
TAPE THE MAP TO THE INSIDE OF THE PANEL
This way you will know where it is.
GIVE YOURSELF A PAT ON THE BACK
You can deservedly feel smug. The next time the power trips, your trusty circuit table will be right there in front of you so you can speedily locate the problem.
BUY YOUR BUDDY A BEER
Or a glass of wine. Don’t forget this important final step.