If your home needs a makeover, or you're simply planning to upgrade your decor, appliances or any other aspect of your living quarters, now is the best time to consider upgrading your home electrical system, as well. Home repair and remodeling projects often require some electrical work. As long as the electrician is on hand, you can usually save the cost of a service call by adding to the job as needed If you haven't planned electrical upgrades, a quick look around your house might convince you that you should. 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. Unfortunately, many homeowners wait until a problem occurs, and only then do they think to call in an electrician. But there's along list of reasons why you should inspect and improve your electrical system-before an accident or service breakdown occurs. Here are a few points to consider, according to the Copper Development Association:
Is your service adequate? Many older homes still operate with seriously outdated 60-amp electrical service-and sometimes with just a few fuses or circuit breakers to protect the entire system.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.
Size 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, you'd better 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.
What's the correct wire size? 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).
Consider special 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.
- And finally, don't forget your communications wiring needs-make sure telephone wiring is rated Category 5 or better to assure speedy data mission, high-quality voice service and convenient installation as you add telephone-based services in the future.