Most electrical panels in a home use one main breaker to shut off the power. On the other hand, there is also a split bus panel. What is a split bus panel? It is an electrical panel that has several main breakers (up to 6!). To turn off power to the entire home, you will need to switch off all the breakers. This is different from a standard panel that only requires one breaker to shut off the power to the whole house.
Let’s take a look at why you need to know about split bus panel, how it works, the possible dangers, replacing them , other maintenance, and when to call a professional.
Why You Need to Know About Split Bus Panel
A home that was built between 1965-1980 may have a split bus panel. There are differing opinions about whether this is a good or bad thing.
How Split Bus Panel Works
In most cases, there are two-pole breakers that are at the top of the upper section. These are known as the service disconnects and feed the lower bus bar section. This requires the circuit breakers in the upper bus bar section to be switched off in order to disconnect the power in the lower section.
The lower bus provides power for small appliances, lights, and receptacles. The upper bus provides power to the furnace, water heater, clothes dryer, etc. all of the large appliances.
For many years, the National Electric Code (NEC) required that power in the home had to be able to be shut off by no more than six breakers. If all the power could be shut off with less than six breakers then the panel meets the code.
Possible Dangers of a Split Bus Panel
Because there is not just one switch to turn off the circuits for the whole house, it can require up to six switching of the breakers to turn off the power to the house. When we think about in the case of an emergency that seems like too much.
Since these panels were put in starting in the 1950s through the 1970s and early 80s, many of them have been installed for 40 to 70 years. That’s a long time for circuit breakers. The average circuit breaker lasts 30 to 40 years. This could cause problems with malfunctions and not tripping when they should.
Replacing Split Bus Panels
You may decide you want to replace your split bus panel, however, it is not something a homeowner should do. Hire a professional if you need your split bus panels replaced as playing with electricity is not a good thing.
When you open your electrical panel, make sure that you don’t have any Challenger GFCI breakers. This would only be a concern if your home was built after 1998.
Additionally, check that you don’t have an FPE panel. Unfortunately, they cause fires and injury or death and many companies won’t insure a home with this panel. A lot of the split bus panel pictures above are from FPE panels.
Also, keep an eye out for double tapped breakers. This is a breaker that has two wires going into it. The electricity is shared in a space that is not made for two wires, thus the loose connections can occur which leads to arcing and fires.
Testing the circuit breakers each month is also a great maintenance idea. If you find that one or more circuit breaker is not resetting, this needs to be taken care of right away.
When to Contact a Professional
Contact a professional if you have questions about a split bus panel. Also if you are having any issues with electrical outlets or appliances in the home or if you find any problems with the panels or any circuit breakers. Electricity is not something to play, with you need a professional to help.
Split bus panels are not spoken about very often so it may be something you are not familiar with. As mentioned above most people say that they are not dangerous in the home but some people feel they are.
Have a professional take a look at your split bus panel if you have any concerns so they can make a decision. We will take a look at your electrical panel when conducting a home inspection in the Villages, Clermont, and Orlando areas. Thank you might need our services? Leave us a comment below!