House shopping is a huge job. It can take months to find the best house for your needs. And if you’ve never owned a house before, you may be inexperienced in assessing and monitoring all the house’s systems. The electrical system, for example, will sometimes need professional repairs and maintenance, and a successful homeowner needs to know enough to monitor for any signs of problems.
You should educate yourself on what good electrical systems should look like and how they should work. This knowledge won’t just help you when you’re house shopping; it will also help you be a great owner.
Here’s what you need to know about the electrical panel.
You may have grown up with a fuse box in your home, but modern electrical systems are far beyond fuse box territory. If a home has a fuse box installed, that means you’ll need to have it replaced with a circuit breaker panel right away if you buy the house. Not only that, but a fuse box means that chances are the house has other outdated electrical components, such as antique and unsafe wiring.
Even if it’s not an antique fuse box, an older electrical panel could simply be limited to 60 amps or even less, which was quite common in historical construction. This low capacity is problematic if you require a lot of electricity. A couple hundred amps is a better estimate of modern electrical needs, and some homeowners need up to 400 amps.
For example, if you have a medium-to-large house, multiple people in the family who tend to all use electrical appliances at once, or appliances known for being energy hogs (such as an air conditioning unit), you need a lot of electricity available. So check for the panel’s total amperage capacity. It should be written on or near the handle that controls the universal breaker.
An especially troubling situation is when the house has had a recent expansion or remodel that you suspect has had a DIY component. Insufficiently regulated electrical work, or electrical work done by DIYers or underqualified workmen, can cause all kinds of electrical problems and hazards in addition to potentially overloading an old electrical panel.
If the home has been renovated, you shouldn’t just check to make sure the electrical panel has plenty of capacity; you should also ask to see the records showing that all electrical work for the home update was performed by a qualified, licensed electrical contractor.
The life of an electrical panel is estimated to be around 25-40 years. If the one in your new home is over 25 years old, it could need replacing at any time. Your electrician may recommend proactive replacement anytime after the 25-year mark, simply for safety reasons.
This issue isn’t necessarily a deal breaker (since having an electrician replace the panel is relatively quick and affordable). However, you should definitely take note of it.
You don’t need to do a complete electrical evaluation yourself — that should be left to the professional inspectors. A professional will be able to give you critical information, such as whether the previous owner has dangerously overloaded any circuits and whether or not you’ll need to have expensive rewiring done if you decide to buy.
You can hire both a home inspection and a professional electrical inspection to help you learn what items you should negotiate to have fixed before buying the home. Get in touch with In Phaze Electric Inc. today for more advice or to schedule an electrical inspection.