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Main Panel vs. Sub Panel: What’s the Difference?

Electrical wiring systems for all buildings pass through breaker panels. These panels exist as a means to protect the house and its appliances from power surges. They may be one of the most important electrical installations in your home. However, did you know that a house may have more than one breaker panel installed? The secondary breaker box is called a sub-panel and serves to split the load for the building to cover multiple areas. It can also be used to isolate one part of the building from another electrically. The real question is, what makes a sub-panel different from the main panel?

What’s the Main Panel?

The main panel is the breaker panel that takes the initial connection of electricity to your home. It’s the first line of defense against electrical surges and can help to protect both you and your appliances from damage. The main panel (also called the service entrance panel) is the point where you can disconnect your home from the grid, since it connects directly to your power company’s supply. All other panels, aside from the main one, are known as sub-panels.

Exploring Sub-Panels

Sub-panels are like a waypoint to direct electrical power to a different part of your premises. They perform a lot of the same tasks as the main panel, such as ensuring electrical appliances don’t get fried by power surges. Just like the main panel, the sub-panel contains a series of fuses and circuit breakers that interrupt the flow if they detect too large a current passing through them.

What’s the Difference Then?

Sub-panels don’t provide their own energy to a house but instead operate off the power from the main panel. The main panel is directly connected to the point-of-entrance to a building, and all sub-panels feed off that connection. However, the sub-panel provides a useful methodology for installing outlets that help you organize your electrical system into something more manageable.

electrical-panel-in-homeWhy Use a Sub Panel vs. the Main Panel

Generally, using a sub-panel over the main panel offers a lot of flexibility for your home’s electrical systems. There are a few extremely common use-cases that we encounter when it comes to installing sub-panels. Among these are:

  • Offers More Circuit Space: If your main panel is overcrowded, it could become a fire hazard. Keeping your main panel manageable may require you to break your electrical distribution system up into a series of sub-panels, depending on how many areas you intend to cover.
  • Safety Considerations: sub-panels are excellent ways to make a more secure electrical system. In the event of an electrical fire to a sub-panel-controlled circuit, you can simply switch off the sub panel, isolating that area so you can deal with the problem.
  • Separate Uses for Power: Many of us have garages where we operate all sorts of heavy machinery. Connecting a sub-panel to deal with different power requirements is a smart move since it keeps things organized. If you need to switch off a particular outlet or part of the house, all the breakers are located in a single, handy sub-panel.

Don’t Do It Yourself

A lot of people might be tempted to try to install a sub-panel themselves. It doesn’t seem that hard, and there are articles for everything to guide you. However, attempting this could have serious consequences. Installation by a non-professional could lead to risks for electrical hazards, shock, or worse. Call the experts at LiveWire if you want to figure out if you should install a sub-panel, and where would be the best place to put it. Let us use our experience to help you. Call us today!