Technology advances sometimes feel like they are occurring at the speed of light. It is hard to believe it really was not that long ago when people did not have computers, tablets, or smartphones. Those of us who grew up in the 1980s got to experience the first personal computers as they started to become mainstream and common in the home.
In the 1990s, cell phones started to catch on with people of all ages. Then, in 2007, Apple released the first iPhones, and it was not that long before smartphones became common. Tablets were not far behind, with the release of the iPad in 2010.
These advances are just a small sampling of how things have changed for households since the 1980s. We also have hybrid and electric vehicles, wireless internet routers, DVRs, HD TVs, smart appliances, and more. With these advances, the wiring inside your home may not be sufficient to handle the strain our modern devices and appliances place on the home’s electrical system.
The electrical systems in older homes were not originally designed to meet the power demands of today’s products and devices. If the home is more than 35 years old, the wiring used when it was built came before computers and other modern devices were standard fixtures in homes.
Does Your Home Need an Electrical Wiring Upgrade?
The signs the electrical wiring inside your home needs to be updated can be rather obvious. If you have a tangle of wires plugged into power strips or a jumble of extension cords, then you need to update your electrical wiring. Another obvious sign is if you have chained together two or more power strips or extension cords in order to have plenty of outlets to power your devices.
The problem with chaining together power strips and extension cords is it places a strain on the primary outlet. Most standard outlets have two plugs, which means they provide sufficient power to power two devices, not five, ten, or more.
Fortunately, your home does have a line of defense from overloading electrical outlets: fuse boxes and circuit breaker boxes. Fuse boxes are common in homes that are 40 years old or older. They feature a screw-in fuse, normally with a glass top so you can see when the fuse is blown.
When too much power passes through the fuse, it heats up, and the metal connection inside the fuse breaks. This stops the flow of electricity. To restore electricity, you have to unscrew the bad fuse and replace it with a similarly rated one.
- TIP: If your home has a fuse box, always replace fuses with the same ratings. Never install a fuse with a higher rating, as this can increase the risk of electrical fires.
Circuit breaker boxes are the standard today. They are the switches you find inside the electrical box inside your home. When the circuit is overloaded, the breaker “pops” and interrupts the electrical supply. To restore electricity, you have to reset the breaker.
- TIP: If a breaker or fuse continues to blow, unplug everything from the outlets it is powering. Reset the breaker or install a new fuse and see if it remains on. If it does, it means the load on the outlets is too excessive, and you need to upgrade the wiring in your home.
Other Signs Electrical Wiring Needs to Be Updated
Your home can provide other signs it is in need of an electrical wiring update. These could include:
- Lights Dim or Flicker: If the insulation around the wiring has started to degrade, it can cause wires to become frayed and touch each other from time to time. If lights flicker or dim, it could indicate a problem with your home’s wiring.
- All of Your Outlets Are 2-Prong: If you are using adapters on the end of 3-prong cords to plug devices into outlets, you are taking a big risk with your electronic devices. 2-prong outlets are not grounded. This means, if there is a surge, it could cause electrical damage to anything that is plugged into the outlet.
- Your Home Was Wired with Aluminum Wiring: Aluminum wiring was approved for use as electrical wiring back in the 1960s and 1970s, as it was cheaper than copper. However, aluminum does corrode when it is in constant contact with copper, and it could pose an electrical hazard.
- The Breaker Box Is Overwired: This is when you have more of the small dual-switch breakers where you would normally have a single breaker inside the breaker box. You should have the box upgraded to accommodate more breakers or get a second breaker box installed.
- Lights Get Very Bright or Buzz: This problem is normally caused by using a higher-rated bulb than the light fixture can handle. It can cause power surges and damage electrical wiring. Always use the proper-rated bulb in light fixtures. If you cannot find a rating listed, stick with 60-watt equivalents or less. You may also want to consider upgrading the electrical wiring and light fixtures.
- No GFCI Outlets in the Home: Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) outlets are those that have a “test” and “reset” switch on them. They are used in areas where moisture and water can be an issue, like bathrooms and the kitchen.
- The Insulation on Electrical Wiring Is Cracking: The plastics used to insulate electrical wiring harden with age and time. Eventually, the plastic coating around the wires will start to crack and fall off.
If you notice any of these signs your electrical wiring needs to be upgraded, it is highly recommended you get help from a qualified and professional electrician. Working with electricity can be dangerous and risky.
In addition, any updates and upgrades you make could require meeting current building codes. Your electrician will be aware of the current building codes and will ensure that any work meets today’s requirements.
Planning an Electrical Wiring Update/Upgrade
Prior to updating the wiring in your home, it is a good idea to sit down and do a little planning on how you want your home rewired. Make sure to complete the following tasks and answer these questions:
- Conduct an entire home electricity inventory. Do a walkthrough of the entire home and write down how many outlets are currently in each room and what type. Make sure to list what devices you will plug into or which you have already have plugged into outlets in each room. Do not forget outlets in your hallways, entryways, garage, basement, and attic.
- Schedule an in-home electrical inspection. One mistake some people make is assuming they must upgrade and update all the wiring inside their home. This is not always the case. In areas that do not have a high electrical demand, as long as the wiring is still safe, even if it is older, it does not need to be replaced. Getting an in-home inspection will let you know exactly what types of updates your home may require.
- Decide what type of wiring needs to be completed. There is more than just electrical wiring to consider. Do you want your electrician to also run wiring for the internet? Do you want fire/smoke detectors hard wired? Are you installing or expanding a home security system? Will you need an electrical recharge outlet for a hybrid or electric vehicle?
- Decide what types of outlets you want installed. In addition to GFCI outlets and 3-prong outlets, you will also discover new multi-purpose outlets that feature both 3-prong and USB connections for charging smart devices.
- Be prepared to do some cleanup/remodeling work. Part of running new wiring and updating the home will require cutting holes into walls, ceilings, and other areas. After the wiring has been upgraded, these areas will need to be cleaned up. Next, holes will require patching and refinishing so no one will be able to tell where the holes were made.
- Sit down with your electrician and develop a project schedule and budget. You will want to work with your electrician to come up with a timetable and schedule that fits your needs and requirements. This is also a great time to review your electrical needs to get an estimate of the costs to complete the electrical update of your home and develop your project budget.
Just remember, each person’s electrical needs and requirements can be different. This is why it is essential you work with a licensed electrician. To schedule an in-home inspection of your home’s electrical system or for assistance in planning a wiring upgrade or other emergency electrical services, please feel free to contact A+ Services at (360) 491-2900 today!