Before you embark on a home makeover, consider your home’s electrical system and plan for it in the budget.
Many homeowners don’t think about their electrical system until it doesn’t perform like it should, or as they tackle some remodeling, when they find out that they need some electrical upgrades to support both newer codes and the changes they want.
Do you need more power outlets to charge various devices? Do you need a new appliance installed? Do you need more light?
If you answered yes to any of these, you should first check to see if your electrical panel has the capacity for any upgrades you want or need. In about 25 percent of all homes, some type of panel upgrade is needed before new wiring can be installed.
Comparing what you have vs. what you will need
Here’s an example. Take a few minutes to go through your kitchen, and think about how you use electricity. What do you wish you had?
Countertop microwaves and small appliances like coffeemakers, toasters, and Crock Pots can simply be plugged in to a regular outlet. Any outlets over the countertop will need to be 20 amps, and GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter)-protected. (The definition of “countertop” is any counter that is 12 inches wide or more.) Islands and peninsulas must have at least one outlet available as well.
Twenty amps is the required rating for each outlet’s circuit – but many older homes in the Washtenaw County area have 15-amp ratings.
Most homeowners add more light when remodeling, too. Note where you might want switches for new lighting to be located, and if you will want dimmers, remote-control lighting, or any three-way switches.
Something else to keep in mind is that older circuitry often ties rooms together, which does not meet code anymore. Have an electrician double-check that any new switches or outlets that will be put in are each for a dedicated room.
What about large appliances?
Keep in mind that any built-in appliances like dishwashers, microwaves, vent hoods, and garbage disposals – basically, anything with a motor – each needs its own circuit. This means they need to be plugged in, with a removable plug, into a dedicated outlet for their power.
Local electrical codes are getting more strictly enforced in 2020, and appliance installers are following manufacturers’ recommendations for power requirements. Before you buy a large appliance, check the owner’s manual or ask your appliance salesperson for information on its electrical needs.
How do I estimate how much power I will need?
To help you determine the house’s overall needs, ask yourself:
• Does your neighborhood lose power often? Will you need an outlet for a generator?
• Do your lights dim, or do breakers trip, when certain appliances are used?
• Do you have an electric vehicle that needs charging while it’s parked?
• Do you use electric yard tools?
• Are your smoke alarms hard wired, or not?
Look for open circuit breaker slots in your main circuit breaker panel. You will need one open slot for each new circuit that you plan to install. If your panel has no open slots, you will need to have a sub-panel installed, or you may need a completely new panel. An electrician is the best person to make that call.
Homes that are 20-30 years old or older, particularly if you have central air systems or electric heat, will usually need an upgrade to a 200-amp electrical panel in order to safely power everything in the house. Look on the inside of the door of your breaker box to determine what the amperage of your panel is.
This reference chart can help you determine how much power each appliance in your home uses. Add it all up to get the total power usage of your home.
Safety is our first concern at DreamMaker. Talk to one of our designers to find out how we can help you accommodate your family’s remodeling needs. Call 669-4000 or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).