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How to Turn Off Your Home’s Electricity

Knowing how to turn off the power to your house is a safety practice all family should learn.

The top circuit breakers typically shut off electricity to the entire house. The lower circuit breakers are for individual branch circuits.

The main circuit breaker, usually located inside the main panel at the top, shuts off all of the electricity to the house. In a dire emergency, this is the one to turn off. Otherwise, shut off only the breaker that serves the problem circuit—that way, other parts of your house will continue to have lights and power. The main circuit breaker does not shut off the wires that run from the main panel breakers to the electric meter—these are always hot (electrically charged).

When you open the main panel’s cover, be sure there are no exposed electrical wires except for an exposed (non-insulated) solid copper ground wire. A protective panel should conceal all wiring—only the breakers or fuses should be exposed.

If this is not the case, call an electrician to have your electrical panel made safe. Touching the wrong wire or bare metal contact in an exposed electrical panel can electrocute you. Never touch bare metal contacts inside a disconnect panel.

To shut off a circuit breaker, simply flip it to the off position.

To reset a circuit breaker, first turn it to off and then flip it to on.

To unscrew a fuse, turn it counterclockwise.

To shut off a circuit protected by a pullout fuse block, grasp the block’s handle and pull it toward you. Once the block is out, you can remove the fuse from its mounting clips in the block—a special tool called a fuse puller makes this an easier job.

To shut off a circuit protected by a screw-in fuse, grasp the fuse’s glass rim and unscrew it (counterclockwise). Do not put your fingers near the socket. A special pliers-like insulated fuse-pulling tool, available at home centers, makes this job safer.

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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  1. If I shut off all breakers including the main can I begin cutting out the white, plastic-coated, insulated wiring that runs along my basement ceiling?

    • Yes, if you shut off all power to the house, you should be save to remove insulated cable within the house. But, so that you can use some electricity in the house, you’d be better off identifying the particular circuits that those wires are on and just shutting off their breakers. If you’re not reasonably familiar with electrical work, I suggest hiring an electrician.

  2. Do I still have to turn off the main breaker if I turn off all individual breakers?

  3. i am trying to change my thermostat I have turned off all my brekers cause I cant find my main power breaker and my tester is still lighting up on one side but when i turn the breakers on my tester lights up on both sides, am i safe to touch wires if only one side lights up and how do i find my main power breaker or switch

  4. Some of the electricity in my home has gone off. I have lights to all rooms except extension but no power to any sockets including my gas heating. My electric oven is working. The trip switch has not tripped off, neither have any of the individual switches. Has anyone any idea what has happened. The house was built in 1984.


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