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#45556 12/02/04 07:12 AM
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 613
In the 120/240 volt 400 amp or less single phase class,what are the advantages of useing a panelboard as opposed to a load center?


Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 84
panelboards consist of assemblies of overcurrent protective devices with or with our disconnecting devices all placed in a metal cabinet are mainly used on larger commerical and industrial applications . these are usually raw and unpainted

load centers typicaly are fused or circuit breaker cabinets used on reasidental and light commerical projects. usually they are painted and come with trim for both styles of mounting

imo the advantages and disadvantage would depend on the installation application
most say they are one in same but really they are just a tad different

Joined: Jul 2001
Posts: 599
JBD Offline
Technically there is no such thing as a "loadcenter". What our trade calls loadcenters are still UL Listed as panelboards. The residential/commercial loadcenter is really nothing more than a marketing phrase.

Some manufacturer have large differences between their loadcenters and panelboards. They then create pricing and marketing to exploit these differences. This marketing has caused many electricians and, sadly, inspectors to believe there are restricted use issues with loadcenters.

First you must always follow the job specification, but after that the NEC doesn't care what the panel is called as long as it is an NRTL Listed panelboard.

In reality, the biggest difference between loadcenters and panelboards is the enclosure.

Panelboards enclosures usually included NEMA 12 and NEMA4/4X enclosures as well as the NEMA1 and NEMA3R offered in loadcenters.
Loadcenter back boxes are usually designed to fit inside the stud space of standard 2x4 wood frame construction and include knockouts located "conviently" for NM cable. Panelboard boxes are designed wider and deeper with very few knockouts to allow for many more conduit entrances.

Other than the enclosure and factory installed options, the differences can be very subtle, but it depends on the manufacturer. My experience has been that there are only a few general panelboard specs that are not offered in any loadcenter (i.e. bolt-on breakers).

For design and build projects, I have always based my choice of a Square D QO loadcenter or NQOD panelboard primarily on mounting and wiring considerations.

Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 613
JBD...thanx for the input...the tip about more room for conduit entries with a panelboard is something I will consider in my decision on whether to use a load center or panelboard.

I have seen a load center fail where the breaker plugs into the bus many times...melted breakers didn't make a good connection to the panel bus.I've seen mains burn out in ITE load centers that were just plug in the mains come bolted in.

I think I feel more comfortable with a panelboard with bolt in breakers because of the heavier loads in a commercial installation.


Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,457
$$ [Linked Image]

Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 444
Equally a concern as well, is the number of service calls I've had with bolt-on breaker issues. The breaker screws were either loose, or the installer forgot to tighten them at all.

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 507
The biggest difference is physical size.

A panelboard gives you more working room and bending space for conductors.

A loadcenter will fit in a 3.5" deep stud space while a panelboard needs 5.5".

The OCPD devices are similar in both.

Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 613
Electricmanscott...$$$.. Got prices today for a 400 amp ITE Load Center with main @$1270
and a ITE 400amp Panelboard with main breaker kit @ $650

Guess they don't sell to many 400amp loadcenters [Linked Image]


Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 558
If you can wait a few weeks I would suggest ordering a factory assembled panelboard which is usually quite a bit less expensive than ordering the individual components from your distributor and assembling them yourself. They can usually get you the can in a few days then will deliver the interior and front at a later time. The biggest savings ordering it factory assembled is the cost of the branch breakers. I have compared the prices of factory assembled to field assembled several times and the factory assembled is often about 50% less.

If this panel is for residential use where most of the circuits are going to be cable you might want to get the can with ko’s but if the circuits are going to be in raceways order it with out ko’s. If you use Square D the standard cans have ko’s on one end and are blank on the other end but you can specify otherwise.


Curt Swartz
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 132
Are factory assembled usually cheaper for Square D NQOD??? I have a customer (the cost is not a big deal one from my last post) that wants to use the bolt-on panels in his home. Doing a service upgrade to 400A moutning 2 panels inside with the meter-main outside. I've never used NQOD before, what is the best way to go??? I figured the custom built one's would take a long time and cost more, am I wrong?

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