By Jennifer Langfield
If you are contemplating a major remodel such as the addition of a room or garage, a new kitchen, a basement finish, or even adding a hot tub, you should consider upgrading your electrical service.
50-60 years ago, the average new home was equipped with a 60 amp electrical service. 40 years ago, it had increased to approximately 100 amps. The current home is built with a 150-200-amp service. Therefore, any home improvements you may decide to do on an older home will need an upgrade.
In addition, 2008 electrical code changes require that all new circuitry in homes have arc-fault/GFCI protection throughout the house. More than likely, this would require an upgrade to your electrical service.
In addition, many old-style distribution panels can be considered fire hazards, especially those with screw-in fuses. The contact points can degrade and often, oversized fuses are mistakenly installed, causing the potential for high currents on smaller grade wire. This can cause the conductor to overheat and the insulation to break down, which can be a fire hazard. In many areas, insurance companies will not renew homeowner insurance if the home is equipped with an electrical distribution panel that has screw-in fuses.
There are also some types of electrical panels that have been reported to fail calibration test requirements. There are several expert opinions about panels made by Federal Pacific and Zinsco. According to Douglas Hansen, Code Consultant, Expert Witness, Instructor, and Author (CodeCheck Series, “FPE Panels, Hazard or Hype?”):
“Federal Pacific panels have at least five design issues that are no longer allowed by code: the gutter space, the wire bending space, spring-mounted bus, breakers that are on when down, and the split bus service equipment. These issues mean that a panel that has been sitting on the hardware store shelf for 20 years would not meet today’s code, despite the UL listing of the panel at the time it was manufactured.”
We recommend that our customers who have these panels investigate the data that is available regarding the safety of these panels.
As you plan for remodeling projects in your home, if your current electrical service is less than 150 amps or if it has a distribution panel that uses screw-in fuses, its replacement should be at the top of your priority list. Please contact Specialized Electric Companyfor more information on electrical service upgrades or for more information on this article.