Best brand for a 200A main service panel

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  #1  
Old 12-08-05, 03:48 PM
jerry814
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Best brand for a 200A main service panel

hello all,

i'm going to be replacing the 200A main service panel on my beach house this weekend (the old one is badly rusted, and the breakers were made by a little outfit called federal pacific), and was wondering what people generally consider to be the best brand of panel to use. my local home depot carries square d and ge. i've heard more good about square d. but, if neither is very good i could always try to find a different electrical supply store.

if it says single phase on the box, that means it will work with the standard split-phase service, to get 220V, right? it has two hot and one neutral lugs, so i'm assuming that's the case, but with slight variations in terminology i always want to be careful.

also, i'm looking at $160 for the SqD panel and $90 for the GE (i don't mind spending more for the better panel). but my uncle was trying to tell me that service panels cost upwards of $500, plus labor if an electrician is installing it. was he just mistaken about that? or am i looking at the wrong thing?

thanks for the advice.
 
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Old 12-08-05, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by jerry814
wondering what people generally consider to be the best brand of panel to use.
You have to look at the particular product line from each mfgr. SquareD has Homeline and QO, Cutler-Hammer has CH and something cheaper, GE same deal. The GE stuff from the big orange box is probably the Homeline equivalent. Somebody else may be able to detail the differences, but generally speaking it's Geo, Chevy, Cadillac. I would guess the QO and CH are the Chevys. I don't know about functional stuff like breaker ratings, but you will see "fit and finish" differences such as how smoothly the door swings, what kind of latch they provide, whether they use machine screws or sheet metal screws to hold the cover on, options for flush mount, lock and so on.

They all meet UL, so you could check out specs or cut sheets on the websites. When I replaced mine I got quotes for both QO and CH, and the CH was quite a bit cheaper from both contractors. Also since your old fire hazard is rusty, have you looked at moisture-proof enclosures?

Originally Posted by jerry814
if it says single phase on the box, that means it will work with the standard split-phase service, to get 220V, right?
Yeah, but I don't know what split phase means exactly.

Originally Posted by jerry814
also, i'm looking at $160 for the SqD panel and $90 for the GE (i don't mind spending more for the better panel). but my uncle was trying to tell me that service panels cost upwards of $500, plus labor if an electrician is installing it. was he just mistaken about that? or am i looking at the wrong thing?
You have to figure out how many branch circuit slots you want to equip and how many you will leave open for expansion. If you have the space the 42-slot panel is a good idea for a regular single-family home. So if breakers cost about $10 each, that's potentially $420 for breakers. A few will probably be included with the panel, and you should make sure the main breaker is included, too.
 
  #3  
Old 12-08-05, 05:18 PM
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I get some customers who insist on Square D panels (QO series) because someone has told them that everything else is junk. In my opinion, I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference. I used GE panels from the big orange box on my personal home and actually prefer the design of the bus bar contacts on them as opposed to Cutler-Hammer or Square D QO or Homeline. My closest electrician friends (competitors) would argue all day if it comes up, but then again they'll do the same thing about Ford/Chevy/Dodge, brands of motor oil, beer or supermodels. And, given a little time here, there will be some passionate comments to the contrary here on this forum. Personally, I think it's more Ford/Chevy/Dodge than Geo/Chevy/Cadillac since the Geo/Chevy/Cadillac are all GM.
 
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Old 12-08-05, 05:32 PM
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I dont think there is a bad panel being made today. You do form opinions about panels. Some of my caveats for 200 amp panels are copper busses...not aluminium...and split neutrals (2 neutral bars) that gives you plenty of terminations holes for grounds a neutrals. Captive panel covers that dont require your uncle, daughters and sons to hold the cover while you take out the fasteners. Another feature that comes in handy at times is upper and lower capabilties for the main breaker or the ability to invert the panel to accomadate top feed and bottom feed. A panel that captures the breaker solidly is also nice. Some panels make you wonder if the breaker is going to stay on the bus bar when you let go of it or you need the panel cover installed to aid in securing the breaker. Size of the panel can be an issue. I'm sure others will add to this list. MY personal preferences are square d QO or Cutler Hammer CH series. I'll lean a little toward the CH series.
 
