Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We-Design-Day: Interior Fittings - Electrical Systems (week 2)

The electrical systems in our home are an important aspect to the home study. Often, with the things we can't see in our homes, we forget about it. This, I think, is pretty common with the electrical system. Considering that one hundred years ago, homes with electricity were not common, it isn't too surprising to overlook one of the most used pieces of our home!

Let's look at the parts of your electrical system so we can understand how it fits in and what kind of maintenance and work may be required as part of our home evaluation system.

The electricity that powers your home comes in through the main service head from the outside. Depending on where you live and the age of your home, it can be delivered to your home either above ground or underground. It is fed into the home via a meter - the meter is the junction point and how the utility company finds out how much power you are using. It comes into your house and drops into your service panel (also referred to an electrical panel). This is the metal box that hangs on the wall at some part of your house and from it, wires run throughout your home and feed all your electrical needs.

The electrical panel is the place to start. A few things can be told by looking at your panel. Depending on the vintage of your home, the panel may or may not be fused. If your home is about 40 years old or older (and not had it's electrical upgraded) it is likely your home has a fused panel. This means that all the circuits in your home have a fuse protecting it. When the circuit is overloaded, the fuse will blow and require replacing before it will work again. Newer panels (that are not fused) have a breaker, the breaker will trip if overloaded and simply resetting the breaker will fix the outage of power caused. If your panel is a fuse style, add it to your list to be updated. Although it still works and is reliable, fuse panels are "old" technology and improvements have been made and new breaker panels are safer.

Next, check to see if you can identify the type of drop into your panel. Prior to the 1960's (in Canada, at least), drops to panels were generally 60amp. This amperage, with all the new technology we all have in our homes (televisions, computers, home theatres, etc) is insufficient. Upgrading to 100amp is preferred and although a costly endeavor, it too is important to the function and comfort of your home. Some homes are even employing 200amp drops - I suppose a lot of this depends on the service available in your area and your demand on the system.

While looking at your panel, if you can, take a look at the conduit (big, thick silver looking pipe that carries the power to your panel). If you see the letters "AL" or the word "Aluminum" on the pipe, you very well may have aluminum wiring. This style of wiring was commonly used between 1950 and the late 1970's. Again, this is something that is in need of replacement. New code, new developments in technology all suggest this is important to correct. When we were house shopping, my other Mom went with me. Her experience in home insurance inspections was what first alerted me to the issues with this type of wiring. It can be a fire hazard.

The three aforementioned items are the "big ticket" items, other considerations include knob and tube wiring (used more commonly in homes built before 1930). If your home has this, it too should be factored in to your study and replaced.

Duplex outlets, light switches and light fixtures are all part of your electrical system and at some point, will need to be refreshed in your home. The how and when are up to you, your use of them and their function.

I do not expect (or recommend) anyone to do anything "electrical" - the electrics in your home (much like your mechanical system) can be dangerous and it is imperative that only qualified and certified personnel work on the systems. This is one area where it is life or death and is not worth trying to "DIY". I have no issue with replacing a light fixture, exchanging an outlet or maybe even wiring a new light, anything more than that and I always recommend a professional.

Thanks for reading today - next week, we are going to wrap up the Interior Fittings portion of our study.

More Reading:
US Department of Energy
More on Aluminum wiring

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...