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How do I know if I need new electrics?
July 17, 2016
Don’t wait for sparks to fly; learn how to tell if your electric system needs an upgrade.
Does your home’s electrical system need an upgrade? Learn some good reasons why you may want to consider upgrading sooner, rather than later.
1. Should I update my electrical system?
Your home's electrical system is similar to your body’s circulatory system. Your electrical panel is the heart of your electrical system. The circuits that carry electricity to all the plugs, lights and appliances in your home are like your veins and arteries.
Your panel determines how much power is available for the circuits to distribute to all the appliances, lights and outlets in your home.
The number and size of the circuit breakers determines how that power is distributed throughout your home.
The first and most important step in updating your electrical system is to:
● Upgrade your panel (bringing more power from the utility to your home); or
● Replace the existing meter and circuit breaker box to allow it to handle more power; or
● Replace an electrical panel or circuit breakers that are obsolete, damaged or dangerous.
This doesn’t affect the wiring inside your home; it just gives your system the ability to have more power to distribute.
The second part is to add additional circuits to distribute the power to your rooms and appliances. Updates also often include adding new electrical outlets and replacing the old receptacles.
2. Why should electrical panels in older homes be updated?
The most important reason to update your home’s electrical system is safety. When many older homes were built, they were designed with only 30, 50 or 60 amps for the entire home, using just a few circuits.
A circuit consists of all the outlets linked on one wire operated by a single fuse or circuit breaker. Circuit breakers protect your home by tripping and turning off when the wire running from your electrical panel to your appliances or devices becomes overloaded and in danger of becoming hot and catching fire.
Unfortunately, in many older electrical systems, the circuit breakers don't trip, even when the circuit is overloaded. Typically, a breaker will not trip due to a loose connection somewhere within the circuit.
Sometimes a homeowner gets tired of of the circuit breaker tripping, and unknowingly adds to the danger by replacing it with a larger circuit breaker than the wire is rated to carry.
To protect people from an overload, or the danger of electrocution and shock, safety devices such as ground fault circuit interrupters are now installed.
3. How do you know if it's time to update your electrical panel?
Here are some symptoms that indicate your system is in need of an upgrade:
● Circuit breakers trip frequently.
● Your lights dim when you turn on other appliances.
● You have to use extension cords or adapters to create additional electric outlets for your home.
Circuit breaker panels have a life span of 25-40 years. If yours is older than that; if it’s in poor condition; or if it's old and has only a few circuits, and your breakers DO NOT trip … those can be danger signs as well.
Also: If you are adding high power-consumption appliances such as an air conditioner or a spa, it's likely that your system will need an upgrade to accommodate the additional demand.
4. What are the benefits of an upgraded home electrical system?
The most important benefit of upgrading your electrical system is that your home will be protected from fire hazards caused by overloaded circuits. You can sleep better knowing your home and family are protected. You will be able to use your modern appliances safely and your expensive electronic equipment will be protected.
Updating your electrical system also can increase your home’s resale value.
5. Can I upgrade my electrical system as a DIY project?
Electricity is not a candidate for a DIY project, in fact doing your own electrics is illegal. Amateur or DIY wiring is not only dangerous but can be far more costly to repair in the future.
Electrical work also is not an area where you'll benefit from hiring the cheapest provider.
Unlike your new cabinets or countertops, your electrical system is invisible. There are many ways to cut corners with electrical work, and most consumers won’t know the difference. That’s why it’s important to choose a reputable and certified contractor.