Important Concerns When Upgrading Your Electrical Services

Older homes often contain wiring and electrical services that do not meet current building codes. Many insurance companies refuse to cover residences that include these products, so an electrical upgrade becomes necessary. Homeowners need a qualified electrician for this extensive job, but there are several considerations they need to address beforehand, ensuring this project goes smoothly.

What Is a 60 Amp Service?

Houses built before 1960 likely included a 60-amp service. At that time 60 amps were sufficient to power up a typical home. However, more appliances and electrical devices require a greater amount of power and many homes have been upgraded. Today all newly constructed residential buildings include a 100-amp service, and some are equipped with 200-amp services.

Most experts agree that 60-amp electrical services are not inherently unsafe. But they do limit the amount of power that can be accessed simultaneously. Running more than one appliance may not be possible on a 60-amp service, whereas a 100-amp electrical service would be able to handle that load without a problem.

The service required in your home should be calculated based on the potential load. That figure includes the expected load based on the number of circuits, their size and the overall size of the home.

What is Knob and Tube Wiring?

Knob & tube wiring was commonly installed in homes built before the late 1940’s. Some homes constructed in the ‘50’s also included this type of wiring, which includes ceramic knobs as insulators and ceramic tubes to protect the wire from damage when going through wood or other materials. All wires is this system are run separately, instead of collected in a wrapping like modern wires. The neutral and live wires connect at a terminal.

The dangers of knob & tube wiring include faulty installations, easy accessibility and wear from age. Because knob & tube systems are so easily accessed many were patched together in DIY jobs, instead of being properly designed and installed by a licensed professional. That was just as much of a problem fifty or sixty years ago as it is today.

There is no ground wire used in this system, making it inappropriate for use in bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms.

How To Know Your 60-Amp Service Needs To Be Upgraded

You cannot always tell what level of electrical service has been installed in your home. The labels imprinted on your fuses or breaker panel cannot be relied on completely. Your panel may have been replaced without actually upgrading the service, meaning that the system may still be inadequate for your power needs.

Many people assume that blown circuits or flipped breakers are an indication that electrical upgrades are needed. While that may be the case, it isn’t necessarily true. A circuit will blow and a breaker flip when that particular circuit is overloaded. Adding a new circuit and splitting up the loads on the faulty circuit are two quick solutions.

How To Know Your Knob & Tube Wiring Needs to Be Upgraded

Knob and tube wiring can last for decades without any need for replacement. The need for an upgrade depends mainly on the condition of the wiring. If the sheathing is still intact and the wiring hasn’t been tampered with, you may not need an upgrade. Your insurance company or real estate agent may disagree, and insuring or selling your home may make an electrical upgrade a priority.

Have a look at the wiring and the terminals on your knob & tube system. If the sheathing has deteriorated, in places or along the entire run, the wiring should be replaced. But be aware that some homes have a partial upgrade – the exposed wiring has been changed to a modern product, but knob & tube wiring can still be found behind the walls, under flooring and in other hard to access areas.

Partial upgrades are often done when only a selection of circuits are worn or aged. But in today’s market conditions it is much more affordable to upgrade the entire electrical system at once, ensuring that all wiring is up to date and safe.

How To Hire the Right Electrician

Browse through your local listings to find a licensed electrician in the area. Be sure that this professional has experience with this style of upgrades, since removal and replacement are a specialized project that requires more care than a simple install.

Ask about the electrician’s warranty and have them outline exactly what their services cover. The entire project should be included, with only a minimum of extra charges allowed. Unexpected conditions that hold up the removal process will normally be an extra charge, but try to have the charges outlined upfront whenever possible.

Cost Estimates

Depending on the location and materials cost, upgrading to a 100-amp service with a new panel will cost around $1,500. This number represents the current average cost, but the size of your home and regional prices will influence the cost as well.

Upgrading from knob & tube wiring can cost anywhere from $3,000 and beyond. This project price depends heavily on the condition of the wiring and the removal process. The cost of new wiring materials factors in as well.

Labor prices may also dictate the cost. Hiring a licensed electrician is often more expensive than a simple technician, but well worth the investment. Their expertise is invaluable. In many regions the bylaws state that a licensed electrician is the only professional that can complete this type of project.

Electrical upgrades are inevitable in many older homes. For insurance purposes and to ensure your power needs are met an upgrade to 100-amp service may be necessary. Replacing your old knob & tube wiring with modern wiring adds safety to your home. Be sure to hire a professional electrician to handle these upgrades for you and consider them an essential property investment.

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