Updated Lighting and wiring

October 8, 2019

By Gene Ballin

We often see the comment in older home listings, “updated lighting and wiring”. But what does this mean? Very often I have observed that most of the house wiring is still original with only a few lights and receptacles being added in the kitchen and the bathroom. Although claiming “updated” is not a complete falsehood, this comment could be construed by someone that the entire house lighting and or wiring was updated, when in fact there may have only been a few things done.

Very often, I see most electrical defects above kitchen and bathroom areas where a few lights have been installed, or some additional appliances added. From my point of view the house has not been "updated". Rarely are new circuits run and often original circuits become over extended. Often, when older homes were built, they may have only had the intent of one bulb in a ceiling fixture. There may have been only one receptacle in the entire room. Now as the house is reviewed for inspection, we see more receptacles and lights like that of a new home. The problem can be all the original wiring is still in place, which wasn’t designed to handle all the added electrical loads that all the new lighting and receptacles now make possible.

Electrical panels may have been upgraded from fuses to circuit breakers to create more circuits, however sometimes these electrical panels may not be fed with the correct size electrical feeders. Electrical feeders or the conductors coming from the electrical service that feed the main electrical panel are what supply power to electrical panels and are very expensive to have upgraded. It’s not uncommon to have an electrical service coming to a 1960’s house that was rated for 75 Amps. Mysteriously, a 200-amp panel has been installed to accommodate all the new appliances that weren’t even imagined when the house was originally built. Unfortunately, the 200-amp panel is not being fed with the correct size feeder conductors. This condition can cause often problems when all the appliances are operated simultaneously. The buyer should have updated electrical components thoroughly inspected, very often these are the focal point of many electrical mistakes.