There are approximately 6 common manufacturers of furnaces in the United States right now. From these 6, there are various "rebranded" models. These represent the most common models, and in Minnesota, the most well respected brands are Lennox, Trane, and Carrier. Others brands that are popular include Luxaire, York, Bryant, Payne, Goodman, Amana, and Ruud. These 10 probably represent 90% of our local market. If you look closely at this photo, it says "Apply Brand Logo Here."
Amana / Whirlpool
Water heaters are also mostly rebranded. There are 3 main manufacturers in the US, listed below.
There are only about 7 manufacturers of electrical panels that are commonly found in the Twin Cities Metro Area. These include:
Square-D, including QO, and Homeline
Eaton, Cutler Hammer, Westinghouse
Sylvania / GTE
Federal Pacific *
There are a couple of brands that one should exercise caution with. Federal Pacific is the first. This brand is known to have a couple of failure modes. The first is that a breaker can pass more current than it is supposed to. A 15A breaker should trip within a certain timeframe when exceeding 15A. But this particular brand can allow much more than the 15A to pass and yet still never trip. This is an immediate fire hazard and should be replaced just on this issue alone. The second issue is that the way the breakers mount inside the box (to the buss bar), the buss bar can flex, creating an uneven connection, which can lead to over current situations within the box itself. This can also potentially lead to a fire.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission had an investigation going on the FPE breakers and boxes, but their final statement says the closed the investigation: The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced today that it is closing its two year investigation into Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok type residential circuit breakers. This action was taken because the data currently available to the Commission does not establish that the circuit breakers pose a serious risk of injury to consumers.
Further in its press release, they state:
According to Reliance, failures of these FPE breakers to comply with certain UL calibration requirements do not create a hazard in the household environment. It is Reliance's position that FPE breakers will trip reliably at most overload levels unless the breakers have been operated in a repetitive, abusive manner that should not occur during residential use. Reliance maintains that at those few overload levels where FPE breakers may fail to trip under realistic use conditions, currents will be too low to generate hazardous temperatures in household wiring. Reliance believes its position in this regard is supported by test data that it provided to the Commission.
The Commission staff believes that it currently has insufficient data to accept or refute Reliance's position.
The Commission staff estimates that it would cost several million dollars to gather the data necessary to assess fully whether those circuit breakers that are installed in homes but which may fail UL calibration tests present a risk to the public.
My opinion of this is that since FPE no longer exists, there is no-one to go after to sue. Since there isn't any money to be had, there is no reason for an investigation. Basically they are not concerned about whether or not FPE breakers and boxes actually fail, since they don't have the data either way, and they don't want to spend the money.
Zinsco is the second. This panel has similar problems to the FPE panels (above) in that the breakers can let too much current through, and the breakers can also build up heat in the breaker to buss bar connection. These panels usually say Zinsco on them, but also could say GTE-Sylvania-Zinsco or some other combinations of naming. One of the tell-tale signs (but not always) of these problematic panels and breakers is the color of the breaker arms. These were often blue, green, red or yellow. Some other panel manufacturers also have colored breaker arms as well, so double check if you see those colors.
Pushmatic Bulldog is the third. This particular brand has some reports of breakers failing to trip, but not nearly as many as FPE or Zinsco. With this in mind, some inspectors are calling out this panel to be replaced as well. There isn't as much conclusive evidence that this panel is bad, and Inspectapedia states it well as "currently deserve a warning but not a condemnation."
Bottom line is that if there is a Federal Pacific, Zinsco, or Pushmatic electrical box, I would highly recommend replacing it no matter what.