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07-23-2008, 11:04 AM #1
Which Brand Load Center and Breakers?
I am in getting the parts together to wire up 3-phase in my shop. I have decided to use a small load center with breakers to feed the new lathe. At first the lathe will be the only machine with 3-phase power but I plan to expand with other 3-phase machines eventually. Hence the load center.
I have looked at Square-D QO and Cutler Hammer so far. Pricing seems to be close for these two but the Cutler Hammer is slightly less locally.
Are there any other brands I should be looking at? Is there really that much of a difference between the leading brands? Why would one be better than the other?
Anyway, I will need a small load center with 12-24 circuits which will give me either 4 or 8 3-pole breakers. I really think I only need the 12 circuit. I can't see having more than 4 machines in my one-car garage shop.
07-23-2008, 11:07 AM #2
I think Square D QO is the most reliable.
07-23-2008, 11:44 AM #3
I will second the recommendation for the Square D type QO. Panel cost is one thing but the cost of breakers is something else.
07-23-2008, 07:15 PM #4
I think Siemens / Murray are the best, but then again, that's the name on my paycheck so I suppose I'm a bit biased
Seriously though, be wary of any pricing you find that is significantly less than others. All manufacturers monitor their competitor's pricing and adjust accordingly, so they do end up being close to the same. But there are a LOT of counterfeit breakers out there right now coming from China, and Sq. D has been hit the hardest because the QO breakers have the highest pricing so more people are looking for bargains on those products. I would say do NOT buy load centers or breakers on Flea-bay or any other non-responsible source right now.
07-23-2008, 07:24 PM #5
07-23-2008, 07:35 PM #6
"I will second the recommendation for the Square D type QO. Panel cost is one thing but the cost of breakers is something else."
I've been using Square D Q0 for years and years.
Also, the MCCB version for industrial sites.
Residential/commercial/light industrial breakers in sizes 60 amp and under figure out at about $9 or so per pole, for one or two poles. About $30 per pole for three poles (go figure).
Anything higher than 60 amps is in a higher price group.
I've not encountered Chinese breakers masquerading as domestic, but then Square D is now French (Groupe Schneider).
07-23-2008, 07:36 PM #7
"Panels are like floor space, never large enough"
The largest permissible panelboard has 42 circuits.
07-24-2008, 12:00 AM #8
Just FYI, with the 2008 NEC the 42 circuit rule is gone, but will have to wait untill the 2008 NEC is adopted to take advantage of that plus manuf. instructions still need to be followed.
Personally I would rate the Cutler-Hammer type CH (AKA C-H "Classic") as the best choice since they are the last decent residental / light commercial loadcenter left on the market. C-H "classic" still have steel interiors VS SQ D, Siemens, Murray, GE, plastic garbage combined w/ a decent breaker, SQ D QO is a fine breaker combined w/ a cheap loadcenter. The ones to absolutely avoid is is Murray and Cutler-Hammer BR loadcenters, pure trash.(maybe not in the same trash catagory as the old Zinsco/Sylvania and FPE panels though they are no more but still the most reviled names.)
07-24-2008, 02:29 AM #9
I was once a QO only fan, but the price got to me. I would still go with QO if the price was right. I like how the QO breakers "grab" the buss, instead of just pinching it, like most other brands. If money were no object I'd go with QOB, I sleep better with screws holding them in.
I plan to upgrade the house panel soon, and it will be Siemens. A friend of mine who does mostly commercial service work installs only Siemens and has no complaints. Siemens is cheaper, and on house loads (no where near ratings) I'm not so militant about a "pinch fit".
I'm still taking my '05 update class, the most I've seen of '08 is the cover, but I'm curious what will happen when the 42 space rule goes away?
Uber-panels? Interesting, and oh so nice, until 15 years from now when you have to climb into one packed with brittle romex! =( 42 spaces of mess is bad enough.
Last edited by Doug S.; 07-24-2008 at 02:56 AM. Reason: clarification.
07-24-2008, 08:25 AM #10I've been using Square D Q0 for years and years.
IIRC, the QO breaker can be used for some non-motor switching purposes, and they were used to control the lighting circuits in my last shop. Two circuits, 20a each, controlled a maximum amp fluorescent load - the breakers were still going strong after 20 years of on/off cycling.
I can't see having more than 4 machines in my one-car garage shop.
You'll appreciate the extra slots if you add air compressor circuits (3 in my shop), welder circuits (another 2), outdoor boxes so you can grind or wire brush outside the shop area, etc.
