Electrical Video FAQ – Split Buss Electrical Panels – Are they safe?

Split Buss Electrical Panels - Are they safe?

​Transcription of FAQ Video:

​Hey, I'm Bill Root with Root Electric, and I'm here today to talk to you about split buss electrical panels. And if you live in a house that was built between the 1950s and the 1970s, chances are you may have a split buss electrical panel.

Now, before I tell you what a split buss electrical panel is, let me tell you what a main breaker electrical panel is. So, to your left, we have a main breaker electrical panel and to your right, we have a split buss electrical panel. Now, the main difference is that a main breaker electrical panel has a main breaker. That main breaker is designed to supply, in most cases, 200 amps to the electrical panel. Now, when it supplies that 200 amps, it supplies it to the entire length of the buss bars, all right, and the buss bars, you can see, are these copper plates that run the length of the electrical panel. So no matter where you install a circuit breaker on these buss bars, you have an equal amount of power available.

Now, moving on to a split buss electrical panel. Now, a split buss is a little bit different. There is no main breaker in there. Now, in the split buss panel, I did leave the circuit breakers in so that way you have a little bit more of a visual aid in being able to see what I'm talking about here. So, what a split buss panel has is a main section. Now you see there's a group of circuit breakers here above my hand and then there's another group of circuit breakers here below my hand. The main section is all of the circuit breakers above my hand. Now, in the main section, what you have is, you have access to the full 200 amps or 150 amps that are available to that panel. And, that is distributed to all, usually up to six breakers. Now, this example only has four breakers in it. Now, in order to turn the whole house off, turn off power of the whole house, you have to throw all six breakers to turn it off and in this case it's just four so you'd have to turn of this breaker, this breaker, this breaker, and this breaker. Okay? Whereas, in a main breaker electrical panel, you only have to shut off one big breaker. Okay?

Now, you also have, in a split buss panel, down below my hand, a lighting section. Now, here's the thing. While the main section has access to all 150 or 200 amps available to the panel, the lighting section only has available, only has access to 60 amps, all right. And that is usually determined by the size of the circuit breaker feeding that section. And if you could see in the camera from your view, there are actually two wires that are attached to this circuit breaker that feed this lower section of the buss bars.

Now, essentially, a split buss panel is different from a main breaker panel in this way. If you live in a metropolitan area, one of the common things in your life is going to be traffic. And why do we usually have traffic, especially during the summer? Road construction. So you pass a sign and it says, "Road Construction Ahead: Left Two Lanes Blocked." So they're squeezing, say, a three-lane highway down into a one-lane highway. So what happens? You have traffic flowing along. They start squeezing traffic down and there's a backup. Okay? That's the same thing that happens in a split buss panel. You have your three-lane highway up here in the main section and then, once you get down, there's a bottleneck and then you have your one-lane highway down here in the lighting section. Unlike a main breaker panel, where there's no bottleneck, you have a perfect three-lane highway through the entire length of that panel.

So, if you have any other questions, feel free to give me a call. I'm Bill Root with Root Electric. I'll be happy to go into greater detail. I'd even be happy to come out to your house and explain to you how your panel works. Thank you very much for listening. I'm Bill Root with Root Electric. We keep you grounded.


Satisfaction / Safety First Since 1986

Bill Root

About the author

During my tenure at Root Electric, I lead the transition of Root Electric from a primarily sub-contracting based business model to a prime-contracting based business model. Accomplishments have been made by developing a team based approach to researching and implementing a service-specific client management system.

My goals for the next five years are to fine tune Root Electric's brand strategy and to diversify its scope of services, while remaining true to the discipline of electrical work.