What to Know About Updating Electrical Wiring


We bought our first house almost a year ago now, and there are several items on my ever-expanding to-do list related to my home’s electrical system. The house is old, and the electrical is original, so some of the outlets and switches are either temperamental or don’t work at all. In addition, nothing’s been updated to ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which prevent accidental electrocution. So, I started looking into what would be required to update my old electrical.
Does My Electrical Need to Be Updated?
Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning & Electric provided us with a list of basic questions that you should ask yourself when trying to figure out if you need to update your electrical system:

“Do I have any systems that are older than 20, or 25 years old?”
“Are my kitchen outlets, bathroom outlets, outdoor outlets, garage outlets, and unfinished basement outlets GFCI protected?”
“Do I have more than 8 or 10 circuits on one breaker?”
“Am I tripping breakers?”
“Do the outlets and switches look dated?”
“Are the devices loose, or not working correctly?”

If, like me, you answered yes to some of these questions, you probably need to update your home’s electrical system.

Jamie Dent of Point Loma Electric explains that circuit breaker panels last 25 to 40 years, so if your panel is in that range or older, at the very least you’ll likely want to have an electrician inspect it. HomeAdvisor reports that most homeowners who update their electrical system spend between $570 and $1,581. While not cheap, updating your circuit panel will give you more amperage to run power-sucking devices like air conditioners, computers and other modern electronics, in addition to protecting you from the risk of electrical failure and even fires, among other hazards.
Our house was built in 1952, and the circuit panel was installed along with a 1980 addition, so I’m thinking I need to get an electrician out to inspect it in the near future.
Can I Update My Electrical System Myself?
One piece of advice that I encountered again and again when reading up on updating my old wiring is that, unless you’re experienced with electrical, you should probably get a pro to handle it.
If you’re going to try to do some basic electrical work on your own, Isaac Hammelburger from Payless Power has some tips for staying safe.
“Use a wooden platform when working with a fuse or circuit breaker box; and similarly, use a wooden ladder when working with electrical wiring,” he recommends. “Turn the power off before replacing a receptacle or a switch or doing any other work on a circuit.”
Hammelburger also suggests you “diagram the circuit breakers (or fuses) to the specific circuits they activate and place this information inside the circuit breaker or fuse box.”
Along with taking safety precautions, be sure to find out what, if any, work permits you need to pull from the city in order to work on your home.
While writing this post, I learned a lot about when and how to update my electrical system, but the two main takeaways are that I definitely need some electrical work done on my house and that I can’t do this type of work by myself. I just don’t have the necessary skills and experience to take on that project. In the past, I’ve used HomeAdvisor to find contractors (I always get three estimates for work like this), so in the coming days, I’ll be checking out that resource to find contractors who can do this type of work safely and reliably.
Do you have any questions about the information here, or do you have experience updating the electrical system in your home? Let us know in the comments!
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