Guide to Evaluating Electrical System

The recent health crisis in our region has convinced many young families living in highly populated compressed areas (a.k.a. cities) to leave in search of less affected, less crowded environs (a.k.a. suburbs) disproving the old adage ‘safety in numbers’. A recent spike in real estate statistics indicates a record number of city dwellers are opting out of their urban lifestyle for suburban home-ownership. Property values on the outskirts of NYC have begun ticking upward fueling an even greater buying frenzy of those seeking to get in at the early levels. If packing up and heading for the burbs appeals to your family or perhaps you are thinking of making your house more attractive to these would-be home buyers, here are some thoughts to keep in mind when assessing the electrical system of the home.  

In general, older homes, full of charm and ambiance, may also be hiding aging electrical systems thus requiring closer scrutiny. A quick trip to the electrical panel (usually in the basement or garage) can tell you so much about the entire wiring system. Some of the things to look for are:

·    Is the electrical panel composed of fuses or circuit breaker? Fuses are one-time devices requiring replacement each time they blow and they are leading indicators of aging equipment. Fuses started to become passé as early as 1960’s and were quickly replaced with the advent of circuit breakers.

·    Speaking of the 1960s circuit breakers, an early version known as ‘Federal Pacific’ is worth keeping an eye out for. As time passes, these early generation breakers fail to perform as originally designed. Most insurance companies now require the removal of Fed/Pac breakers as a prelude to issuing policies to new homeowners.

·    Is the main fuse or circuit breaker rated for 60, 100 or 200 amps? The higher the amperage the greater the capacity for expansion in the future with 200 amps being today’s preferred service size. Knowing what your needs will be in the years to come are important not-to-be overlooked considerations.

·    Is there any evidence of rust on or under the electrical panel? Water ingress in the panel is a serious consideration as everyone knows water and electricity are a poor mix.

·    Are the small circuit cables branching out from the panel armor or non-metallic cables (both acceptable wiring methods) or could the house have knob and tube wiring? Familiarizing oneself with dangers of knob and tube wiring is requisite when looking at older homes.  

·    Do you hear a hum or buzzing sound coming from the panel? Buzzing or humming could be arcing, a degenerative heating condition that spells some form of eminent failure.

·    Is the service cable on the outside of the house tattered or frayed?

·    If any of these questions prove to be too much, not to worry-a professional evaluation by a seasoned Lippolis Electric estimator is always just one phone call away. 914 738-3550.

Other questions you should ask as you tour the house are:

·    Are the wall outlets the old ‘2 prong’ variety and not 3 prong with a ground portal?

·    Are the wall outlets gummed up with paint and thus inaccessible?

·    Are the wall outlets tamper-resistant to keep out little curious fingers?

·    Are there enough outlets in each room? Today’s electrical code requires an ample supply of wall outlets where older building codes from the 1930’s and 40’s only required 2 outlet per room.

·    Are the outlets in the kitchen, bathrooms and outside GFCI protected?

·    Do all the switches and dimmers function correctly?

·    Are all the switches and dimmers on the same side of the doorway as the doorknob or are they hidden behind doors making them hard to find in the dark?

·    Is there enough lighting in each room, stairs and hallway?

As you will most likely discover, maintenance and upgrading of electrical components are not always at the top of every seller’s to-do list. So many factors go into the decision to purchase a home; some shoppers are looking for fixer-uppers while others want an updated, move-in ready residence. Whichever the case, when it comes to the electrical system, peace of mind and fear from potential fire are always on the top of the list. 

Lippolis Electric has been involved in this manner of work for 36 years and has built an industry-wide reputation of quality work backed with a safety record second to none. We are confident you will find us only too willing to help in whatever capacity you may require. 

Lippolis Electric, Inc. | 538 Route 22, Pawling, NY 12564 | 845-855-1426 |