The electrical system consists of the main panel, lighting, outlets, and various hardwired appliances. The electrical service must be sized to accommodate the lifestyle of the occupants, and is usually between 100 amps and 200 amps.
Upgrade and relocation of the main panel may be required if one or more of the following apply:
- 1. The panel is too old or fully occupied.
- 2. The addition is built under the overhead service supply lines.
- 3. The panel is located on a wall proposed to become interior in the construction process.
The location of the new panel must be approved by the company supplying the power to the house (such as Edison or DWP) even when maintaining the old location.
An electrician installs the service and may also install telephone and cable TV wires and, less frequently, security systems. Almost every addition planned right needs to be wired directly to the main panel. Tapping into existing circuits is not recommended. In fact, state code requires all lights and outlets in a new bedroom to be installed on a dedicated circuit connected to an Arc-fault breaker. The electrical lines are run from the electric panel board, which has switches (also known as breakers), through walls, attics and crawl spaces to control the electricity in different areas of the house. Electrical systems are regulated by an international and local building code. For example, electrical codes in some regions require wiring to be in flexible metal casing (Flex) as an additional fire prevention measure. All wire must be protected (metal stud protectors) and tested before the walls and ceilings are covered with drywall to ensure safety and to prevent unnecessary troubleshooting and drywall repairs at later stages of the project. Finally, by state code, the electrical panel must be labeled, and a clearly marked electrical panel is important for maintenance (for example, when you have to fix a circuit breaker in little Billy’s room).
If you have specific needs, like a large audio/visual entertainment complex or a home office, an advanced wiring system that can handle specific electronic functions such as video and audio distribution will be designed. A gateway hub, or central distribution panel, acts as the distribution point for all incoming telephone, data, cable and satellite TV lines. Information is carried over high-speed, high-quality cabling, terminating in wall plates throughout the home. An advanced wiring system may also include dedicated voice, fax, and computer modem lines to help you work at home.
Energy costs can be minimized through the use of a control system. With a control system, you can operate the heating, cooling, and ventilation equipment from work or while on the road. In addition, you can program the operation of sprinklers or the pool. And lighting controls allow you to make your home look lived in when you’re away.
Planning ahead is the key to a quality electrical system that will fit your lifestyle. When working with your architect on the new floor plan, staging furniture, doors, windows, and more will help in designating efficient and decorative locations of outlets, lights, and other fixtures. Three-way switches at both ends of hallways, staircases, and large areas is only one minor detail that can make significant difference in your lifestyle.