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Old 12-08-05, 07:25 PM
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I am actually working through this decision myself right now. Not for a replacement, but a new house. I am going back and forth between Square D QO and Siemens. I am leaning toward Siemens because it is about $60 cheaper in my area (SE Michigan) and they have the copper bus bars and the neutral bars on each side of the panel. I am also looking at 200 amp.

Greg
 
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Old 12-08-05, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by txdiyguy
Personally, I think it's more Ford/Chevy/Dodge than Geo/Chevy/Cadillac since the Geo/Chevy/Cadillac are all GM.
You're right, I didn't say that very clearly.

Ford/GM/Daimler = SquareD/CutlerHammer/GE

And then following the GM = Cutler Hammer analogy:
Geo/Chevy/Cadillac = BR/CH/Pow-R-Line
 
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Old 12-09-05, 04:22 AM
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BR series breakers and panels (of most any brand) are not nearly "economy" as suggested by the Geo comparison.
 
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Old 12-09-05, 09:00 AM
jerry814
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thanks for the advice everyone. and the fun analogies

i'll keep checking back if anyone else has any favorites.

*edit* also meant to ask: ArgMeMatey: what is a moisture-proof enclosure? i've certainly seen ones for outdoor use (would hate to try using an indoor one outside!), but didn't know there was another step beyond that in moisture protection. is that something i would have to find at a specialty store?
 

Last edited by jerry814; 12-09-05 at 09:41 AM.
  #9  
Old 12-09-05, 09:17 AM
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When the differences between panels are so slim, and the cost is very close, why not pick the panel that is primarily made in the USA? That's what I do because I want to keep jobs here instead of supporting China.
 
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Old 12-09-05, 09:27 AM
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GE Powermark Gold

I just installed a 200amp main lug GE 200amp load center. I'm happy with it. Solid copper bus bars, neutral and ground on both sides, it was easy to do bottom main feed, and the box is galvanized. I can't ask for more.
 
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Old 12-09-05, 09:42 AM
jerry814
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(i'm going to add my edit from the previous post as a new reply, since i got sidetracked and a couple of other people posted before the edit actually made it up):

also meant to ask: ArgMeMatey: what is a moisture-proof enclosure? i've certainly seen ones for outdoor use (would hate to try using an indoor one outside!), but didn't know there was another step beyond that in moisture protection. is that something i would have to find at a specialty store?
 
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Old 12-09-05, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by txnoob
When the differences between panels are so slim, and the cost is very close, why not pick the panel that is primarily made in the USA? That's what I do because I want to keep jobs here instead of supporting China.
What panels do you know of made in China?
I have seen "no name" brand breakers and devices, but panels?

Can I safely assume you do NOT shop in wal-mart as well???


Mexico is a popular destination for labor (Square D).
 
  #13  
Old 12-09-05, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by jerry814
what is a moisture-proof enclosure?
...
is that something i would have to find at a specialty store?
Unfortunately I am not too familiar with beach houses, having just finished shoveling snow, but you mentioned your old panel was rusted so I thought maybe it was getting wet or salt-sprayed. I don't have any specifics since all I've bought have been small ones. But I've seen very large ones outside for generator control centers, industrial motor controls and so on.

It's definitely industrial stuff you would look for on a mfgr. website or ask about at an electrical supply house. An intrinsically moisture-proof load center might require you to punch your own holes and use watertight connections, or at least use all bottom-entrance conduit.

But the idea would be to put the load center in the moisture-proof box. Some derating would probably be necessary for cable bundling, and for the panel itself. This is power engineering territory, sorry I can't be more help. I am not an electrician. I was just throwing the idea out there.
 
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