Your electrical system is an absolutely critical part of your home. It powers the HVAC that protects your family from extreme weather, enables you to enjoy music, gaming, and your favorite shows, and makes it possible to cook, clean, and store your food safely.
Faulty wiring and other related problems can create a severe safety hazard. According to the National Fire Protection Association, house fires due to electrical failure or malfunction cause thousands of injuries and billions of dollars in damages each year.
Why risk it? You can find out if everything is in working order with a thorough inspection by an experienced, licensed professional. This is especially crucial if you own or are thinking of purchasing one of Chicagoland’s many beautiful older homes.
Read on to discover more about your home’s electrical system and how an inspection report can help you lower your utility bills and increase the value of your home.
Behind the scenes
Electricity is distributed around your house via a vast network of fine threads made of aluminum or copper and covered with a thin layer of thermoplastic. It enters the home through a service head that consists of two 120-volt wires and one neutral wire that delivers power to lights and appliances around the home. Some large and essential appliances such as refrigerators and water heaters require a 240-volt circuit.
At the service head, you’ll find the kilowatt-hour meter installed by your local utility company. These were developed in the 1880s to help corporations more accurately bill for power usage, and in Illinois, it’s illegal to tamper with them. It’s also dangerous and could damage your sensitive electronic devices.
Located near the meter, the service panel is the central distribution point to outlets and switches throughout the home. Normally in the basement, garage, or utility area, this is where you will find the circuit breaker or fuse box where you can cut power if there is a system failure.
It’s very important for owners of homes built before the late 60s to be familiar with the process of identifying a blown fuse and replacing it correctly. Newer homes are protected by circuit breakers that can be mechanically reset. These are reviewed during your inspection.
Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are now required in new buildings and are highly recommended for any residence. These devices monitor the waveforms of your electrical system and trip your breaker when any dangerous arcs are detected.
To make your life easier in case of these events, it’s smart to stash working flashlights or other alternative light sources around your home so you can get to the service panel in the dark. If you consistently have issues with blown fuses or overloading the circuit, this is a sign that you need your electrical system inspected as soon as possible.
Back from the future
There are thousands of buildings in Chicago that are considered “historic,” with many being renowned for their architectural significance. This means that a lot of homes in this area were built in the last millennia and have older wiring and other electrical system components that are very susceptible to deterioration and should be evaluated by a skilled expert.
When was the last time your outlets were replaced? In the late 1970s, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) were introduced, which save thousands of lives by reducing the risk of electrocution. These types of outlets should especially be used anywhere near water, such as in bathrooms, kitchens, or garages.
People now use more electricity than ever before, charging smartphones and laptops, powering wifi-enabled appliances, and generating juice for high-tech entertainment systems. Most homes constructed in the last century have an inadequate number of outlets for all the things you need to plug in, which can lead to the unwise usage of power strips and extension cords.
An insightful home inspector will help you determine if you need to invest in some electrical system upgrades — but you should also consider updating certain components that could significantly lower your power bill.
Saving with sustainability
Increasing your energy efficiency is a relatively easy and cost-effective way to save money as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve water. An outdated electrical system could be costing you thousands of dollars each year.
Making these positive changes doesn’t have to be expensive. Your home inspection pro should offer some tips and pointers for what improvements you can make to improve your sustainability profile and add value to your property.
Buyers in today’s market are concerned about climate change and the importance of reducing energy usage. Whether or not you’re looking to sell soon, here are some effective eco-friendly upgrades you can make to go greener:
- Low-flow toilets and showerheads
- Dual-paned windows
- Modern insulation
- LED bulbs
- Smart power outlets
- Tankless water heaters
- Solar panels
- Programmable thermostats
- Energy Star-certified ceiling fans and appliances
Part of being a homeowner is maintaining your property and protecting your investment to build equity and provide for your family’s future. A faulty electrical system could ruin everything you’ve worked so hard for.
Getting regular inspections performed by an experienced and certified pro will help you feel confident that your home’s essential systems are optimized for safety and performance. Now is the perfect time to schedule a comprehensive inspection of your Chicagoland real estate — call or click today to talk to one of our specialists!