Whether you're giving your home a complete makeover, or just planning on upgrading your fixtures or appliances within your living quarters, it's a great time to also consider upgrading your electrical system.
Do you have receptacle outlets overburdened by multi-plug strips? Are your lamps and fixtures connected to extension cords? Does every three-prong plug need a two-prong adapter? These and other warning signs indicate a real need for electrical improvements. Here are a few points to consider:1. Is your service adequate?
Many older homes still operate with outdated 60-amp electrical service, and sometimes with just a few fuses or circuit breakers to protect the entire system. Newer homes often have 100-amp service panels, but even this minimum requirement set by many current codes may fall short of your present or future needs. Consider upgrading service to 200 amps.2. Is your service sized for extra demand?
If you're installing a major electrical appliance, like an electric wall oven, a microwave oven, a double-wide refrigerator or central air-conditioning, think about the additional power it may need. While a salesman or installer might tell you that your system can handle the load, be smart and ask your electrician for a second opinion.
Electricians often install 14-AWG wiring during renovations, which is adequate for most home uses. But heavier 12-AWG copper wire is a better choice because it's more energy-efficient and you won't have to upgrade all over again if you install appliances or fixtures with greater electrical loads. The cost difference for upgrading to 12-AWG copper wire is minimal. If you're adding a room extension or building a new home, it's a good idea to install 12-AWG wire (or larger, depending on the needs of each circuit).3. Consider special electrical needs.
Different rooms in a home serve different purposes—an important consideration when you're planning improvements, especially where electrical work is involved. Family rooms, home offices and home theaters generally need more circuits, more outlets, and built-in or plug-in power-surge protection. Outlets in kitchens, baths, garages and outdoor areas require ground-fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs. And you don't have to wait for a major renovation to add protection—you can install many safety devices yourself, such as outlet caps, switch guards and wire shields in nurseries and children's playrooms.