If you are upgrading a house, whether it be a fixer upper you have just moved into, a potential real estate flip, or you have simply finally gotten around to upgrading your own home, some electrical upgrades will be much more worth your time than others. Here is a quick guide to understanding some basic electrical upgrades, and a few tips for ensuring that you get the most bang for your buck.
When prioritizing upgrades, the first priority should always be safety. While it isn’t glamorous, a safe electrical system is not something you can afford to skimp on. Some older systems use components which have been found to be unreliable. Alternatively, they may have been exposed to damage as a result of weather or aging. Your first priority when dealing with an electrical system which is in an unknown condition should be to hire a competent electrician to come and evaluate the current condition of the system. They should be able to give you a breakdown of any potential safety hazards which they find.
Safety is important for a number of reasons. Obviously, no one wants to have themselves or their family exposed to electric shock. But electrical fires can be just as deadly, and can strike when you least expect it. Additionally, insurance can be hard to procure, or significantly more expensive if you have a damaged or not inspected electrical system. If you can assure your insurance company that the electrical system is in excellent condition and has been inspected and repaired recently, you can guarantee that your dealings with them will be much easier.
Once you are satisfied that the electrical system is using modern electrical components, fits within the safety guidelines of the electrical code, and is not a large risk for causing damage, you can begin to assess where upgrades will be most beneficial. As is often the case, this will depend on things like the location of the house, the priorities of the owner, and the current economic climate. For example, if you want to save money spent on power, common upgrades can increase the electrical efficiency of the home. Installing new refrigerators, HVAC, and other large appliance can allow you to benefit from recent technological developments which have increased the efficiency of the technologies behind them. Similarly, making sure all of your wiring is well insulated, and that the circuits are appropriate for the load upon them can help to prevent electrical loss. Furthermore, installing electrical metering tools can help you better understand where your power is going, empowering you to take charge of your electrical expenditure.
While some older features will need to be replaced as part of the safety inspection, other older parts of a system might be merely inconvenient, or might be a lower safety priority. One way to increase the value of your home while also increasing its usability is to upgrade your electrical sockets. An ancient two prong plug might be more than a bit of an eyesore. When people cut off the third prong of their electrical device, they create a serious electrical hazard. It is much better to hire a trained electrician to install an upgraded socket which can interface successfully with whatever electrical device you are using. Similarly, there are options for GFCIs ( which are mandated in some settings) and child safety electrical outlets. Depending on your situation, it might make sense to install these in different locations. Installing these can be more complex than you realize, and it should not be attempted without significant experience. Proper installation will involve running wires from your main electrical panel to the outlet, and is much more involved than simply changing out the cover on the outlet.
Another great upgrade for a home is the addition of extra circuits. These can contain lighting, to illuminate dark spaces and add to the aesthetic of the home, or simply allow you to install outlets in more convenient locations. These can be small changes which drastically improve the quality of life experienced by residents. As anyone who has lived in a poorly illuminate space can attest, there are few things more satisfying than finally being able to banish the darkness and be able to see clearly again.
Extra circuits (or the beefing up of an existing one) can also help to protect the longevity of your system. If you have a circuit whose breaker trips regularly, there is likely a heavy load on this circuit. Allowing the circuit to handle larger loads, or splitting the demand on this circuit onto multiple circuits can help to remove the annoyance of having to reset a breaker as well as decreasing the risk of electrical fire. This small change can typically be done relatively quickly by an experience electrician, but you will certainly notice the difference.