07-24-2008, 11:31 PM #11
07-25-2008, 08:41 AM #12
That's good information to have
It's interesting that more & more companies are moving away from HID & going to High Bay Fluorescents (HBF) because of the energy savings. We briefly considered HID for two new warehouses, but the lumens/watt of HBF are dramatically better. All the HBF fixtures (at present) are 4' long, and use a multiple of 2/4/6/8/10/etc. high efficiency tubes, either T6 or T8.
Relamping the HBF is both faster and easier than relamping the HID. If you've ever had to change out a discharge lamp from the top of a 16' step ladder, you'll appreciate HBF.
07-25-2008, 09:09 AM #13
I agree with RMeyers
I like the way the CH breakers hook onto an individual steel hook in the box. I hate seeing a panel full of breakers that are sagging from the weight of the wires. Some of the worst I've seen are the QO panels.
FWIW I've seen more QO breakers fail where they snap onto the bus bar than any brand. The connection gets loose after heating up and cooling down from years of use.
07-26-2008, 12:08 PM #14
07-27-2008, 10:57 AM #15
Square D Homeline ?
I'm preparing to install a branch circuit and subpanel (load center) to feed my garage workshop. I've had a 200 amp. Square D box with QO breakers in my house since 1978, with no problems. I see that Square D has a "Homeline" brand that is slightly less expensive than the QO hardware, and uses different breakers connections than the QO. Does anyone have experience or comments on the quality of the Homeline hardware ?
07-27-2008, 11:32 AM #16
Your 1978 vintage QO loadcenter is a damm good panel, even though the current design panel is of lessor quality it is in my opinion unwise to start mixing other makes when making changes, Homeline panels have a aluminum bus, they are "lower end" panel and use a 1" wide circuit breaker design BTW just because a circuit breaker "fits" a panel it does not mean it is OK to use it unless there is paperwork showing that the C/B has been UL "classified" to fit that particular panel I mention this because ITE/Siemens EQ, Bryant/Westinghouse/Cutler-Hammer BR, Crouse-Hinds/Murray MP, GE THQL,and SQ D Homeline all fit, but only some are classified by UL to be used in a panel.
08-03-2008, 09:15 PM #17
Well everyone I decided to upgrade my main panel first and to use the Square D QO line. I also decided to go ahead and upgrade the main service from 150A to 200A. The panel I used is the 40 space/40 circuit model. Even with the breaker for the new lathe in place I still have plenty of room for other upgrades . I still have to build a new chase above the panel and also run a few new outlets in the shop but ran out of time today. I know someone will undoubtedly notice the wire sticking out of the right side of the new panel. That will be taken care of too.
Here's what the original load center looked like:
And the new QO sweetness :
08-03-2008, 09:57 PM #18
I made the unfortunate mistake of installing HOMline panels in my previous residence.
They seemed to work fine inside the house, but in the garage (that was only heated sometimes), the breakers tripped incessantly for no reason. I was constantly cussing 20A breakers for tripping while starting two hanging overhead flourescent fixtures (what... 80W each..). I had same panels in my boathouse, two in my rental building, and storage shed, and three in the main house. The only panels that didn't suffer these problems, were the ones kept at comfortable interior temperatures.
After volleying Emails with SqD's tech/engineers, they all agreed that there was a defect in the installation... however, they couldn't say WHAT the defect was, or how to solve it.
I did find, however, that after buying several other brands of breakers, that Siemens and GE breakers fit the panel fairly well. I replaced the breakers that caused me the most initial aggravation (predominantly overhead lighting, but several outlets too) and those circuits stopped exhibiting nuisance trips.
My next step, was to replace EVERY LAST HOMline breaker... and I did. I purchased other-brand breakers by the box... and discarded the whole lot of 'em.
I've been using Siemens and GE panels due to local availability... but use QOs frequently in the field. I've also found plenty of single and 3-phase QO panels in building-salvage stores, many still populated with breakers... so a double-deal.
The original question, however, was the availability of 3-phase panels... finding something reliable and easy-to-find in your area would be my greatest inclination.
08-03-2008, 10:16 PM #19
Mirage Man, good job. That's gorgeous.
08-03-2008, 10:30 PM #20
The connector in the center is a EMT fitting ,not a cable connector...
Unless you use circuit breakers that are UL "Classified" for a given panel you have voided the UL listing for the panel (they are out there) & in the event of a claim, a insurance company could deny it if they were so inclined.