Rewiring a home can seem like a daunting task, but with proper preparation and safety precautions, even an average Joe like myself can tackle it successfully. As someone who has rewired my own home, I want to share my insights so you can take on this project with confidence.
Why Rewiring Might Be Necessary
There are a few reasons why rewiring a home might become necessary:
Upgrading to a 200 amp service - Many older homes only have 100 amp electrical service. Upgrading allows you to run more high wattage appliances without tripping breakers.
Faulty or outdated wiring - If your home's electrical is more than 40-50 years old, the insulation may be brittle or deteriorating. Upgrading reduces fire risk.
Remodeling projects - Any additions, kitchen remodels, etc may require running new wiring.
Safety improvements - Improper or dangerous wiring should be fixed to meet modern safety codes. GFCI outlets, sufficient grounding, and circuit overload protection are essential.
While rewiring is best left to professionals, DIY is possible if you educate yourself. I successfully rewired half my home after researching thoroughly and taking all precautions.
How Electrical Fires Start
Electrical fires account for over 20,000 house fires per year in the US alone. The main causes are:
- Frayed or damaged wire insulation allowing conductors to arc
- Overheated wires or devices
- Overloaded circuits drawing more power than the wire is rated for
- Corroded connections causing resistance and heat buildup
- Faulty devices like old breakers or outlets
Any of these can ignite surrounding combustible materials. Rewiring helps eliminate these fire starters.
Dangers of Working with Electricity
Let's face it - electricity can kill. Here are the main risks:
- Electrocution - Direct contact with live wires or devices can result in lethal shocks. Even currents as low as 30 milliamps can cause respiratory paralysis.
- Arc flashes - Short circuits can create arc flashes, resulting in severe burns. Temperatures exceed 35,000°F!
- Falls - Working on ladders near exposed live wiring raises the chances of falling.
Accidental contact with live circuits is too often lethal. We must take strict precautions every step of the way to avoid these grave dangers.
How to Rewire Safely
Rewiring an entire house is a monumental task. Here are some key steps to maintain safety:
Turn Off Power at Main Breaker
Before any work, trip the main breaker. This de-energizes the house. Then verify power is off using a non-contact voltage tester. Check outlets, switches and light fixtures. Any indicator of live power means there is still dangerous potential in the circuits.
Disconect All Wires
Once verified dead, carefully remove all switches, outlets, light fixtures etc. Detach every wire connection back to the main panel. With all wires disconnected, the old wiring can be removed safely.
Install New Wiring
Install new NM copper wiring. Use the proper wire gauge for expected circuit load (15 amps - 14 gauge, 20 amps - 12 gauge, etc). Circuit overload causes dangerous heat buildup.
Run through holes drilled in studs, keep wires neat and secure. Connect outlets, switches and lights to the new wiring.
Connect New Breaker Panel
Upgrade the main breaker panel if needed. Run wire from breakers to all major appliances and outlets. Organize and label circuits clearly. Ensure neutral and ground wires go to proper bus bars.
Inspect and Test Thoroughly
Verify all connections are tight with no exposed conductors. Check polarity of outlets. Inspect for any shorts or improper connections which could lead to arcing and fires. Then methodically test each outlet and switch once power is restored.
Helpful Rewiring Tips
Here are some extra tips from my experience to make your rewiring project go smoothly:
- Work on one circuit at a time to avoid confusion. Label each wire.
- Take photos before removing any wiring to use as a reference.
- Only use copper wire of sufficient gauge for expected amp load.
- Outlets must be grounded properly with correct polarity.
- Add extra circuits to prevent overloading - at least 5 for general use.
- Use GFCI outlets within 6 feet of water sources and exterior outlets.
- Mount exterior outlets in weatherproof electrical boxes.
- Use wire nuts, terminal blocks or crimp connectors properly - no exposed conductors. Tug test wires to ensure tight connections.
- Keep all electrical junction boxes easily accessible - use no foam insulation or permanent coverings.
- Replace old switches and outlets to match modern safety codes.
- Hire an electrician if any part of the rewiring is beyond your skill level!
Final Tips for Staying Safe
Rewiring a home is indeed challenging. But the highest priority must always be safety. Here are my parting words of advice:
- Turn off power at the breaker before doing any electrical work - use a non-contact voltage tester to verify. Lock out the main breaker if needed.
- Wear electrical gloves and use insulated tools. Avoid jewelry which could contact circuits.
- Never work on live wiring! There is absolutely no reason to risk electrocution.
- If overwhelmed, hire a licensed electrician rather than risking injury or burning your house down!
- Double check all wires are securely connected and properly insulated before restoring power.
- Ensure all circuits are properly grounded and GFCI protected.
- Stay focused! Distraction raises the chances of accidentally touching live components.
Stay safe and take your time - you can rewire your home successfully. The peace of mind of having modern, safe electrical is well worth the effort.