ISO electrical expertise
May 18, 2012 12:53 PM Subscribe
I just bought a house (yay!) and I need some schoolin' by educated mefites about the relative importance of various electrical upgrades my inspector recommended. If you're an electrician, a handyman with electrical expertise, or just a homeowner that's been through this, I'd love some thoughts on what is worth spending $$$ to upgrade now, versus not that important.
posted by iminurmefi to home & garden (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
To head it off at the pass: there wasn't anything life- or house-threatening that the inspector found in the electrical system. It's just an older house (1950s-vintage) with 60-amp service and un-upgraded electrical stuff that the inspector said "you might want to upgrade at some point." We're not planning on doing it ourselves, and what I'm really looking for is some educated opinions about how to prioritize or think about the necessity of some of these upgrades BEFORE I have an electrician come out and give me quotes.
The things that the inspector recommended we consider are:
1. Replacing the panel and/or upgrading the 60 amp panel to 200 amp service (I'm not sure if this is the same thing). It's a small house (brick, one-story, less than 1500 sq ft) without AC and I'm hoping to avoid installing it. The panel has some double-tapped wiring and no room for more breakers, so this was pretty high on the inspector's list of things to take care of. He also recommended moving the panel from the main floor, where it is behind the refrigerator (which slides in and out pretty easily) to the basement, in order to make it easier to access. I'm much less sure if the cost of moving the panel is really worth it, especially away from the main floor where we will do most of our living and to the downstairs basement.
2. Lots of 2-prong and ungrounded outlets throughout the house. I'm not sure how big of a deal this is or what the potential fixes are. I know that it's safer to have grounded outlets but I am having a hard time evaluating HOW much safer, or if it's a big deal in my home office (with router/computer/printer) than in my bedroom (where the only thing plugged in is my alarm clock).
3. The inspector recommended maybe adding GFCI outlets "where needed." Talk to me like I'm stupid: what's the difference between adding GFCI outlets and upgrading old 2-prong and ungrounded outlets? Is this the same thing? Kitchen outlets aren't GFCI, but I think the bathroom outlets are. Is it important to upgrade the kitchen outlets to GFCI? What about office/bedroom/living room?
4. One of the outlets in the living room has reversed polarity. I know this indicates shoddy work, but is it really dangerous? The first electrician who gave us a quote for everything on the list wanted to charge $150 to fix this, which seems.... high.
Generally, we're doing a bunch of repairs over the next 2-3 weeks before we move in, and my thinking is that if I don't get this taken care of now then it's not going to get easier to find the money and deal with getting quotes. (So I want to upgrade in a smart way that doesn't assume I'll be doing a lot of upgrades later.) On the other hand, we're having to re-roof and re-gutter the place, plus put in a radon remediation system, so I don't particularly want to throw thousands of dollars at electrical upgrades that aren't needed given that it's a tiny house without AC.
Google is useful for looking up specific terms, but metafilter really shines at helping put this stuff in context and provide a framework for how I should be thinking of things. Help me make good decisions that I won't regret later!