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Upgrading Your Electrical System

Location, location, location: Outdoor, kitchen and bathroom receptacles should be protected by a special ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) circuit breaker to guard against electrocution.

Because it is highly sensitive to any short, this type of breaker may need resetting more frequently than standard breakers and should be tested periodically by the homeowner by turning the circuit breaker off, then on.

Amperage: If you're remodeling an older home, odds are your local building department will require you to upgrade your electrical service to 100 amps. Why? It's to ensure that there's enough power in the home for all the modern electrical needs without causing a fire. Older homes didn't need to support so many appliances.

Ease of access: Metal stud framing is the easiest type and least expensive of home construction for electricians to work with because holes are already pre-drilled. Conventional wood framing is the next easiest and because the wood simply has to be drilled to allow wires through and there are spaces between walls.

Logs are the third easiest, hollow walls are non-existent and once a conduit is in place there is little room for error or change. Concrete is the most difficult. Conduits must be pre-set before concrete is poured and like logs there is little room for error or change.

Fixtures: A ceiling fixture provides general lighting for high-use areas, such as entrances, hallways, bedrooms, kitchens, baths, family rooms, and laundry and work rooms. Bulbs may be incandescent or fluorescent. A pendant light, hung from a cord or chain, typically offers task or general lighting for a table or counter.

Strip lighting provides task lighting in the bathroom or at a vanity. Wall-mounted fixtures can supply general lighting, provide dramatic accents, or serve as task lighting.

Recessed can fixtures, installed in the ceiling, may be fitted with incandescent, compact fluorescent, or low-voltage bulbs. Depending on the bulb and trim used, they can throw a tight spot or a broad beam. Track lighting is very flexible. Individual fixtures are fitted onto a surface-mounted or suspended track and may be adjusted to throw light in any direction.

Current: A note about 220-volt current and appliances. Most standard home electrical circuits are on a 120-volt line. To run major appliances and heavy electrical equipment, you need 220-volt current in the house. And unless your clothes dryer runs on gas, it will require a 220-volt outlet to operate, so it's necessary to upgrade to 220 to handle this kind of appliance.