Advice needed for old house

Old 08-04-04, 08:18 AM
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Question Advice needed for old house

My husband and I just bought a 3 br 2 bath house that was built in 1960. It is on a 60 amp service and its circuits are not grounded. We are concerned about using our computers without proper grounding, and would like to at least have GFI in the kitchen and bathrooms. The electricians we spoke with said an estimate to upgrade to 100 amp service and ground our wiring would be about $3000, but after having one out for a more formal estimate it looks like we will spend about $4500. This seems very high to me, is this normal? Is there a cheaper way to ensure the safety of our electronic equipment?
Old 08-04-04, 08:29 AM
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Your computers need a good ground to work properly. This is especially true if yopu plan to use a syrge protector and/or a UPS, which is how you should use them.

However, to save money you don't have to properly ground every recepticle in the house. The ones in your kitchen may already be grounded, for example, and you can install a GFCI recepticle yourself.

You only need to add grounding to the recepticles where you intnd to use the computers, or other electronic equipment that needs grounding.

You may find that you even want to leave the existing circuits alone, and simply have a few new circuits run to supply the computers and other electronics.
Old 08-04-04, 09:31 AM
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That's a pretty typical and very loose estimate. It could mean just about anything. I just rewired my house (build in 1926) after a highly recomended electrician quoted me $8500 to rewire the main floor, and run new receptacles and wire for the basement I'm finishing. Overall it cost me about $1200 to do it myself (materials - new wire, new breaker panel, recessed lighting fixtures for basement, outlets, switches, etc.).

First, I wouldn't recomend spending that money for just an 100 amp service. I'd plan on bringing it to a 200 amp service if the local power company has supplied you with such from the street. Call them to find out what type of service you have to the house. Sometimes you can go outside and look at your meter, and tell. Chances are if you ask they'll send someone out to check your meter, and tell you free of charge. Otherwise it may be worth finding out if they can give you 200 amps from the transformer on the street. They may split the cost with you, or even do it for free if they're upgrading the neighborhood anyway.

Deciding to go with 200 amps rather than 100 amps shouldn't change your estimate at all (with exception of the new panel box). You'd need a new 200 amp breaker panel, but you need a new panel anyway if your service is 60 amps, and either has obsolete breakers in it, or happens to be a breaker panel no one uses any more (like a split-bus panel, or a panel with no main breaker).

The bulk of the time and money for these kinds of jobs goes into replacing the receptacles (outlets, lights, and switches) which may include replacing the boxes themselves, and running wire if need be.

Another concern is the type of wire. Between the 1960s and 1980s aluminum wire was used instead of copper. Sometimes it was copper plated alumninum to make it even more confusing. Aluminum has different heating and conducting properties, but it can corrode, and become brittle if exposed to oxygen whereas copper may darken with age, but it won't become brittle like aluminum will. Inspect your wire, determine what type you have, and learn about outlets, switches, and plan out your existing wiring (know what outlets, lights and switches are on every circuit, and what amps they are, and what guage wire they're using). Go get a basic wiring book at your local home center, and get some graph paper and some sharpie pens of different colors, and draw out your floor plan on every floor with lines indicating where you think the wires are. This will allow you to plan better. If you have aluminum wiring I'd have it inspected to make sure it's still in good shape, and maybe plan on replacing it.

If you have attic and basement space that is unfinished, and your house is basically one floor it will be a lot easier than you think (mine is a single story craftsman home, with an unfinished attic and basement, so I was able to do a lot of hole drilling and running of wire without busting out plaster). It gets complicated when you have finished attics and basements, or multiple floors that act as living spaces, because it means cutting drywall or plaster, running wire with fish tape, or hiding it behind the the time and labor will go up, which translates to more $$$.
Old 08-04-04, 10:38 AM
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Probably wouldn't hurt to look at what your electrical needs and plans are and come up with an informed estimate of the needed size, but when in doubt 200 amps is about the best you can get. On the other hand, if you're only real goal is to get a ground wire, a house built in 1960 has a good chance of having a ground wire in the cables. In many cases they were attached to the metal receptacal boxes and 2 prong outlets were installed. The wiring may also be installed in grounded metal conduit. Did the electrician who gave you the site estimate check for either of these? Not that an overall upgrade isn't a good idea, but you may not really need anything but a new outlet.

Doug M.
Old 08-04-04, 01:39 PM
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It MAY more correct to state that "the receptacles are not Grounded"; i.e., the existing receptacles re 2-slot, non-Grounding recepacles.

If the existing Wiring Method (W-M)does not provide an Equiptment Grounding Conductor(EGC), the wiring may have to be re-placed.This condition is very unusual and seldom encountered,especialy in a 60's house.

If the existing W-M is "old" Armored Cable, then you can connect 3-slot Grounding-type receptacles.You may have Type NM cable as the W-M, and this cable has a bare EGC for connecting Grounding-type receptacles.

The phrase "circuits not Grounded" is vauge and confusing, and must be more specific. What is it? cables without an EGC (very un-likely), or non-Grounding type receptacles. I suggest you discuss this issue with the bidders.

Good Luck & Enjoy the Experience!!!!!!!!!!

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