How to Update Home Electrical Service

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If you own an older home, prior to 1980, chances are you need an electrical upgrade. Most homes from this time period were constructed with fuse boxes to distribute power. Although a fuse box works well for its intended purpose, today's electrically driven technology is too much load for a small fuse box to handle. The risk of fire increases with every device you plug in to an old electrical circuit. The only safe alternative is to install a new electrical service, which uses circuit breakers for protection.

Things You'll Need

  • Electrical panel
  • Screw drivers
  • Allen wrench
  • Masking tape
  • Cordless drill
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Wire strippers

Before Changing Fuse Box

  • Call your local building code office. Speak with the electrical inspector and ask what is required, by code, when installing a new electrical panel. Write down all pertinent information to use as a reference.

  • Contact your electrical service provider. Schedule a time and date to have the power turned off and turned back on to your home. Allow enough time to finish the project before scheduling a turn-on time. Be present during the shut-off time, to make sure power is in fact off before you begin any work.

  • Inspect your fuse box. Count the number of fuses inside. This is the number of electrical circuit breakers you need to attain.

  • Purchase a new electrical panel from any home-improvement store. Check the box to see if it has the correct number of circuit breakers. If not, purchase additional breakers.

Take Out the Fuse Box

  • Remove the cover from the fuse box. Use a screwdriver to losen any screws from the cover, and place it aside.

  • Detach all the wires inside the fuse box. Use a screwdriver to loosen the screws that hold the wires in place. Use an allen wrench to loosen service wires.

  • Wrap masking tape around each wire that is attached to a fuse. Label the individual wires with the room name they power.

  • Unscrew the fuse box from the wall using a cordless screwdriver.

  • Pull the fuse box away from the wall, while feeding the wires out at the same time.

Install the New Service Panel

  • Measure the length and width of the new panel to make sure it will fit in the space provided. Make any adjustments needed to the space.

  • Knock out the proper size and number of prefabricated holes in the panel. Use a screwdriver and hammer or pliers to accomplish this.

  • Place wire connectors in each hole you knocked out. Use either locknut or pop-in type connectors. For locknut type connectors, unscrew the locknut and place the connector, threaded end first, through the outside to the inside of the panel. Replace locknut. Pop-in type connectors push into place by hand.

  • Replace all wires back inside the panel, and slide it into place. Secure, by inserting screws in the holes provided along the inside edges of the panel.

  • Attach the service entrance wires, grounds, and neutral wires to their appropriate places. Service entrance wires will be the largest wires. Grounds are bare copper or green in color. Neutral wires are white or gray.

  • Install the correct number of circuit breakers. Circuit breakers screw or snap into place.

  • Insert each remaining wire in its designated breaker. Strip off 3/4 inches of sheathing from the end of each wire. Loosen the screws in the side of the breakers and insert the wires. Tighten the screws.

  • Punch out the correct number of place holders in the panel cover that matches the number of circuit breakers you installed. Use a pair of pliers for this step.

  • Attach the panel cover with the screws provided.

  • Turn on the main breaker and each circuit breaker, once the power company has restored electrical service to your home. Check each circuit for appropriate power.

Tips & Warnings

  • Learn to use a volt meter to check for appropriate power, once your installation is complete.
  • Check all of your electrical connections before restoring power to your home.

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References

  • Photo Credit electrician image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com
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