Home Electrical Q&A for Older Homes
- What does it mean to upgrade my electrical service?
Upgrading your electrical service means that you upgrade your electrical system to bring more powerinto your home. Many older homes were built with 60 to 100 amps of electrical service. At the time the homes were built that was sufficient to meet the electrical needs of most homes. With the addition of dishwashers, flat screen TV's, microwaves, hairdryers, toaster ovens and all the electrical devices we've come to depend on 60 or 100 amps is no longer sufficient to support your homes electric needs. Upgrading your service will bring enough power into your home to use you modern appliances.
- Why might I need to upgrade my electrical service?
There are a number of reasons to consider upgrading your electrical service. The first and most important is that if your home is older than 25 years, your electric panel may be obsolete. It can be difficult and very expensive to replace parts and make repairs to obsolete panels. Of more concern is that some brands of obsolete electrical panels such as Zinsco and Federal Pacific can actually be a dangerous fire hazard. For more information about Zinsco panels, click here. The other common reason to upgrade your electrical service is to give your home the electrical capacity to handle all of your modern appliances.
- What are the warning signs that my electrical system needs to be upgraded?
Common warning signs that your electric service is overloaded are brownouts, or lights dimming when you turn something on. Frequent fuse tripping. If you know your electric service is underpowered and you don't trip circuits, that can also be a cause for concern. A circuit that trips is doing it's job to protect your wires from overloads and overheating. If you still have glass fuses, it is definitely time to update your homes electrical system.
- Is this the same thing as rewiring my house?
No! Think of your homes electrical panel as the heart of your electrical system. That is where the power comes into your home. Upgrading the panel and bringing more power into your house is the first and most important step to bringing your home into the 20th century.
- Will this solve all of my electrical problems?
Not necessarily. The wires that run throughout your walls all originate at your electrical panel. If your wiring is still in poor condition or you do not have enough circuits in your home you will still experience problems such as tripping circuits. A single circuit can only carry a set amount of electricity to the plugs or devices along that circuit. If it a circuit is overloaded, the circuit breaker will trip. Even with a brand new electrical service, if you put appliances that draw 40 amps on a circuit rated for only 20 amps, the circuit breaker will trip. That is what it is supposed to do. Space heaters are a very common cause of tripping circuit breakers. Even if you upgrade your service and add new circuits to some parts of your home, if you plug in a space heater on an old circuit, it will still cause the breaker to trip.
- What is involved in upgrading my electrical panel?
Typically we will first remove the old electrical panel from your home. A new panel is installed in it's place and all of the electrical circuits are transferred to the new panel. New circuit breakers are installed as well. Then new copper wire is routed up through the riser on your roof which will also be replaced. Then PSE&G must come to your house to attach larger wires which will bring more power into your home. It is very common for homeowners to also add additional circuits to their home at this time in order to better distribute the electrical power throughout the home.
We can usually complete your electrical service upgrade in a single day. If you are having additional work done such as adding more circuits or changing plugs and switches, it may take more than one day, but you will not be without power overnight.
- How long will I be without power?
We will shut off your power in the morning and in most cases it will be restored by mid to late afternoon.
- How much does it cost to upgrade my electrical system?
The cost to upgrade your electrical system will vary based on a number of factors. For example if the location of your panel does not meet with current building codes, the city and PSE&G may require the location to be moved. This can add to the cost. We have seen prices to upgrade electrical systems ranging from a low of about $1500 to over $6000. You will find our prices to be mid range. Beware of estimates that seem very low. The parts and materials required to upgrade your electrical system are costly and highly skilled and experienced electricians are do not work for minimum wage, additionally legitimate businesses will need to charge enough to cover the costs of insurance, workers compensation and business taxes. This is for the protection of the customer. They also need to charge enough to remain in business and hopefully make a profit as well. The only way to upgrade an electrical service at a very low price is by cutting corners. That is something we do not do at Point Loma Electric. Electricity can be dangerous and your homes electrical system is not the place to cut corners. There is an old saying that you get what you pay for and there never seems to be enough money to do something right, but there is always enough to do it over. Choose your electrical contractor carefully. If you have a problem, you want the company to still be in business in the future. Check with the BBB, the Contractors State Licence Board and for customer reviews.
- My breakers keep tripping, will upgrading my electrical service solve this problem?Yes and No.
Increasing the number of circuits in your home to avoid overloading your circuits or adding circuits with the proper capacity for the appliances you want to run is the only permanent cure for tripping breakers. A space heater will still trip your breaker if you run it on a lighting circuit since the wires are not sized to handle that electrical load.
- Why do my breakers keep tripping?
Breakers trip when the circuit they are protecting has more amps of electricity traveling through it than the wire is rated to carry. Breakers are designed to trip and protect the wire from getting over loadedand heating up. This is a common cause of house electrical fires.
- How do I know if my house needs to be rewired?
Many people with older homes think their entire house needs to be rewired. That is not always the case. Many older homes still have a great deal of safe serviceable wiring still intact. If you are considering having your home rewired, have a licensed residential electrical contractor take a look. They can tell you if you really need to rewire your house or if a minor or major upgrade may solve your electrical problems and cure any safety issues.
- If I rewire my house, will they need to cut open my walls?
Sometimes holes can't be avoided. However an experienced and skilled residential electrician knows that there are many tricks to avoid cutting up your walls. Small holes are unavoidable when running new wires, but there is rarely cause for cutting large holes in walls. Small holes are easy to patch and we always patch any holes that can't be avoided. At Point Loma Electric we like to say that people don't hire us to cut open their walls; they hire us because we DON”T cut open walls. Since we specialize in older homes we have many tricks up our sleeves to avoid making holes as much as possible and if a hole is required, we keep it as small as possible.
- How long does it take to require a house?
That will vary based on many factors such as the size of the home. Accessibility to run wires either through the attic or in the crawl space under the house. The type of building materials can make a difference as well as the number of obstacles. Crowded homes with a lot of large furniture or objects that need to be moved can take considerably longer.
- How much does it cost to rewire a home?
There are many factors that affect the cost of a home re‐wire. An experienced electrician will need to make a thorough evaluation and discuss your household electrical needs in depth. Beware a price that seems too good to be true. Rewiring an entire home is a very labor intensive endeavor if done correctly. We have heard many horror stories of fly by night electricians abandoning homeowners mid‐job because they realize they underbid the work and will end up loosing money if they complete it at a price that is too low.
We have many years of experience in re‐wiring homes. Our prices are competitive for the quality of workmanship and service we provide. We pride ourselves on focusing on your job until it is complete and finishing quickly in order to minimize any inconvenience to you.. We can finish a whole rewire in about 1/2 to 1/3 of the time that most companies estimate it will take them. Our electricians are experienced in doing this type of work and we don't leave until you are finished. You will also be pleased by our thorough clean up.