Electricalmarketing 2441 Leviton Load Center Hero1 1024
Electricalmarketing 2441 Leviton Load Center Hero1 1024
Electricalmarketing 2441 Leviton Load Center Hero1 1024
Electricalmarketing 2441 Leviton Load Center Hero1 1024
Electricalmarketing 2441 Leviton Load Center Hero1 1024

Why Leviton Decided It Was Time to Reinvent the Residential Load Center

March 10, 2018
The results are different from what exists in the market, aesthetically and functionally. [Note: this is an expanded version of the story that appeared in the print newsletter.]

The research and development team at Leviton Manufacturing’s headquarters in Melville, NY, started a fairly daring project back in 2014 and last week the electrical industry as a whole got its first look at the results. The idea was that Leviton, for generations perhaps the best-known manufacturer of receptacles and switches and other wiring devices, should introduce its own line of load centers and circuit breakers for the residential market.

It’s not like that part of the U.S. electrical market was underserved. The existing competition in residential power distribution was a pack of giants: Schneider Electric/Square D, Siemens, Eaton/Cutler-Hammer and General Electric. What Leviton decided was that it was time to rethink the basics of residential load centers, and that its newcomer status — especially as a newcomer with a universally recognized brand name — would give it an advantage.

“We didn’t have millions of dollars already invested in tooling, equipment and automation,” said Jay Sherman, director of marketing, residential, in an interview with Electrical Marketing. Therefore, Leviton could start with no preconceived idea of what a load center needed to look like.

“We knew we couldn’t just come into the market with a me-too product,” said Justin Berghoff, director of business development and product management, residential. “If we come in with just black breakers with no differentiation and relied on just our channel relationships and price, we could have done that on the strength of our brand, but we decided we needed a new mousetrap.”

The project started with hundreds of hours in the field, filming electricians on jobsites doing load center installations. To keep the company’s plans quiet, they did the field research under the guise of improving Leviton’s existing ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) and arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) products. As the design began to take shape Leviton set up an advisory board of electrical contractors, developers and builders to guide development with feedback on each iteration. Work accelerated when the National Electrical Code began to dictate AFCI requirements in new environments.

The results are different from what exists in the market, aesthetically and functionally. The load center and breakers feature what Leviton calls a “plug-on” design where all branch wires are terminated at rough-in and breakers are pressed onto custom lugs in the panel, making wiring easier and neater and eliminating the need for pigtails, the company said. All connections are made at the final insertion of the circuit breaker. The design also enables users to switch out branch circuit breakers with no rewiring required.

In the circuit breakers, Leviton added its patented reset lockout technology to both GFCI and AFCI/GFCI circuit breakers “making them the only true power denial circuit breakers available on the market, exceeding UL safety standards for end-of-life protection,” the company said. AFCI circuit breakers also feature reset lockout technology when the manual test places the device into the tripped state. The breakers include LED indicator lights to tell the user at a glance what kind of fault tripped the breaker.

“The Leviton Load Center marks real innovation in the electrical contracting industry — a category that hasn’t seen much change in decades,” said Daryoush Larizadeh, president and chief operating officer of Leviton, in a release. “Utilizing our strong, century-long history of creating innovative electrical solutions for the home, we’re driving the industry forward.”

The load centers and breakers are assembled in Leviton’s North American production facilities.

Leviton began the roll-out with a campaign to educate its distributors about the product line, Sherman said. “Our distributor partners have been engaged through our normal channels and will be offered similar partnership programs as with our wiring devices.”

Rolling out a whole new product category is a big event for any product manager or marketing team and the team behind Leviton’s load center entry sought to make a splash introducing the line. As part of their campaign they sent trade press editors a package with a fold-out electronic display that showed a video introducing the product and highlighting its features.

“We concluded that a traditional press release wouldn’t be significant enough for something as large as the introduction of the Leviton Load Center,” said Sherman. “Rather than send the traditional paper release or press kit with high-res images, we felt that sending you the product tour on the video card would be the most effective way to break through the clutter.”