How to Rewire Your Home Without Dying: Lesser Known Historical Electrical Wiring Methods
Assessing the Current State of Your Home's Electrical System
Before attempting to rewire my home, I first needed to thoroughly evaluate the current state of the existing electrical system. This involved checking the electrical panel to identify the type of wiring, noting any knob and tube or aluminum wiring, looking for signs of overload, and testing outlets for grounding and polarity. I also checked for any loose, damaged, or frayed wiring throughout the home. Making an accurate assessment enabled me to understand what needed upgrading and where the risks may lie in my rewiring project.
Researching Historical Wiring Methods
Once I understood my home's electrical needs, I researched various historical wiring methods that could provide safer, more reliable power. Key options I explored included:
Armored Cable (AC)
AC wiring, also known as BX wiring, was an early form of flexible metallic armored cable used in the late 1800s. This involved an insulated copper wire wrapped in a flexible steel sheath. While AC wiring can still be safe if in good condition, it may not handle higher electrical loads.
Conduit wiring involves running wires through hollow metal or plastic tubing for protection. Galvanized steel or rigid metal conduit provide good grounding but can be tricky to install. Plastic versions like PVC are easier to install but less durable. Conduit allows easy replacement of damaged wiring.
Early electrical wiring often used cloth-insulated cables. However, this old rubber or cloth insulation can become brittle and cracked over time, posing fire risks. Any existing cloth-insulated wiring should definitely be replaced.
Modern wiring uses plastic-insulated copper wire, which I preferred for its safety, longevity, and capacity to handle higher loads. Though more expensive than aluminum, copper is very conductive and less prone to corrosion and overheating.
Developing My Rewiring Project Plan
With my historical research complete, I developed a detailed rewiring plan tailored to my home's needs. Critical steps included:
Upgrading the main service panel to 200 amps to support additional circuits.
Running new copper wiring through the attic and walls to distribution panels in each room. I used non-metallic sheathed 14/2 and 12/2 cables.
Installing GFCI outlets in "wet" areas like the kitchen and bathroom for protection against shocks.
Including plenty of grounded outlets with the recommended modern spacing for convenience and safety.
Properly labeling and organizing all circuits at the main panel and distribution panels.
Including smart features like motion sensor switches, programmable thermostats, and a whole house surge protector.
I took extensive precautions to ensure my safety and avoid electrical hazards when rewiring:
Wearing protective gear like rubber-soled shoes, gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection.
Using the right tools like wire strippers, cable ripper, lineman's pliers, multimeter, and non-contact voltage tester.
Turning off power at the main breaker panel and verifying it's dead before starting work.
Disconnecting old wiring before pulling out and removing to avoid contact.
Having GFCI outlets to prevent shocks in wet areas.
Carefully capping wires and taping connections to avoid exposed live conductors.
Using appropriate circuit breakers or fuses for the wire gauge.
Double checking all connections are tight and insulation intact before turning power back on.
Inspecting and Testing My Completed Rewiring
Once the rewiring was complete, I had the work thoroughly inspected by the local building department. They checked for issues like exposed wires, loose connections, or undersized breakers. I also tested all new outlets and switches myself to confirm proper operation and grounding. Starting with the power off, I tested each circuit using a multimeter and by plugging in devices to check for faults. This ensured my major rewiring project was executed safely and successfully without any unpleasant surprises when the power was restored.