Why Replace Home Electrical Wiring, the Panel…Everything!
Let’s get pumped up about learning how to replace home electrical wiring by showing a few pictures for a bit of motivation.
What if you wanted to make some coffee, whip up some waffle mix with the mixer and get the waffle iron hot–all while listening to some tunes on the radio? WAIT! YOU ONLY HAVE FOUR OUTLETS. One already belongs to the range. Listening to the radio is out.
Even worse, now you have to choose which cord gets draped over the gas oven range where the bacon is cooking.
DOES THIS SEEM SAFE?!?
Here is a second example for motivation. You don’t need an electrical license for this one!
Both panels look questionable and the first picture looks TERRIFYING once you realize an entire house is running off the sketchy tiny first panel:
The old system had to go!
The house needed a new electrical system for three reasons:
- Modern appliances need more power.
- Preventing a fire.
- Remodeled rooms need to be brought up to code.
There was already 200 amp service to the house, but the box was only 100 amp. The 100 amp box also had a piggyback box of 80 amps for the washing machine and dryer which suspiciously look like they were an afterthought.
The new kitchen also included an electric range as well as a ton of outlets for appliances on every section of the counter and under mount cabinet lighting. If anyone wants to run the dishwasher, disposal, coffee maker, mixer, blender, George Foreman grill, crock pot and toaster AT THE SAME EXACT INSTANT, this electrical system can handle it and more!
From the safety side, not only was the old cloth covered wiring a concern, but an overloaded circuit with this haphazard mishmash of panels could easily start a fire!
There are more than a few code updates since the house was built. Although the old electrical system was grandfathered, once we started opening up walls those rooms needed to be brought up to the latest standards. Not only that, but I want peace of mind knowing when I vacuum it is not on the same circuit as my lights and refrigerator while they are all running! That flickering light is a sign something is wrong!!!
Code is a minimum. Nothing says you cannot go above and beyond to increase safety and devise a better plan for your house.*
Check out the next installment on how to replace home electrical wiring with more technical details of the actual work along with ways to maximize your materials. In the meantime, here are some general takeaways once the work was over and I was no longer stuck in the attic…
Lessons learned while replacing the electrical life blood of a house:
- Do not do this project in the middle or end of the summer. Or in the middle of winter unless you live in Arizona. If you are in Hawaii you are in business year round!
- Expect this to be one of the first projects you start and the last to finish. There is always one last covering, unaccounted outlet, etc.
- Label EVERYTHING. Notice the picture of the new panel has tape with the label of where the wire is running. After everything was sized and tightened in place it was also written on the wire itself. Label it in the attic too.
- Wear a ventilation mask. It may be hot and could possibly make you break out like a teenager. But it is way better than breathing in the insulation dust you kick up as you inch across the attic joists towards the outside walls on your stomach. Have you ever had the pleasure of experiencing the fine layer of insulation dust coating you mouth, throat and lungs without a mask? Yuck! There has to be some health benefits to wearing a mask too–but I’m a software engineer, not a doctor. 😉
- Wear full body covering to keep from getting itchy in the insulation. It is also one more layer of protection from any unexpected splinters, nails or debris hiding in the insulation.
- Use a few plywood panels to make your work space more “comfortable” in the attic. Move the panels to your “desired” location and straddle them across two ceiling joists. Now you have an improved work space as opposed to laying across the ceiling joists alone.**
- If your ceiling is flat and you do not have a walkway in your attic–put one in! Not only does this decrease odds of you from falling through your ceiling (it worked 99% of the time for my husband), but it also decreases the amount of time you spend in your attic.
- I can see why electricians charge so much for this job–it is HARD WORK!
- You will KNOW you have some abs and deltoids after this workout.
- If I decided to become an electrician I would work exclusively on new build construction. No more crawling around in tight attic spaces. OK, I probably could not be that picky in the business, but I certainly would appreciate not crawling around in an attic!***
- Be patient. It will take you longer than you expect.
- Once you have the seal of approval from the electrician, the city agrees, power is on, appliances are running, and nothing is on fire it is official: YOU ARE A BADASS.
What tips have you learned while replacing any part of your electrical system?
*I am not going to start spouting off code regulations. It varies all over the country. Make sure you know the rules for your location before starting your project. However, I highly suggest a dedicated line for each of these appliances and locations: refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, disposal, each bathroom, and outside outlets.
**There is nothing comfortable or desirable about squeezing into the small angle where the roof is sloping to meet the ceiling below. Of course, we have outlets on every wall of a room. So you have to get there to replace outside wall wires too. It does give you an appreciation for the easy access in the middle of the house where the roof is soaring above your head!
Do you think any electrician went crawling around on their belly in the attic when installing this electrical system? Did it take more than 2 seconds to drop ANY line in a wall? Were they sweating bullets fully clothed in a closed up attic with no crosswind? HELL NO!
Even if it is 110 outside they are working in the shade with a crossbreeze. THIS IS A LUXURIOUS JOB SITE!!! (oh yes, I am clearly admitting my jealousy 😉 )
OK, it might have taken 30 seconds to drill a hole through the top plate. However, 30 seconds is well under the amount of time it takes to safely loop and secure new wire to an old wire and pull it to the attic.