What’s all this about updating wiring?
If you were to lay all your veins and arteries end to end, it would be messy and you’d die.
It would also be messy (and expensive) if you remove your home wiring. But you might have to!
The analogy makes sense–really! Your electrical panel is the heart. The wiring is your veins and arteries. And just like your circulatory system, when there’s something wrong with your wiring, it’s time to fix it. Unless you’re a licensed electrician, this is probably a job best left to the pros.
Still, it’s always good to know a little background information before you hire someone. That way, at least you can understand what they’re talking about. So: let’s talk about updating your wiring.
Why would I need or want to update my wiring?
Even if your electricity seems to work fine, there are a couple reasons you might consider upgrading it. Maybe the wiring doesn’t meet your needs. This is often the case if your house is over 40. You could also need to replace the wiring for safety reasons. You might even change your wiring to meet growing demands, or simply to add value to your home.
Here’s another reason: when your home has older wiring, some companies refuse to sell you insurance or charge you more.
But, of course, the big reason is safety. Wiring in older houses is more likely to be outdated or unsafe. Spoiler alert: faulty wiring is the leading cause of fires. Now, old wiring isn’t necessarily dangerous, but you probably can’t be sure it’s up to code. And you also have to remember, wire insulation can deteriorate.
Here are some warning signs of outdated or unsafe wiring:
- Flickering or dimming lights
- Warm, discolored, or sparking outlets
- All your outlets are two-prong ungrounded outlets
- You touch an appliance and “zzzt!” You get a tingling sensation
- Your breakers trip and the fuses blow all the bleepin’ time
- No ground fault circuit interrupter outlets (the outlets with the buttons)
- There seems to be a nasty burning smell in a particular room or appliance
- You don’t have enough outlets so you use extension cords or adapters
Whether you upgrade your wiring or not, you probably want to get a licensed electrician to come in and fix some of these problems. While the electrician is there, they can check your entire electric system to see if it needs an upgrade.
Okay, let’s say they tell me my wiring should be updated. What will they do?
Well, before they get to the actual wiring, they’ll probably:
- Upgrade your panel (and that’s going to give you more power, fewer problems)
- Replace the existing meter and circuit breaker box (gotta do that to handle all that power)
So, right off the bat, you’re going to have a system that can handle more power to distribute. Sort of like a stronger, healthier heart.
Now it’s time to upgrade your vessels and arteries – the wiring. They’ll add more circuits and probably new electrical outlets (including GFCI outlets) and receptacles. Take a picture of all those two prong outlets, because they’re getting replaced.
Do I really have to replace the circuit breaker box? That’s expensive, right?
Not as expensive as a fire. If your house is old, the original builders probably installed 30, 50 or 60 amps of power for the entire home. They used just a few circuits, and all the outlets are linked on one wire connected to a fuse or circuit breaker. If that wire gets overloaded, it can get hot and cause a fire. Boom!
Also, if that wire gets overloaded, the circuit breaker is supposed to trip and turn off the electricity. Unfortunately, some older systems have a loose connection, which can prevent the circuit breakers from tripping.
Side note: connections get loose because in the 60s and 70s, they didn’t use the standard copper wire. They used aluminum wiring instead. Aluminum connections loosen over time. We’re talking overheating and maybe fires. It’s definitely a safety hazard.
Circuit breaker panels usually last 25-40 years. If yours is older than that or has only a few circuits, it should be replaced.
If you have older wiring and want to install an air conditioner or hot tub, you’ll probably need an upgrade.
So, what do I do?
Have a certified, licensed electrician inspect your electrical system to see if it’s safe. Be sure to find one you trust, because sometimes you won’t have to completely upgrade all the wiring. A trusted electrician will tell you when a simpler, less expensive remedy could solve your problems. They might just add a new circuit for a hot tub, pool, or charging station for your electric car, for example.
But, if the wiring is really old (and dangerous) and needs to be replaced, it’s a big job. They’ll have to:
- Get to the old wires (and they’re behind a wall so you’re looking at demolition)
- Rip those wires out
- Run new wires
- Connect them to the new (if they need replacing) switches and outlets
- Close the holes/patch the walls
- Clean up the mess
Finally, if you’re going to go to all the expense and hassle of replacing your electrical system, you might as well be ready for any future power needs. Think about installing structured wiring. If you install these heavy-duty data cables, you’ll be ready to handle any new electronics you end up with. Structured wiring is great for handling demanding electrical systems like your entertainment center, heating and lighting. It will also add value to your home.
We hope that answers your “What’s all this about updating wiring?” question
The general knowledge and advice in this blog is designed to give you a little background information about your electrical system and may not be complete or contain minor errors. Early Bird Electric is not responsible for any consequences if you attempt to fix your electrical problem using this information. It’s always a good idea to hire a local, licensed electrician like Early Bird Electric to safely and professionally handle the job.