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Should I upgrade outlets in a 1971 house?


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01-11-17, 11:22 AM   #1 (permalink)  
Should I upgrade outlets in a 1971 house?

I'm trying to get some practice doing electrical things around the house. I'm going to try and add a light and switch in the basement near my new workbench, so I've been wondering about doing some other things also for practice.

A few months ago I blew out two outlets and had to have an electrician come in a fix them and when I asked him something about upgrading outlets or wiring or something he said "Well, where do you want me to start?"

Everything seems to work fine and all the outlets are 3 prong, but is there anything I could do to upgrade them? Is it worth the time, etc?

What about putting GFCI's in kitchen?


Thanks

 
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01-11-17, 11:40 AM   #2 (permalink)  
If plugs fit tightly they are okay. If plugs fit loosely I'd change them out because it can cause over heating are even burning of the plug. Also be sure all wires are on the screws, no in back, and only one wire per screw.
What about putting GFCI's in kitchen?
Definitely. Best you need two dedicated 20 amp receptacle only (no lights) circuits. A dishwasher or garbage disposal should not be on either of the kitchen receptacle circuits.


I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.

 
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01-11-17, 11:50 AM   #3 (permalink)  
Adding gfi protection in the areas where the code requires it in new construction also applies to when changing receptacles out in old construction. It also will enhance safety.

The same applies to AFCI protection. IIRC it may apply to adding tamper resistant devices also.


All answers based on National Codes. Please check with your local building departments for local amendments.

 
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01-11-17, 12:23 PM   #4 (permalink)  
Thats going to be difficult to find out for me at this stage (2 20 amp circuits dedicated, etc). Also, while I'm at it. Should I buy and voltmeter and multimeter?

Is there a way to map out my house circuits other than tracing them physically? Can I purchase a map? lol

Excuse my ignorance, I'm just learning all this stuff from scratch, but it's fun ..... until I get electrocuted! lol

Maybe I should slow down a little ...

 
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01-11-17, 12:40 PM   #5 (permalink)  
Most houses are not wired with plan drawn by an architect. Mapping out the circuits will take some time, and will go faster with a helper. Breaker finders are available, but still require you to move the transmitter around the house.


All answers based on National Codes. Please check with your local building departments for local amendments.

 
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01-11-17, 12:42 PM   #6 (permalink)  
Should I buy and voltmeter and multimeter?
Voltage measurement is a function of a multimeter. By an analog not digital multimeter. Analog because digital can give misleading readings due to induced or capacitive voltages. An $8-$15 analog multimeter is all you need. I wouldn't even buy a non contact tester. They have very limited use and often give false positives.
Thats going to be difficult to find out for me at this stage (2 20 amp circuits dedicated, etc)
Not hard just look at your breaker box. What is the number on the breakers for the kitchen receptacles. Do they also have lights on them?
Is there a way to map out my house circuits other than tracing them physically?
No easy way to do that and no reason to do that. You just need to know what is on each breaker. Just choose a single pole breaker, turn it off, and make a list of every thing that is dead. Turn it on and repeat with the next breaker. Easy to check receptacles with a lamp or multimeter. Remember when checking receptacles some may be controlled by a switch or half controlled by a switch. You may want to make a simple test light for receptacles by adding a plug to a two wire lamp holder.

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I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.

 
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01-11-17, 01:29 PM   #7 (permalink)  
You can also plug in a radio turned up. Go to the panel and flip breakers until the radio goes off. Identify circuit. Also look to see what else is now dead. Leave first circuit off and repeat process. Each time you identify a circuit leave it off to avoid duplicating effort.


All answers based on National Codes. Please check with your local building departments for local amendments.

 
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01-11-17, 07:13 PM   #8 (permalink)  
Thanks ray, I'll do that as soon as I get some free time. What if the 20 amp circuits DO have lights on them?

We don't have a dishwasher, but a we DO have a PIG, and of course fridge, oven and microwave in Kitchen.

Now I'm also learning about dedicated circuits and I just read that CODE says each kitchen appliance such as FRIDGE, STOVE, etc and the DRYER (that's all I have in that category) should each have their own dedicated circuit. I'm gonna have to test this out, but I thought when I switched the power to install the LED light above the kitchen sink that the FRIDGE went out also. Not positive though, just going on memory. So a dedicated circuit means that one of the switches on the panel should say FRIDGE and THAT'S IT on that one circuit?

 
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01-11-17, 07:30 PM   #9 (permalink)  
Should you do it, yes for safety reasons.
It's amazing how changing these to Decora style modernizes the house.
I would also change all your Heat/AC registers. It's a small change that makes a difference in appearance.

 
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01-11-17, 07:33 PM   #10 (permalink)  
The dryer and stove are dedicated circuits. The refrigerator can share the counter top circuits.

 
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01-11-17, 07:44 PM   #11 (permalink)  
Thanks guys!

I have baseboard heat that I think has hot water go through them. You can see how knowledgeable I am lol! Do those take electricity? Wow, I really need to get with it!

On second thought I think OIL goes through them. I also DON'T have a separate HOT WATER HEATER, but just a boiler. So I assume that the boiler makes hot water? Actually on 3rd thought! ..... maybe HOT WATER goes into the heater to heat them? Can someone help me out here?

 
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01-11-17, 07:47 PM   #12 (permalink)  
Baseboard heat can v be fed from a hot water bolier or can be electric.

