Electrical Wiring Basics You Should Know Before Renovations

by Purvin Arshad

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, electrical delivery and lighting gear are the fourth primary cause of house fires. A few basic precautions can greatly reduce the risk of such fires. To ensure that your house is not at risk of a fire, have the electrical wiring inspected.

It is a general misconception that just because a house is old its electrical wiring is not safe. It is also important to note that the average life of electrical installations is around 20 years. The amount of usage and quality of materials also play a vital role in the life of electrical wiring.

Homes under ten years old should get an inspection done every ten years. Homes having older wiring should have the house inspected more frequently. An inspection is recommended every three to five years. This is not a rule of thumb, just a guideline. Needless to say, if major renovations are done to a newer home, then the electrical burden will increase. In this scenario, the wiring should be inspected accordingly. You don’t want to put additional load on existing circuitry only to find the wires can’t withstand it.

Every house of any ages need do electrical wiring or rewiring

Does Your House Need Rewiring?

The average-sized home constructed in the mid-sixties typically used panels with 60 amp capacity. That was fine back then as the electricity requirement was not that great. Modern life has increased the demand for electricity with all types of gadgetry. Modern conveniences like specialty coffee machines, microwaves, security cameras, laptops, and a host of monitors all put extra load on wires. The average-sized home is now equipped with fuse panels ranging in capacity from 100 to 200 amps.

While whole-house rewiring may be unnecessary, some typical signs that indicate trouble is brewing include:

  • Burning odor: If there is a continuous smell as if something is on fire, and you can’t pinpoint the source. Immediately shut down the power from the circuit breaker and find an electrician. Electrical burns have a characteristic odor of a fish.
  • Charred or tarnished switches or sockets: Any changes in the color of sockets and switches can be an indication of teeny fires. These can be due to loose joints within the socket. But don’t be overconfident if there is no discoloration. Similar fires can also occur further inside the walls which are not visible.
  • Repeated blowing of fuses: Random and recurrent fuse blowouts can be indicators that you need to check out the house rewiring.
  • Lights flickering: A rare light dimming once in a while does not indicate a problem. However, if it is a regular thing occurring in different parts of the house, then it must be investigated.

Periodic checks are necessary even when there are no indications of wiring problems. Different localities have varying electrical codes and it is necessary that your house meet these. Some other circumstances which may require inspecting the whole house rewiring include:

  • Loose outlets
  • Sizzling sounds
  • You find you have to use an excessive number of extension cords.
  • The addition of new appliances may burden the current setup.
  • The home is fitted with aluminum and not copper wiring.
  • The underground is fitted with two-prong outlets instead of three.
  • If the house is over 40 years old.

Advantages of Rewiring

As if the safety and security of your family were not reasons enough to have your home wiring checked. There are several other benefits to whole-house rewiring. Electricity is expensive, rewiring can make your home energy efficient and which saves money in the long run. It becomes easier to implement the latest ‘smart’ technologies. While today’s appliances are more energy-efficient, old wiring could be inept at providing correct wattage. Upgrading electrical wiring can deliver the correct wattage. Other benefits include

  • Better Security: Upgrading and rewiring allow you to add security alarms, cameras, and other security measures in your home. It will also ensure that your home meets the latest electrical safety code.
  • Additional Outlets: New wiring will allow homeowners to insert additional outlets for the extra gadgets like laptops, play stations, phone chargers, and other paraphernalia.
  • Home value increases: The cost of home rewiring can be recovered when you are ready to sell the house. The potential buyer will have the peace of mind that electrical wiring meets the latest codes.
  • Home insurance rates decrease: Rewiring the house will allow you to renegotiate your insurance rates. Upgraded wiring means there is less danger of fire and less risk translates into cheaper insurance.

Signs That Need Rewiring when Renting or Purchasing

Some simple observations can tell you how up-to-date the electrical wiring when looking to rent or purchase a property. Just take a close look at the exposed portions of the wiring. You can even ask to take a look at the fuse panel when viewing the property. If the fuse box is old-style continuing ceramic fuses, the wiring will require major upgrading. If the sockets and switches are of different styles, this can indicate partial rewiring. Wiring running on the surface along board skirting or wall corners is also an indicator. Round pin sockets are another dead giveaway.

Beware of Aluminum Wiring

A lot of the houses constructed in 1965 to 72,  frame used aluminum wiring instead of copper. According to the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission, aluminum wired homes are 55 times more prone to fires than copper. Now aluminum is an excellent conductor, no issue there. The problem lies in the connections. Over time the connections become loose, as the gap widens the risk of overheating increases. Overheating is a potential fire hazard. A certified electrician can best guide you on how to proceed with the whole house rewiring.

Cost of Rewiring House

The best time for electrical wiring is when constructing a new house. That is to say, you can not avoid rewiring an old house. Calculating the cost of rewiring a house becomes more complex. Too many factors come into play when calculating the cost. The age of the property, size, quality of materials, and amount of wiring are some of the factors. This does not include the cost of a licensed electrician. The price of everything also changes depending on your location. The nationwide average cost of a professional electrician varies from $50 to $100. Since electricians charge by the hour, a standard rule is for every 100 square feet allow one hour. If you are considering a whole-house rewiring, it might just be better to get competitive quotes from several different contractors.

Points to Consider Before a Rewire:

Whole house rewiring is intrusive and messy, but even partial rewire is not easy. So to make the process smooth, it is best to have a plan ready first. Prepare and itemize a list of everything you need to complete. Does the job involve replacement of only battered wiring or will the electrical panel require replacing? Does your cooling unit need to be on a separate line? Is there a hot tub? The more detailed your information the smoother it is for the people doing the job.

Maybe you will need to move out some furniture, carpets, home appliances, and decorations. If there are small children, it may be best to stay elsewhere, so they are out of harm’s way. Alternative may be that you want to consider having a standby generator for the duration of the work. There are other considerations also, rewiring will entail lots of drilling, hammering, and plenty of mess. Ask your contractor to prioritize so you can reclaim your space as soon as possible.

DIY House Rewiring

Working with electricity is not something one can master after watching a few videos. Building regulations and codes cover any rewiring work done on homes. Sure minor jobs like replacing switches or sockets are fine as do-it-yourself projects. Rewiring requires specialized knowledge and skill that can’t be learned on the go. Hence, it is best left to professionals.

A licensed professional understands the risks and will take the necessary precautions. After all, your house is your life and its contents irreplaceable. He will be efficient and thorough. Should other issues arise which you may not be aware of, he will recognize them. He can also guide you in the best plan of action. This can save you time and money in the long run. While doing it yourself may be tempting, but improper handling can also end up costing you a lot more.

Rewiring the house is not an easy task. It is expensive and very inconvenient. However, at the end of the day, it will provide peace of mind, enhance safety and add to the value of the property.

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