Panel Choices

There are two types of panels for your house: Main Breaker or Sub-Panel

The Main Breaker Panel:

A main breaker panel is actually considered a part of your service equipment. It houses a main breaker, which functions as both your main service disconnecting means and main overcurrent protection device. When you shut off this main breaker, everything in your house goes off. A main breaker panel can be installed either directly behind, or adjacent to the electrical meter. The main breaker panel is the most simple, and usually the cheapest type of installation. In the diagram below, only the panel on the right would be allowed to be a main breaker type installation. To install a panel like the one on the left, use a sub-panel installation.

The Meter-Main/Sub-Panel:

In a meter-main/sub-panel type service, the service itself actually ends at the meter-main, which houses the meter and a main breaker. Your sub-panel is then fed from the main breaker in the meter-main with a length of a 4 conductor SER cable. Most of your house circuits are then fed from the sub-panel (some meter-mains also have a few extra breaker spaces so you can feed a few circuits from them). A meter-main/sub panel is usually more expensive and a little more complicated to install. You should only use this type of service if you can not locate your panel close enough to your meter location to qualify for a main breaker panel installation. In the diagram below, the panel would have to be a sub-panel.

Panel Clearance:

Remember when you are deciding on a place to install your panel, whichever panel type you choose, you need to be sure you'll have at least 3 feet in front of the panel, 30 inches wide clear space from floor to ceiling. The 30 inches does not have to be centered on the panel. See the drawing below.

Go to Main BreakerInstallation or Sub-PanelInstallation.