Electric heaters can be straight resistance elements or hydronic which are fluid filled.

 
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01-11-17, 07:52 PM   #13 (permalink)  
"The dryer and stove are dedicated circuits. The refrigerator can share the counter top circuits."


I sure HOPE they are. I have a bad feeling maybe the wiring in this house is all screwed up! Oh GOD that would be a big project for me to rewire the whole house! I remember when I asked the electricians about a few months ago about possible things that could use upgrading with the electrical system and he said "Where do you want me to start?" ......

 
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01-11-17, 08:02 PM   #14 (permalink)  
I was referring to forced gas air registers/vents.
In a newly bought house, built in 1971, look for items that date the house and are fairly inexpensive to change.

 
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01-11-17, 08:22 PM   #15 (permalink)  
Thanks, I've got one in the kitchen floor, but it's not used and you can see right down into the basement looking through it.

 
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01-11-17, 08:43 PM   #16 (permalink)  
Does the home have aluminum wiring? 1971 was pretty much right in the middle of that era, I believe.

 
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01-11-17, 08:47 PM   #17 (permalink)  
"Does the home have aluminum wiring? 1971 was pretty much right in the middle of that era, I believe. "

I don't believe so. All the wires I see in the basement say 14/2 and stuff on them and are a white cable.

 
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01-11-17, 08:58 PM   #18 (permalink)  
and are a white cable.
So was aluminum cables. You have to look at the color of the actual wire.


I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.

 
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01-11-17, 09:23 PM   #19 (permalink)  
#14?is too small for aluminum. You need #12 aluminum for a 15 amp circuit.

 
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01-11-17, 09:28 PM   #20 (permalink)  
"
and are a white cable.
So was aluminum cables. You have to look at the color of the actual wire. "

From what I remember when I was replacing the kitchen light it was bronze colored, but I'll have to check again to be sure. Can I check near the PANEL somewhere instead of having to open a junction box and take off the wirenut?

 
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01-11-17, 09:51 PM   #21 (permalink)  
The cable sheath should be labeled every couple of feet.

 
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01-11-17, 10:14 PM   #22 (permalink)  
My mistake. #14 would not be aluminum. By brown if you mean copper color then yes it is copper.


I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.

 
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01-12-17, 08:09 AM   #23 (permalink)  
Can I check near the PANEL somewhere instead of having to open a junction box and take off the wirenut?
You can check the information on the sheath of the cables anywhere you have access to them. The names Kaiser and Alcoa were commonly printed on aluminum cables plus from what I recall, the word "aluminum" was prominently printed. From what you have already posted though, it doesn't sound like you have aluminum wiring.

 
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01-12-17, 11:50 AM   #24 (permalink)  
Here's the pics I took this morning. I've never heard of Cadillac Brand, but remember this is from 1971! I hope it's not aluminum!
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How old is this panel? Is it ok? It's an "enclosed panel" I guess it says.
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01-12-17, 04:28 PM   #25 (permalink)  
#14 so not aluminum. .


I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.

 
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01-12-17, 10:09 PM   #26 (permalink)  
Can I replace wire without a permit? Would there be any benefits to replacing this wire?

Tomorrow I'm going to start mapping the circuits to the panel. Is it ok to use black marker very small next to each switch to show what it operates?

 
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01-12-17, 10:35 PM   #27 (permalink)  
No reason to replace the cables.


I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.

 
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01-13-17, 04:42 AM   #28 (permalink)  
As for mapping each circuit, as mentioned before, I'd just turn on all lights etc, then turn off one breaker at a time, go inside & see what lights, clocks etc dont work. Check microwaves & anything like window air conditioners not in use at the time. See what all does NOT work while that breaker is off. Use a little meter or a lamp, radio etc to see which outlets dont work, then write down everything that doesnt work.

KEEP IN MIND, that some rooms share circuits. So be sure to check adjoining rooms. Our master bedroom is on one circuit, then half of the walls in the adjoining bedroom all on the same circuit. Then the other 2 walls & light are on the same circuit as the 3rd bedroom.
So, write down everything that is off while the first breaker is off. Once completed, turn breaker number 1 back on.... then turn off breaker number 2, & repeat. Do this for all the breakers.
Once done, you can make a spreadsheet or use a word processor on your computer to make a neat, tidy list of what is on every breaker. Then just tape that inside the breaker panel door.

I just did this when remodeling after a flood in 2016. I replaced all outlets & light switches in a 1970's home for updates. Labeled everything & its all neat now & every light switch & every outlet is neatly labeled.

Hope this helps.... good luck.

 
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01-13-17, 04:55 AM   #29 (permalink)  
Another thing I want you to be very careful with is, double light switches. In our dining room which joins our carport, there is a double light switch near the carport door. One switch works the dining room light switch & one works the carport light. What I learned the hard way, was they are on different circuits. I turned on the dining room light & turned off the breaker. The light went out. It never crossed my mind that a double light switch would be on two circuits/breakers. But the dining room light switch was on one circuit & the carport light was wired from another circuit/breaker. Once the breaker for the dining room was off, I went to work removing the switches. I don't think I need to go into a lot of detail about what happened next.

If you have a face plate with two light switches or two outlets behind it.... check it! Test it!... make sure! Do not assume!

 
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01-13-17, 07:45 AM   #30 (permalink)  
I use a spreadsheet to make my panel directory. You can get full page stickers and apply the sheet inside the door.

 
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