Too Many Breakers Without a Main Breaker

In order to shut off power to an entire home quickly there is a 6-throw rule. A ‘throw’ is shutting off a single circuit breaker or two breakers who’s handles are connected together. So, you shouldn’t have to make more than 6 throws to turn off all power to the home. You will see older homes with more than 6 throws, but they were likely installed before this rule went into effect.

Why its 6, and not 5 or 7 or 10 throws is beyond me, but I’ll always write this up if I see it. Personally, I don’t think I’d replace a panel just because of this. But you will need to make your own decision.

More than 6 throws to shut off power to a home.
Thirteen ‘throws’ will be required to shut off power to this home. The current maximum is six.

The panel in the photo above looks newer, and requires 13 throws to turn off all power. It may have been installed without a permit or the jurisdiction where it was installed doesn’t care about this rule. And by an electrician or homeowner that doesn’t care about the rules.

Caution: One situation that may trip you up on this is a split-bus electrical panel. You can read more about a split-bus here. For most of these split-bus panels there will only be about 4 ‘throws’ to turn off electricity to the entire panel. The breaker that shuts off power to the lower section of a split-bus panel looks just like a regular 220 volt breaker. The way to determine if it’s a split bus panel is that the wires coming out of the breaker that controls the lower part of the panel arc right back under the breakers below it. These arcing wires connect to the lower bus.

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