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Are there any plastic circuit breaker panel enclosure? What brand have them?

Won't it be better if panel enclosure are plastic instead of metal?

What material would be best, resin? fiberglass? polycarbonate? molded plasic? What are other plastic materials?

closed as primarily opinion-based by ThreePhaseEel, Daniel Griscom, mmathis, Machavity, Tyson Dec 12 '18 at 21:58

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I would trust metal much more in terms of: dissipating heat (instead of melting), containing a small fire, etc. Plus metal has an advantage of keeping all "ground-level" stuff the same - i.e., if there is metal conduit acting as a ground then it connects to the panel case (as does a junction box on the other end). I don't see any advantages to plastic. – manassehkatz-Reinstate Monica Nov 28 '18 at 23:03
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    I don't know of any plastic service panels and would not use one. I have seen plastic outlet boxes melt in the past. With the service panel failures, and circuit breaker failures I have seen over the years I would never want plastic. The metal contains the arc flashes and exploding hot metal when breakers fail or a loose buss connection. This is all opinion so I leave it as a comment. When I have worked in corrosive environments we sealed the panels with plastic and had nitrogen purges to protect the metal parts but the panels were still metallic. – Ed Beal Nov 28 '18 at 23:06
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    @EdBeal -- there are a few plastic-enclosed loadcenters in most LC lines, but they're universally small units of limited utility (many are even 120V-only!). Interestingly enough, you can get UL listed DIN rail enclosures that are plastic (the Altech EK series, which are NEMA 4X rated, natch) and use UL 489 DIN rail breakers (something like an Eaton FAZ-NA or Square-D C60BP) along with mating busbars, but I'd only go that far if something was strongly driving a need for such an enclosure. – ThreePhaseEel Nov 28 '18 at 23:44
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    Three phase you can put a din rail in anything listed , as a service panel I have not seen plastic . I would not consider a 120 only a service but if there out there wow. I guess I have used plastic boxes for din rail breakers but in these cases there may be 20 breakers with a big one being 5 or7 amps the rest all 1,2,3 amp models supplied by a 20 amp feeder so not much danger there for a fire. – Ed Beal Nov 29 '18 at 0:33
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    @jtl, the service panel is grounded, if the wire touches the case the main will trip or the fuse from the provider will open, so the grounded metal case provides an additional safety to stop the electrical fed fire that a plastic box would not in a breaker failure case. Google the images then try to find a fatality from a complete electrical failure (electrocution not other cause of death) – Ed Beal Nov 29 '18 at 0:38
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I would encourage you to Google zinsco panel failures or federal pacific panel failures just look at the images and you will see why I don't believe they are available. Anyone that has replaced a panel from a failure will tell you the only thing that prevented the home from burning was the sheet metal enclosure. This is not just these 2 panels brands but even the big boys like square D, siemens and cuttler hammer. I had a big 3 phase burn holes in a buss on 2 legs and this was only a 30 amp breaker in a panel full of 100+ amp breakers. Bad things happen all the time even with top of the line equipment. Would you trust your home to a plastic panel after looking at a few of these images? Yes some of the parts are plastic but as you will see in many of the failures the plastic is gone but the enclosure is intact.

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Most non-metallic panels that I am familiar with are used on industrial sites where there is corrosive material. Every once in a while some manufacturer will produce small panels for 30A or 60A loads, but they are not service rated. Also these panels present a whole different set of installation problems, such as mounting without warping, cutting holes, and securing conductors and equipment.

From a manufacturing stand point it probably isn't worth the savings to compete against the current standard of metal enclosures. When you consider the cost of approval from UL, NEMA, IEEE and NEC Standards, then tooling for mass production, and convincing the entire electrical industry that they are safe and easier to use. As you can see most of us are against it.

In conclusion, I doubt we will see any panel material changes unless there is a safety, cost, or material shortage which would cause the industry to go another direction.

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