Choosing an Electrical Panel Cover

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Jan 01, 2011 | Kim Henson

The electrical panel, a box full of circuit breakers and one main switch, is the connection between the power company’s service drop and the power that comes into your home. There may be sub-panels as welll -- smaller boxes installed to serve either a specific area (like the kitchen) or a large appliance such as the HVAC system). Typically, though, most homes just work out of one panel.

In older homes, fuse boxes provide the same function as the electrical panel. The fuse box has fuses that screw in and out instead of circuit breakers that switch on and off. When there is an electrical problem, circuit breakers "flip" and fuses "blow" to cut off power and protect your home. Whichever type of box you have, electrical panel covers are necessary.

gray electric box
Most electrical panel covers are dark gray.

Importance for safety

Electrical panel covers are essential for safety. Most homeowners have opened the outer door to switch on a flipped breaker. Owners who are more knowledgeable may change a breaker, which means removing the cover to get into the inner section.

The electrical panel’s inner section contains lugs connecting to the service drop, some 20 to 30 circuit breakers or spaces to add them, and a tangle of multi-colored wires. A shock from one of the lugs can cause serious injury or death, so this is no place to be if you are unsure of what you’re doing.

Although the outer section (just inside the door of the panel) is not nearly as dangerous as the inner one, both need to be covered. Take precautions when changing the panel cover or call a professional, since the inner section will be exposed until you replace the cover. Electrical panel covers keep danger behind closed doors and inaccessible to children and those unfamiliar with electrical work.

white electrical panel cover
If your electrical panel blends into your wall, you don't need to hide it down in the basement.

Location

Most builders and homeowners position electrical panel covers in inconspicuous places like the basement, garage, inside a closet or behind cabinet doors since they are not the most attractive aspect of a home. You can get away with putting them in hiding as long as they are easily accessible when you need to reset a breaker, replace a fuse or turn off the main source of power using the panel’s main switch.

Types

Dark gray electrical panel covers come standard with the boxes they cover. However if you like choices, there are a few options to bring electrical panel covers out into the open.

Still looking more functional than decorative, Channel Vision Technology manufactures electrical panel covers in a white metal. The covers have a locking mechanism. This extra safety feature is a good idea to protect curious children from the dangers inside the panel. And its paint color will blend with a white wall and look cleaner against other colors.

white panel cover
makes a white electrical panel box with a lock.

Spruce up your electrical panel cover

If you’re up for a DIY project, the panel cover can be spray painted with a paint made for metals. Or if you don’t mind spending some time and money to spruce up your cover, a custom cabinetmaker can build a door to cover the electrical panel cover so it matches your kitchen cabinets or surrounding furnishings. Alternatively, design a shuttered front to easily disguise the panel cover.

Updated January 14, 2018.

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