Power Up - Page 3

As your home's electrical demands climb, its aging original system edges deeper into the danger zone
Power Up
Power Up
Two photos of an extensive electrical upgrade in conjunction with re-roofing. This Eichler awaits a new foam roof from Dura-Foam Solar Center, which will encapsulate all this new conduit and wiring.
Power Up
Power Up
An electrical upgrade in progress on an existing Dura-Foam foam roof. Channels are carefully cut into the foam, conduit is buried, and new foam is applied to seal everything. Above: Tiny wires are buried similarly.

"Rewiring a house is not easy, but with Eichlers it is particularly complex," says Smith. "Due to the fact that Eichler homes have no attics or crawlspaces, upgrading the electrical takes a lot longer than other types of homes.

"The wall coverings are made of wood panels, not sheetrock, so to fish wires through the walls, you can't just cut a hole in the sheetrock like you do on ‘regular' houses. Since the panels can't be cut, we have to fish the wires down the inside of the panels."

Another challenge is tying in wiring from a new distribution panel through the old concrete slab. "There is very little flexibility on those existing pipes, and I have to use the existing conduits and lines," Needham says. "Trying to get the old piping to a new panel, and get all the cutouts and new panels lined up correctly, is time consuming."

Prices and processes

Although service upgrades vary from house to house, a typical service upgrade for an Eichler will take two to three days and range in price between $2,500 and $3,500. The majority of the cost is tied to labor, which involves tracing wires, running new ones, connecting them to outlets and switches, and closing holes.

This standard service includes a new 200-amp panel, an electrical meter with a main switch, and a new line for your local utility company to hook into, along with all the necessary grounding.

The process looks something like this. The electrician or remodeling contractor takes out the necessary permits for a service upgrade. The building department authorizes the permit, and the electrician proceeds with the service installation. Once the job is complete, the contractor or electrician calls in the city to do the final inspection.

If the upgrade meets approval, the city contacts your utility company so that they can proceed to schedule connection. Running these projects through the city with proper permits helps to ensure that the work is being done correctly and that your improvements will be recognized when it comes time for resale.

Without a permit, there is no record of the work being done, and therefore you'll not benefit at home re-sale from increased property value. Plus, banks and insurance companies frown upon unpermitted work during the home-buying process.

Re-roofing is prime time

The experts agree. The best time to tackle a rewiring project is when you remodel or re-roof. When the old roof is removed, this is a one-shot opportunity to upgrade practically, and then bury electrical conduit in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible.