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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    ma
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    Arrow Looking to buy an older house - questions on the electrical system..

    Hi there,

    I'm looking into purchasing an older house (1957 4BR colonial) - the previous owners had lived there for over 50 years - as such the electrical system is pretty much untouched from what I can tell. This is a big concern for me however I have no idea what it actually implies. The upstairs does not appear to be grounded (original 2 prong outlets) and the electrical box is fuses vs breakers (I am attaching an image).

    Generally, what kind of work is necessary to 'modernize' this system? I'd have a contractor due it of course - however I don't want to dive into this house if this project will break the bank. Thanks for any help!!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by petes99; 12-02-2009 at 11:17 AM. Reason: fixing age of house

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    jersey
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    Default Re: Looking to buy an older house - questions on the electrical system..

    This is an area where opinions could vary greatly, so consider this as only my opinion of the matter.

    I can give you aproximate prices of what I would charge here in NJ as they will be similar to Mass.

    Clearly based on the picture the panel and likely the service needs to be replaced, and probably upgraded.
    assuming its overhead replaceing the riser with copper wire in schedule 40 pvc, meter pan disco and Cutler Hammer Main Lug panel between 2200 and 3000 based on number of circuits and lentgth of wire. Including arc fault breakers. that would include updateing the grounding.

    The wire I see in the picture below the panel is a non metalic and not knob and tube. that could be good, theres likely an equipment ground present but considering the age I would test all branch circuits with a meggar and replace as needed replaceing and grounding all devices as needed. because this is done "as needed" its harder to put a dollar amount on it but somewhere between 1000 and 2500.

    that bring everything exhisting up to date. Next you would likely need line voltage interconnected smoke detectors in bedrooms etc. probably around 600 - 800

    Then you should address what you need to ADD to the electrical system to accomadate for modern needs. Such as additional counter top outlets tv outlets etc.
    conservitavely 500 - 800 but could be higher if you wanted to add say a bunch of recessed or under cabinet lighting etc.
    this is a also a good time to consider some green options such as LED lighting energy star fixtures or even solar (all more expensive but good investments)
    The good news is that once all that is done a good contractor would give you a written transferable warranty on the entire electrical system for no less then 10 years.

    I could see that being as much as 20% higher in some new england states. This is only my opinion and as my signiture says I'm just some guy on the internet.

    I do suggest doing it all at once tho. It will be cheaper in the long run, unless your doing it yourself.

    summed up I would expect to see bids between 5000 and 25000 but the work could be reasonably achieved (here in New Jersey) for around 7500 to 10,000

    of course, There are many other things to consider before going ahead with the purchase and ultimately I would NOT buy it without haveing an electrician you trust look it over first.

    Good luck I hope this doesnt discourage you, older houses should be saved, these new mcmansions may be big but they have no character at all.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    wisconsin
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    Default Re: Looking to buy an older house - questions on the electrical system..

    ditto.. get a few electricans to get ya quotes. good luck

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Looking to buy an older house - questions on the electrical system..

    You didn't mention what the main fuse is rated. If it is 100 amps there are a few things you might want to take into consideration. Unless you are planing to upgrade to commercial equipment in the kitchen and the house has electric heat, the 100amp service is generally more than enough for a normal sized house.

    Breakers are no more safe than fuses, they are just more convenient.

    90% of the small appliances you use in a home have 2 pronged plugs so having a ground bond in the outlet will provide little additional safety. Replacing with GFCI receptacles will provide you with a modicum of safety.

    If the ground electrode is installed and bonded, installing individual circuits to sensitive electronic equipment like computers and some TVs may be all that is needed.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  5. #5
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    wisconsin
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    Default Re: Looking to buy an older house - questions on the electrical system..

    he does make a good point on the fact that breakers are no more safe than fuses, as long as there sized correctly. however people put the wrong breakers in too. in our area, though most home owners insurance want to see the breaker box. ive had to change out many friends services for the insurance company. just something to think about.

  6. #6
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    Sep 2009
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    jersey
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    Default Re: Looking to buy an older house - questions on the electrical system..

    Quote Originally Posted by JLMCDANIEL View Post
    You didn't mention what the main fuse is rated. If it is 100 amps there are a few things you might want to take into consideration. Unless you are planing to upgrade to commercial equipment in the kitchen and the house has electric heat, the 100amp service is generally more than enough for a normal sized house.

    Breakers are no more safe than fuses, they are just more convenient.

    90% of the small appliances you use in a home have 2 pronged plugs so having a ground bond in the outlet will provide little additional safety. Replacing with GFCI receptacles will provide you with a modicum of safety.

    If the ground electrode is installed and bonded, installing individual circuits to sensitive electronic equipment like computers and some TVs may be all that is needed.
    Jack
    I dont disagree entirely. Only in that the op asked what would be involved in "modernize" I beleive the point is moot tho because it was built in 57 and it used nm so there is likely a ground conductor present. Your method would indeed cost much less.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Looking to buy an older house - questions on the electrical system..

    Quote Originally Posted by Lloyd View Post
    I dont disagree entirely. Only in that the op asked what would be involved in "modernize" I beleive the point is moot tho because it was built in 57 and it used nm so there is likely a ground conductor present. Your method would indeed cost much less.
    My point is that just because you see a fuse box doesn't mean it isn't usable and "modernizing" may add little if any benefit. If the fuse box is a problem replacing just it with a breaker box may be all that is needed.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

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