Residential Electrical Service Box ?

Hello,
Will be replacing a quite old residential electrical service box with a new 150 or 200 amp one in the near future.
Haven't spoken to any electricians yet, but before I do, would like to gain a bit of knowledge as to what is state of the art, etc., these days.
e.g.,
a. What brand(s) do I want to ask for, and I guess what's more important, which to stay away from ?
b. Square D still the preferred one to go with ? If so, do they have a "good," "better," "best" kind of lineup ? Which should I specify ? Much of a price difference between ?
c. Not sure what bells and whistles to ask about. I guess I want GFE breakers somewhere. Where should they be put in ? Any potential problem in having one in the service box if there is already one or two GFE's on outlets in the circuit ?
d. What about "Arc-Fault" breakers, which I've heard about. What are they, and where would I want them ?
e. Is a ground rod required these days for the Gnd/Neutral, per Code ? Presently, there doesn't seem to be one.
Much thanks; appreciate it.
Bob
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I am sure you will get a lot of opinions regarding the "best" types of panels, but here goes anyway. I have been an electrician and master electrician for almost 35 years and have installed a number of panels, mostly commercial types.
The majority of them have been Square D, QO series. I have never used one of the Square D homeline panels, because they just have not looked that robust to me. Hopefully someone else will have had some experience with them.
I have also installed GE, Cutler Hammer, and Siemens panels and was pleased with their performance.
I have replaced a number of the Zinsco and other "home center" types of panels and cannot recommend any of them. They do meet code, but they jsut do not feel robust enough to make me comfortable.
Where panels were not replaced I have also replaces a number of failed breakers in these panels that appear to have just gotten tired. I have never had to replace a breaker in the main line panels above for other than having performed their intended function, breaking a significant fault.
As far as the usage of GFCI breakers that depends on the existing circuiting that you are connecting into the panel. They should not be used on circuits with GFCI outlets and they can interact and cause false tripping. As long as the wiring in the house has grounded cable (hot, neutral and ground) either the outlets or breaker are in compliance with code. GFCI protection is required for all outlets that are exposed to moisture, i.e. exterior outlets, and any outlet within 6 feet of a sink, tup or toilet.
depending on the code version in effect in your area Arc fault interrupters may not be required, required on bedroom circuits only, or on all circuits with devices that can arc i.e. electric blankets, small motors etc. It appears that the direction the code is going is to require them on all circuits. But I would install no more than you have to as the technology is not really that reliable yet and there have been a number of false tripping incidents reported.
Grounding will be required, and should already exist. Fir older panels it may have been installed as a bond to a water pipe that extends underground. It also may be a Ufer ground that consists of a bond to the steal in the concrete footings of the house. The ufer ground is my preferred method as it has an excellent history of maintaining a quality ground connection over many years. However, you local authority's may still require up to two driven rods for a 200 amp service change.
Hope this helps. My best advise I think to find a good experienced licensed electrician, and to listen to his recommendations. He will know the local code issues that I do not for you. Follow up with reference checks. The safety of the electrical system in your house is not a place to cut any corners.
Dave22
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

My dad put one in his house, then discovered shortly before the inspection that something was defective on it, I forget the details.
I like Siemens panels, particularly their full sized model with all copper bus bars. Very well made, the breakers have a nice feel as well. They're not the only good one, but a personal favorite.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Square D is good, as in GE, Seimens and Cutler Hammer

There is a long list of places that require GFCI now, basically countertops in the kitchen, near any other sinks, outside receptacles and unfinished spaces.

No but using GFCI receptacles is more convenient since the reset is closer to the point of use

Bedrrooms since 2002. The 2008 code calls for them just about everywhere but local authorities seem to be resisting that change.

