To be specific, we recently had some electrical work done. The electrician added a second panel. He left without labeling anything. So today I've been testing outlets and switches trying to figure out what controls what. I learned that a number of things in the kitchen are controlled by a breaker in both the old panel and one in the new panel. I have zero electrical experience and am wondering if someone can advise as to whether or not this might be okay?

  • What is the state of the outlets when only one breaker is on? What amperage are the two breakers? Is there a difference between the top and bottom plug in the receptacles?
    – BMitch
    Oct 11, 2013 at 16:08
  • If only one is on then the outlets are off. There is no difference between the top and bottom plugs in the receptacles. How can I determine the amperage? The main panel reads "amperes 200 240v" under the main switch.
    – Kathleen
    Oct 11, 2013 at 16:26
  • Each breaker will have a number on it, like 15 or 20. If you see a large number on the breaker in the main panel (30-50), then this likely feeds the sub-panel as longneck describes.
    – BMitch
    Oct 11, 2013 at 16:32
  • I'm unable to read any amps on the sub panel. I can only make out the 120/240. The main panel breaker reads 120/240 10000 AMP. What can that mean?
    – Kathleen
    Oct 11, 2013 at 17:00
  • If your breakers don't have numbers on them, I'd get an electrician in there to assist. E.g. here's a 30 amp breaker: totalhomesupply.com/v/vspfiles/templates/ths/images/…
    – BMitch
    Oct 11, 2013 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


Probably. Here's a diagram of how a main panel and a subpanel are usually wired together:

enter image description here

In this diagram:

  • The main panel (on the left) has one breaker at the bottom that controls two outlets.
  • The subpanel on the right gets its power from the top right two breakers in the main panel.
    • Turning that pair of breakers off will turn off the entire subpanel.
  • The subpanel has one breaker that controls three outlets.

So if this behavior matches up with what you are experiencing when flipping breakers, then you're probably OK. Obviously there will be slight differences, such your breakers will probably not be in the same positions in my example, the pair of breakers in your main panel might just be one double-wide breaker, or (unlikely) the pair of breakers in your main panel might just be a single breaker.

But if you're concerned, it is worth it to pay a second electrical contractor to come out and look over the other guy's work. Also, the work should have required permits and therefore an inspection by a government inspector. If that didn't happen, then that might be a red flag.

Also, new electrical work like this must be labeled properly to meet code in most jurisdictions. You are will within your right to call the electrician and insist he properly label his work.

  • +1 - Electrician should have labeled everything. (is your pic running commons from the labels?)
    – DMoore
    Oct 11, 2013 at 16:30
  • 1
    The pic is a high-level abstraction, not a wire level diagram.
    – longneck
    Oct 11, 2013 at 16:37
  • 1
    We've asked over and over. The guy has been a real letdown. Yes the switch in the main panel is a double switch. It's located midway down on the right side of the panel. One switch on the secondary panel controls the dishwasher, disposal, two outlets, and oven hood. Another switch on the second panel controls the overhead can lights. The double switch on the main panel switches all of these listed off, so perhaps that coordinates with what you are saying. I have yet to determine what the rest of the second panel controls.
    – Kathleen
    Oct 11, 2013 at 16:38
  • I was just messing with you longneck - pic served it purpose.
    – DMoore
    Oct 11, 2013 at 17:01
  • 1
    Oh, sorry, someone told me my sense of humor was off today. I guess they were right.
    – longneck
    Oct 11, 2013 at 17:02

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