| 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!