Electrical Upgrade for an Old House
LESLIE: Jason in Delaware is on the line and needs some help with an electrical update at their money pit. Tell us what’s going on.
JASON: Hi. Well, let’s see. We bought an older home: probably like 1940, 1950. It’s a great home. No doubt about it. We thought we were going to have a bunch of problems: we thought we were going to have to replace the roof, we thought we were going to have to replace the foundation. But it’s pretty much like somebody built the house and never really lived in it.
TOM: I think we’re getting to a “but.” Everything’s great but what’s happening?
JASON: But the breaker box is outdated. And the total cost of replacing that – hiring a certified and professional contractor and everyone – the electrician to do it – is going to cost us around $5,000.
TOM: Alright. Why do you say it’s outdated? What’s wrong with it?
JASON: It’s a 100-amp box.
JASON: And you can’t run more than two air conditioners in the house at one time.
TOM: Take a breath. I’ve got great news for you, alright?
JASON: What’s that?
TOM: You don’t have central air, right? You’re running window units?
JASON: Window units.
TOM: You do not need a new panel. A hundred amps is way more than enough power to run that house. What you need …
LESLIE: Unless you’re planning on making those updates.
TOM: Yeah. What you need are some new circuits, which are easier to run.
TOM: You see, the reason you’re tripping those breakers is because whatever circuit those air conditioners are on is pulling more power than that one circuit can handle.
Now, most circuits that go to bedrooms, for example, are 15-amp circuits. You put an air conditioner or two on a 15-amp circuit, it’s going to pop, especially an older air conditioner that’s not as energy-efficient, because it’s going to start pulling more power. And if you happen to have those two air conditioners on the same circuit, there’s not a chance that you’re going to be able to run that when you have to.
What you do is you add more circuits. So you add another circuit that’s just for that air conditioner, from the point where it’s installed to the panel. Put that on its own 15-amp circuit and there you have it; you’re done. No $5,000 for a new panel.
See, this is another example – when electricians come in and they size you up and they give you a price on doing a job that you really don’t need. A hundred amps is a lot of power. I doubt in a house that’s probably gas-fired – is that right? It’s gas-powered?
TOM: So you have a gas-powered house, so you’ve got gas heat, gas stove, gas water heater. You know, if you pulled 30 amps when everything was running in that house, I’d be surprised. So you don’t need a new box; you need more circuits.
JASON: OK. Well, thank you, guys, so very much.