Does Your Home Have Enough Branch Circuits?

If you’re remodeling, adding on, or doing a full fixer-upper, you need to know if your existing electrical service will safely handle any new loads your project will add. 

First Things First

In order to supply power, you need to have power, and many older homes simply don’t have enough for today’s loads. The main service panel (the one where the power feed enters your home) will state its capacity in amperes (amps). Depending on your home’s age and size, this could be anywhere from 60 amps to 200 or more amps. If your service is less than 100 amps, you should consider upgrading, especially if you have (or are adding) things that draw a lot of current such as electric ranges, dryers, and water heaters, or central air conditioning and electric heat. A 60-amp circuit can only supply one 240-volt appliance and a limited number of branch circuits. 100-amp service can supply several 240-volt appliances as well as enough branch circuits for a medium-size home. 

Code Requirements and Restrictions

General living spaces (living rooms, dens, offices, bedrooms) need 3 watts of power for each square foot of space to supply basic lighting and outlets. Since that’s only 2.5 amps per 100 square feet, several rooms can be supplied from a single 15-amp circuit. But specialized rooms have specific code requirements.

  • Kitchens must have at least two 20-amp, 120-volt small appliance branch circuits that feed GFCI-protected receptacles above the countertops, and those circuits can’t supply other outlets, including those for lighting. An electric range or oven will need its own 240-volt dedicated circuit of sufficient amperage to handle its current load.
  • Laundry rooms must have one 20-amp, 120-volt circuit of their own, separate from lighting and receptacles in other rooms. Any outlet within 6 feet of a sink must be GFCI-protected. If you have an electric clothes dryer, it will need a dedicated 240-volt circuit.
  • Bathrooms call for a 20-amp, 120-volt branch circuit with GFCI-protected outlets. This circuit can supply outlets in multiple bathrooms, but not lighting, fans, or any outlets in other rooms. Alternately, a GFCI circuit can supply all of the outlets in a single bathroom, including lighting and fans, if no single load exceeds 10 amps.

Other specialized rooms such as workshops, garages, or sheds have their own code requirements, so be sure you understand your local building codes. While it may seem that electrical and building codes are needlessly complex and restrictive, they’re written with one goal in mind—safety. And it’s always cheaper to do it right the first time rather than to do it over.

Working on wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock and fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head. If you have any doubts about the project, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to handle it for you. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

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