From Ft. Collins to Pueblo, the Front Range real estate market is booming. Mortgage rates are still at historically low levels, home sales are at recent highs, and prices are climbing every day. This leads to impulse buying that can have serious pitfalls.
Allstar Electrical Service wants your new home to be a dream rather than a money pit, so here are some things to be sure you check in your inspection.
Today’s homes are built with 200-amp service fed by two 120-volt lines that provide 220-volt service for high-voltage appliances such as ranges, clothes dryers, water heaters, etc. and plenty of power for modern needs. But if the home you are looking at was built as recently as the 1970s, there are some things you need to check out before you buy.
When electrical service first became part of homebuilding in the 1880s, “knob-and-tube” wiring was typically installed until around the 1930s. If you see any “K&T” wiring, it needs to be replaced, and may indicate that expensive upgrades lie ahead. An older home may also have single-wire 120-volt service in which case 240-volt service won’t be available. It can be upgraded, but not for free.
Before 1950 homes usually had ungrounded two-wire service. If you have ANY two-pronged outlets, it’s a tip-off, but the former owners may have switched to three-prong fixtures to accommodate modern plugs without upgrading to three-wire grounded feeds. This presents a serious shock hazard. Ground-fault circuit interrupters require three-wire service and code requires this protection in any wet or damp locations, so you may be faced with a large bill to bring the property up to code.
Aluminum wiring was commonly used in the 1960s and ‘70s and presents some special concerns. While aluminum wiring is safe in itself, many connections to it are not and present a serious fire hazard. Be sure that all outlets, switches, and other connections are properly made with Consumer Products Safety Commission-approved materials such as Copalum. Most residential builders stopped using aluminum in the 1980s, but codes allowed contractors to use up the stocks they had on hand, so a home’s age isn’t a guarantee that there’s no aluminum wiring.
Commercial buildings may still use aluminum wiring, so if you’re converting one to residential use (or buying one for a business) be sure you know how it’s wired. Only a qualified electrician should work on aluminum wiring to protect your home and family.
Undersized Electrical Service
Newer homes generally have sufficient outlets and power to run all your appliances and gadgets, but if the service is under 200 amps, you might be facing an expensive upgrade. Overloading circuits results in annoying breaker trips or blown fuses at best, and can cause devastating fires at worst.
Older homes with less service also may have entire rooms on the same circuit causing lights to dim or circuits to trip when large appliances such as refrigerators come on. If you suspect your prospective home may have less service than you need (including any additions or remodeling you plan), call Allstar Electrical for a professional assessment and estimate of the costs you may incur in upgrading. It’s important information to have when you offer and negotiate.
These and other potential electrical problems should be noted by a qualified home inspector, but it’s important to choose your inspector carefully and be there during the inspection to ask questions. If you find potential problems, or if you’re at all uncomfortable with the home inspection, Allstar Electrical’s Residential Service Division will gladly inspect the home’s wiring and electrical service and give you a thorough, professional assessment of its condition and any concerns you should be aware of.
Allstar Electrical brings over 25 years’ experience in working with designers, builders and contractors into play for you. Why risk annoying problems and costly surprises? Contact the pros at Allstar Electrical Service today to schedule an appointment to review your prospective home’s electrical needs before you make an expensive mistake. It’s as simple as calling 303.399.7420 or using our online service request, available anytime, day or night.