Re: Is it worth updating the electrical system?





Bought a new air conditioner this weekend. Thought the higher BTU unit
might put too much of a strain on the circuit and cause it to blow a
fuse.
Turns out to be on a separate circuit from the air conditioner upstairs
and
didn't have any problem. Still, it got me thinking about this old fuse
box
down cellar. It's at least 30 years old or more and this may be the time
to
think about updating to a circuit breaker and rewiring some of the house.


Somebody installed a load center that uses FUSES 30 years ago! Doubt it,
you must be talking about circuit breakers. If it is a Fuse box, Upgrade
it at your earliest opportunity because it will not pass any inspection
where you upgrade a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom or garage conversion and
more. Some fuse boxes could be upgraded by just replacing the guts and not
the outer box.

My house is 40 YO and has and had an old style (I forget the brand)
breaker box. I ended up upgrading because AFCI breakers were simply not
available for that box and were required by code in any remodeled bedroom,
I also needed more slots for a new bathroom and kitchen upgrade and
outdoor lighting. A 100A box would have fit in the hole but I went with
200A for future flexibility and to have plenty of slots for upgrades. The
cost difference at that point was minimal especially since i DIY.

Checking the box tonight I noticed there were a couple 30 amp fuses and
the
rest were 20 amp fuses. I don't know much about electricity, but I have
a
feeling 30 amps is on the high side. Not only that, the outlets
throughout
the house are of the two prong variety. Whenever we plug in a 3 prong
object, we need to use an adapter. Nothing is properly grounded. The
television and computers are my biggest concern. Then again, I simply
turn
off the computer during any electrical storms.


30A is fine if it goes to the dryer on #10 or larger wire

Upgrading the box will not get ground to the receptacles, you would still
need to rip out the walls to replace the wire. Most people do this one
room at a time during major remodeling opportunities. It is not practical
to do it all at once but adding GFCI to each branch will help as they trip
much easier than the branch breakers

Ground is not there to protect your appliances, it is there to protect
you., Even if grounded, your computer should have a surge supressor. You
can get a whole house surge supressor to fit any of the new style boxes
almost any brand. Simply fits in 2 slots like a 220V breaker

Here's my dilemma. I am not really having any problems with the
electricity
in our house. Thus, the old adage. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix. I
figure it will be close to $2000 to update.

At least if you hire an electrician and there are not too many branch
circuits and the working conditions are favorable.

Its possible as a DIY, I did it, Just looked at it as a big connector on
my house. I spent about $400-$500 on the load center, new mast, new SE
conductors and all new breakers (4 were AFCI and expensive). A few books
on the topic and lots of planning made it come off smoothly.


My worry is that the 30 amp fuses are probably carrying too much of a
load
and could cause a fire. The other concern is the 'grounding'. I was
thinking I could address this issue separately and have an electrician
ground certain plugs. (I don't know if that makes sense or not.)

Add GFCI to critical locations. The receptacles have a ground hole and a
sticker to label that hole as not being connected to ground. These trip
under conditions more likely to be seen when a person gets shocked rather
than a 20A overload. It dosen't actually replace the ground but does
provide a significant improvement in safety for the upgraded locations.
Ask the electrician to elaborate. (these will not trip with a plug in
tester, you need to use the built in button)

Is there anything else I should be thinking about as to the value of
updating? Is 30 amps too much? Or, needless worry?

Depends only on the wire gague of the branch circuit it is connected to
and the rating of the receptacles it leads to. If they go to regular wall
sockets, replace with 20A or 15A depending on the wire gague. If it goes
to the dryer, this is normal and if you have an electric range it may also
go there but I would expect higher.

I'm having an electrician come in Wednesday to give me an estimate. I'm
sure he'll be of the opinion updating is necessary.

If it is a Fuse box, Watch his eyes bug out.

The electrician came to house today. This is what he said.

We have BX - armored cable thoughout the house.

He said the fuse panel has three 30 amp fuses that are all oversized. There
is no 10 guage wiring.

Three of the wires leaving the panel were 12 gauge. I think he said they
can support the 20 amp fuses.
Two of the wires were rated at 14 gauge which I believe he said only
supports 15 amps. None of the fuses in the box were 15 amp fuses.

There are a total of 8 circuits running off the panel. None of them are 10
gauge wire.

The fuse panel brand name is General. They don't sell that brand anymore.
The black double pull unit at the bottom didn't have any 30 amp fuses in it.

He would replace with a100 amp 'Murry' brand breaker (?). He said we don't
need 200 amp service and doubts we are using more than 50 amps as things
stand now. We don't have an electric stove, jacuzzi, electric dryer,
central air or a disposal unit.

There are at least 5 junction boxes down cellar. He would break them up and
put each outgoing wire on a separate circuit going back to the panel.

He gave me an estimate of $1600 for installation and materials.

It includes:
1. 100 amp breaker panel. He wasn't sure how many circuits. Perhaps 24.
2. 100 meter socket
3. PVC mast (for outside the house going to the electric company's system)
4. 2 ground rods
5. main ground to water pipe.

He told me to get a couple estimates from a couple other electricians and to
verify what he said about the system. I gather it's a good price.

Anyone care to offer an opinion or feedback... I'd appreciate it. Thanks!








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