How to Properly Number a Circuit Breaker Panel

Open your circuit breaker panel, and you might find worn-out labels with cryptic titles like "Sally's room" or "The TV room" from former owners.

If you need to turn power off to a certain receptacle, a properly labeled electrical panel can help.If you need to turn power off to a certain receptacle, a properly labeled electrical panel can help.
Obscure labeling doesn't help you when you need to turn off a circuit, and it won't help future house owners. The solution is to draw a properly numbered and labeled circuit breaker diagram that is complete and timeless. Tape the diagram to the inside of your panel door and you'll never again be flipping breakers haphazardly, trying to find the right one.

Draw a diagram of your circuit breakers on the sheet of paper, using rectangles to represent circuit breakers. The diagram should be the same size as your circuit breakers.

Number the circuit breakers using the paint pen. For example, if you have 12 circuit breakers, number them 1 through 12.

Number your diagram using the pencil. The numbers on your diagram should correspond with the numbers on the circuit breakers.

Write down every electrical appliance and wired item in your house. Include receptacles, lights and anything that's hard wired such as water heaters, wired fire alarms, doorbells and outdoor lights.

Flip circuit breaker 1. Note the items in the house that are not working on your circuit breaker diagram. For example, if circuit breaker 1 shuts off power to the upstairs bathroom, write "upstairs bathroom." Cross off the items controlled by circuit breaker 1 from the list you wrote in step 4.

Repeat Step 5 for each circuit breaker. When you've finished labeling all of the circuit breakers you should have no items on your list. If you have items left, repeat the procedure and identify which circuit breaker controls the power. If you have an item you cannot identify, call an electrician to assist you; there may be a problem with your wiring.

Tape the finished circuit breaker diagram to your electrical panel.

Things You Will Need

  • Paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Paint pen
  • Tape

Tip

  • Use a portable lamp to test for power in receptacles.

About the Author

Stephanie Ellen teaches mathematics and statistics at the university and college level. She coauthored a statistics textbook published by Houghton-Mifflin. She has been writing professionally since 2008. Ellen holds a Bachelor of Science in health science from State University New York, a master's degree in math education from Jacksonville University and a Master of Arts in creative writing from National University.