If you are now using the metal water pipe you need to add a rod or other electrode in addition to that.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I will address the panel type. I have used both Square D QO and the Home series. I can't see much difference except the price of the Home series is much less. I used the Home series panel, breakers, GFCI breakers, and AFCI breakers in my own home and have had no problems whatsoever. I bought it all at Home Depot.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Gerald Newton wrote:

There are some quality differences. You don't get the same thing for less money. The QO is a commercial quality breaker, while the Homeline is strictly residential. I am not saying it is bad. I like the QO because of the trip indicator.
--
Benjamin D Miller, PE
www.bmillerengineering.com
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

There's 3 or 4 common standards, some brands are compatible, some are not. I've never had a problem finding suitable replacements but I'm sure there's some obscure old panels out there with no modern equivalent.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Your best bet is to match the manufacturer, model and rating when replacing a breaker.
As someone else has mentioned there are a limited number of standards and substitution is possible. However, most of the warehouse type stores do have a good selection of all of the modern types of breakers, even for the panel types that they do not sell
Dave22
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
| Will be replacing a quite old residential electrical service box with a new | 150 or 200 amp one in the near future.
Will you be doing the work yourself or hiring an electrician?
FYI: I am NOT an electrician.
| Haven't spoken to any electricians yet, but before I do, would like to gain | a bit of knowledge as to | what is state of the art, etc., these days.
Sounds like at least using an electrician as a consultant.
| a. What brand(s) do I want to ask for, and I guess what's more important, | which to stay away from ? | | b. Square D still the preferred one to go with ? | If so, do they have a "good," "better," "best" kind of lineup ? | Which should I specify ? Much of a price difference between ?
My personal preference is Cutler-Hammer for a few reasons. But they do not have that much of an advantage over Square-D. I'd sleep peaceful with either of these brands protecting my home and family. It's just that I'd pick Cutler-Hammer first.
| c. Not sure what bells and whistles to ask about. | I guess I want GFE breakers somewhere. | Where should they be put in ? | Any potential problem in having one in the service box if there is already | one or two GFE's on outlets in the circuit ?
One potential problem with a service box GFI breaker is that if it trips first, the GFI receptacle cannot trip. The reason this matters is that the GFI receptacle will open BOTH the hot AND neutral wire, whereas the GFI breaker will open ONLY the hot wire. While it would be very rare that a neutral could be hazardous, the situation can exist with a condition known as "open neutral" or "loose neutral" where the load imbalance between poles/phases brings up a voltage on the neutral that in extreme cases can be significant. But the GFI receptacle is powered through the hot wire, not the neutral wire. So if that circuit's breaker is tripped AND an open neutral exists AND the load is way out of balance AND someone touches that neutral AND also touches ground or a path to ground, then someone could be hurt or worse. As you can see with so many ANDs, it would be rare. But you asked.
| d. What about "Arc-Fault" breakers, which I've heard about. | What are they, and where would I want them ?
These are breakers designed to detect an arcing fault which may have a current level below that which would cause an immediate (magnetic) trip of the breaker, and would either never be detected by the thermal trip (because the current is less than the trip rating) or would be delayed (because the current is about as high as a motor might have).
You would want them anywhere that low level electrical arcing might happen that could ignite any material and cause a fire. A common problem like this is a cheap power cord to a lamp or device being damaged, such as by a table leg or pet chewing, and break the connection. Any loose wiring would be another thing to consider, as well as nails pounded into walls.
These breakers are still at an immature design level, otherwise I would have them just about everywhere. But they are prone to false tripping. They can also get warm and heat up the panel if it is stuffed full of them. NEC 2008 is requiring them nearly everyone in a home, whereas NEC 2002 only required them in bedrooms.
BTW, one of the reasons I like Cutler-Hammer is that they have 2-pole AFCI breakers. Square-D does not (only the 1-pole ones).
| e. Is a ground rod required these days for the Gnd/Neutral, per Code ? | Presently, there doesn't seem to be one.
At least one, and in circumstances where that one is not performing well enough (most cases), two would be required. Don't spare the rod!
--
|---------------------------------------/----------------------------------|
| Phil Howard KA9WGN (ka9wgn.ham.org) / Do not send to the address below |
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.