Home Rewiring Options & Requirements
If you’re living in an older home or have rental properties that are more than ten years old, you may be considering your rewiring options. Determining how and what to upgrade can be challenging at best, especially if you’re not familiar with rewiring options and requirements. In general, electrical work should only be performed by licensed contractors, but there are some DIY options that are relatively safe. Even if you won’t be doing the work yourself, it’s important to have a solid baseline understanding of the options available for rewiring your home or office building.
Many years ago, having around 60 amps of electricity was considered to be plenty for a “modern” home. Today’s energy demands are much greater, and can put a significant strain on an aging electrical system. According to experts, anything less than 100 amps is unlikely to provide the electrical service needed by today’s standards, but most homes today are outfitted with up to 200 amps to allow room for growth. Bottom line: don’t wait for electrical outages or flying sparks to decide to have a professional review your system. Instead, be proactive about electrical maintenance and save yourself time and money.
Rewiring a building carries a lot of challenges: ensuring that you have the correct electrical services to the building without ripping up walls, floors or installed decorations being the first big hurdle. That said, there are still big benefits to be found by rewiring your home, such as lowered reliance on dangerous electrical practices such as multiple power strips and extension cords or damage to sensitive electronics due to power surges or drop-offs. There are a few options when you’re considering a major electrical service upgrade: rewiring your entire home (big dollars!) or upgrading specific parts such as your electrical service panel — a much more cost-effective option if it will work for your home.
- Updating your electrical panel is another option that may help get your system back up to standards. While this is the first step in any rewiring project, it’s possible that this step may be enough to keep your home safe and effectively utilize the power you have available for quite some time. This is a good option when funds or time are limited, or when you don’t feel you’re quite up to the major project of rewiring your home. Replacing circuit breakers and electrical panels may not completely solve your electrical challenges, but they could potentially reduce them. It’s important to note that this step doesn’t fix faulty wiring, it simply provides your home with more power to be distributed throughout the current electrical structure that you have in place.
- Rewiring your home is the best option to consider if your home is greater than 40 years old. Wiring was significantly different around that time, and not only are you dealing with standards that may not quite be up to snuff, but the general decay of the wiring itself over time increasingly becomes a factor. The unfortunate fact is that electrical wiring is inside your walls, and getting to it is not easy at all. Switches often have to be replaced, you’ll need new wires, outlets, fixtures — and then the cost of any repair and repainting that’s required — altogether can cost from $5,000 to $8,000 for homes of an average size. That number shoots up significantly if you’re dealing with a larger home that has any type of restricted access to the wiring, or special wiring requirements such as for an indoor swimming pool or theater setup.
Standard Requirements for Rewiring
Staying within recommended specs can be complicated, but there are certain simple items to keep in mind when you’re considering a rewiring project.
- Circuits in the kitchen and dining room should be a higher output 20 amp circuit, because they are more likely to draw additional current
- When they’re not present, add a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) to any outlets that are near a water source
- Match your numbers: a 15 amp fuse should only be used with a 15 amp cable. A mismatch between wiring and circuit breakers is a recipe for disaster
Electrical Hazard Warning Signs
Keep your home safe and worry-free by knowing the warning signs that can occur when your electrical services are not working as expected. Trained electricians can spot subtle signs, but diligent homeowners can be on the lookout for these potential problems.
- Circuit breakers that trip unexpectedly and often
- Lights that flicker or dim
- Buzzing sound from lamps, or a slight shock when you’re turning on appliances
- Char marks on electrical outlets, or outlets that are warm to the touch
- Lack of ground fault indicators where needed (kitchens, bathrooms — anywhere you find water)
- Frayed wires or damaged and visible insulation
- The smell of burning vinyl or plastic in various places throughout your home
Of course, it’s important to know that the most common cause of faulty wiring is when homeowners attempt to make changes themselves instead of working with qualified and trained professionals. It’s critical to ensure that any individual that you hire to work on your home’s electrical systems is fully licensed.
Lifespan of Electrical Systems
The good news is that even though it can be challenging to get through a rewiring project, once you do complete it you should be set literally for life. The rating for most copper wiring is around 100 years with the proper installation. Environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity may also play a part in determining the usable life of your electrical system. In unusually warm areas, it’s not unusual for wiring to fail early simply due to the failure of the insulation protecting the wires themselves. Service panels generally have a 10-year to lifetime warranty, but should be reviewed more often for overall fitness.
Keeping your electrical systems up to date is an important part of home ownership. Waiting for the wiring in your home to go bad or have problems before you take action can cause some serious damage — not only to your home and property, but also potentially to your life. When it comes to electrical systems, it is always safest to have a licensed professional electrician on call for answers.
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