volume 67 - issue 2 - February 2017
Can your home handle the load? Make sure your home’s wiring is not pushed past the limit
Upgrading and improving your home is a goal for many homeowners. Improvements can range from the small stuff, like changing the paint on the walls or switching out light fixtures, to more substantive changes, like adding an addition, finishing your basement, or adding a pool. It can be a lot fun and financially advantageous to improve your home, but it’s important to make sure the changes are done legally and correctly to ensure your investment is safe. Many weekend warriors like to do projects themselves—and for small aesthetic things, that’s fine—but when it comes to the bigger stuff, it’s important to get permits for upgrades and hire the appropriate licensed contractors for the project.
Not sure if you need a permit?* Rules vary based on where you live, but you will likely need a permit for any project that goes beyond basic repairs and maintenance or beyond simple aesthetic changes.
A permit ensures that you meet certain criteria and safety concerns when it comes to:
• Zoning requirements
• Environmental (waste, water systems, and run off) requirements
• Building codes
• Electrical codes
• Mechanical codes
• Having a record of renovations, additions, and building projects to show your bank, insurance company and future homeowners, so they know a permit was properly issued and the work was deemed safe for the dwelling and done according to current codes.
Adding a new space or changing the use of an existing space generally requires a building permit. Finishing your basement or attic? You will need a permit. Adding a detached garage? Need a permit. Many times, projects require additional electrical work to meet the requirements for a finished space.
It’s necessary to always hire a licensed master electrician for electrical work done around the home. Aside from the danger that goes along with any residential electrical project, faulty electrical work can lead to fires. Homeowners' insurance may not cover damages caused by unlicensed electrical work. In addition, electricians are taught how to safely work with electrical systems, and they ensure that work is done in accordance with local laws and codes.
For work that impacts the electrical system in your home, such as adding a heat pump, it’s important to employ a licensed electrician for the job because they can verify your home has the electrical capacity to safely handle the changes.
For instance, if your home has an oil heating unit and you switch to an electric heat pump, a licensed electrician will make sure that your home’s wiring can handle the added electrical demand for this unit.
Homes are built, and the electrical service is sized, in accordance with the rules of the National Electric Code and the local authority having jurisdiction. Adding equipment that exceeds the rating of the electrical service can cause equipment problems and damage to your home. When you add to your electric service needs—whether that entails upgrading or adding appliances, adding a pool or hot tub, or adding an addition to your home—it is important to have a licensed electrician verify that your wiring can safely handle the additional electric capacity.
Remember to contact SMECO when adding to the home, or upgrading electrical power. All electricians must schedule a time to work with SMECO in order for the meter to be pulled and power turned off for safe work conditions. Only SMECO is authorized to cut the meter seal and pulled the meter for required work.
*For specific permitting in your county, please check with your local permitting office.