Since things always work when you plug them in, it’s easy to assume there is nothing wrong with the electrical system in the home. The reality is that if the last time the electrical system was upgraded was when the house was built then chances are it is underperforming.
Houses built before the 1990s have electrical systems that can’t keep up with our modern electrical demands. We have a lot of devices and appliances that the system was not designed for.
If your home is about to be remodeled then this is the perfect opportunity to upgrade your electrical system so it can keep up with demand, be safe to use, and be very efficient. In this article, we will go over what this entails.
Start with the panel
Most modern homes have a circuit breaker that replaced the fuse box long ago. However, if your home still has a fuse box then this should be the first item on your agenda.
Fuse boxes are inefficient and won’t allow you to have many modern appliances. A fuse is a single-use object. When it overheats, it breaks and can’t be used again.
Not only that, but they are also very dangerous. Old homes are fire hazards because the fuses can overheat and cause a fire. Some homes won’t be able to be insured if they have fuse boxes because it is too big a liability for the insurance company.
Circuit breakers are far superior both in terms of safety and in terms of efficiency. They don’t actually break. They simply turn off when there is a surge of power. Old panels with old circuit breakers should still be upgraded, however.
New appliances and devices put a strain on old circuit breaker panels. Many are only capable of 100 amps. Even if the circuits are not breaking, chances are that they are operating at the very brink of the limit. Replacing the breakers with new ones to bring it up to 200 amps is going to ensure that it can handle future energy demands without constantly tripping the breakers.
For example, if part of the remodel is to add central heating and air conditioning then a 200 amp breaker panel is essential.
The cost to go from a 100 amp panel to 200 amps is not really that much. Money can be saved in any case by using small brands such as Pushmatic circuit breakers.
Look at the outlets
When houses were built a few decades ago, they were fitted with the number of outlets that would have been enough for the demand at the time. Nowadays, it is almost guaranteed that a person has issues with the number of available outlets.
What usually happens is that too many devices are plugged into an outlet. Either by using a power strip or adding extensions to one outlet and plugging everything in from there.
This is inefficient and also unsafe. When you are starting a renovation, take the time to address the number and type of outlets. It is a good idea to add at least one more to each room to make sure that the demand is spread around and there isn’t too much pressure on one outlet.
Also, take the opportunity to add some GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets to your bathroom and kitchen to accommodate new appliances. These plugs will shut off directly from the outlet if they detect any water has gotten into them. With so many people opting for electric bidets in their bathroom, a GFCI plug there is essential.
The way that they work is that they detect a change in the electrical flow. When it detects a fluctuation, it automatically shuts off the power to the outlet. For instance, if a hairdryer was being used over the sink and it fell in, the outlet would immediately shut off the power to avoid an electrical shock for the user.
Some localities have new codes for electrical systems in new homes which require GFCI outlets in the bathroom and kitchen. It’s a good idea to preemptively add them when doing a renovation to stay up to code.
Update the wiring
If the renovation includes opening up the drywall, then this is an ideal time to also upgrade the wiring. Old wiring can have brittle insulating material that can end up exposing the wires. One of the main causes of fires in the home is faulty wiring. This exposed area can end up lighting up the insulation. Replacing the wiring can add to the level of safety of the system.
The other concern is the gauge of the wiring. Older wires have a gauge that is not sufficient for modern needs. The wires often heat up because of the strain placed on them from modern demands. Think of a straw and how it can only handle so much liquid. To get more liquid requires a wider straw. It’s the same concept for electrical wiring.
An insufficient gauge of the wiring also places a strain on the appliances and devices that get used. If there are fluctuations in the voltage then this can prove damaging to sensitive electronics.
It can cost quite a bit of money to change the old wiring in a house which is why it makes the most sense to do so when the walls are already being opened up for a renovation or remodel.
Make it smart
The Internet of Things has progressed to a point that it allows many people to upgrade their homes into smart homes. The technology has gotten very inexpensive so people can opt to add cameras with sensors and thermostats that program themselves.
Older homes with outdated electrical systems are not capable of powering these devices so a renovation is a good time to upgrade. A bonus is that a device like a smart thermostat saves money on heating and air conditioning so it can help pay for itself over time making the upgrade less costly.