Knowing how to turn off—and on—the power to your house is a safety practice all families should learn.


To shut off the electrical power to your entire house, locate the main electrical panel (it pays to know where this is before you need it!) and flip the main circuit breakers at the top (usually a pair) to OFF.

To shut off the power to individual rooms or circuits, shut off the branch circuit breakers.

If you home is equipped with an older fuse box, pull the main disconnect or pull out the fuse block to shut off the power to the house. Unscrew (counterclockwise) individual fuses to shut off individual circuits. Beware: Do Not Touch Any Electrical Wires, Connections, or Sockets!

Diagram of an electrical panel including color-coded branch circuit breakers and a main breaker handle.
The top circuit breakers typically shut off electricity to the entire house. The lower circuit breakers are for individual branch circuits. © Don Vandervort, HomeTips

In Depth:

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.

Man’s fingers holding a red circuit breaker switch including an arrow pointing to a direction.
Turn the circuit breaker all of the way off, then flip it back to “ON.” © HomeTips

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

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.

Man’s fingers holding a working screw-in glass fuse including an internal diagram of good and blown wires.
To unscrew a fuse, turn it counterclockwise.
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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort