When it comes to home electrical systems, terminologies can sometimes be confusing for the average homeowner. Two terms that are often used interchangeably but actually refer to different components are “breaker box” and “electrical panel.” In this post, we’ll delve into the intricacies of these essential elements to show you the difference between breaker box and electrical panel equipment.

Breaker Boxes

The breaker box is a critical part of your home’s electrical system that works to regulate electrical current and distribute power. The breaker box is typically a metal or plastic enclosure mounted on a wall, often located in a basement, garage, or utility room. It contains a hinged door that opens to reveal the main disconnect switch and rows of circuit breakers. These breaker panels control the flow of electricity to different circuits throughout your home.

Circuit breakers are designed to trip and disconnect the power supply to electrical circuits when they detect an abnormal flow of electrical power, such as during a power surge or if a circuit is overloaded by electrical equipment. This prevents potential electrical fires and protects your appliances and devices from damage due to short circuits.

Electrical Panels

While the breaker box is a part of the electrical panel, the entire assembly is often referred to as the electrical panel. The electrical panel also serves as the main distribution point for electricity entering your home from the utility company.

The electrical panel is usually a larger enclosure compared to the breaker box. It is also mounted on a wall, often near the point where the main electrical service enters your home. Electrical panels are more complex than breaker boxes, housing not just circuit breakers and the main disconnect, but also bus bars (distributing power), neutral and grounding bars, and often additional safety device features like ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) for enhanced protection against electric shock.

The circuit breaker panel is a feature of modern electrical panels, but some older panels may utilize a fuse box instead of circuit breakers to protect the electrical system from electrical overload. Circuit breakers have advantages over fuse boxes, such as the ability to be reset rather than having to replace fuses after a trip, making them more convenient for homeowners.

Key Differences Between Breaker Boxes and Electrical Panels

Now that we’ve covered the basic functions of the breaker box and electrical panel, let’s go over some key differences between the two:


The breaker box protects various circuits, preventing overloads and shorts, whereas the electrical panel oversees the broader task of efficiently managing and distributing electrical power throughout the entire home, with both components working in tandem to ensure a safe and reliable electrical system.

Capacity and Adaptability

Breaker boxes are often limited in capacity, struggling to handle the increased electrical demands of modern homes with multiple electronics and appliances. Upgrading might not be feasible due to outdated design. Electrical panels typically offer more capacity and can be upgraded to accommodate additional circuits for renovations or expanding electrical needs.

Call a Licensed Electrician for Service

Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric stands as a reliable partner, ensuring the integrity of your electrical infrastructure. With a team of experienced professionals, we offer expert services in the repair and replacement of breaker boxes and electrical panels.

Don’t compromise on the safety of your home – reach out to us today for a thorough inspection and the necessary repairs or upgrades. Your peace of mind and the safety of your family are worth the investment in a secure and efficient electrical system.