We have a 100-year-old house in New England and, finally, stuff is breaking down. In several rooms, lights blink on and off without warning. Breakers trip constantly and many electrical sockets are dead. I think I'm in over my head. What's an estimate of what it will run us?
Ellen W. ~ Boston, Massachusetts
Hi Ellen, your old house sounds like mine when I first moved in many years ago. If your house is 100 years old, you may only have a 100 amp service, and as modern appliances and more electrical devices have been added over the years the circuits are not able to handle the load. That is probably why your breakers are tripping, and also why you are seeing the dimming lighting. Whenever my refrigerator compressor used to kick in my lights would dim for a moment, and I always had to unplug my Christmas tree and any space heaters I had running when I used my microwave.
This is a situation where it is going to be difficult to come up with a price without seeing what the problem is, and I believe you will run into the same answer if you talk to an electrical contractor up there in Boston, Massachusetts. It may be a matter of just adjusting the load on each circuit, or possibly adding another circuit or two if you have room in the panel box. If that is the case then I wouldn't think the cost would be too much.
However, if you have an old 100 amp service the only answer, and for safety's sake the best answer, may be to upgrade your service to 200 amp. That should eliminate the lighting problems and the breakers tripping. I would think the outlets are dead due to the breakers tripping. Upgrading the service is going to be a little more expensive. The power company will need to come out and shut off the power, and then an electrical contractor will need to remove the existing service and install a new one, and then rewire the breaker box. Once completed and inspected, the power company will turn the power back on.
My estimate, and remember this is without seeing the situation, is that upgrading your service could cost around $2,500. If the electricians are able to work with your existing service and just add or balance some circuits, they will probably do the job for time and materials, and I would say between $500 and $750. With everything that is going on with your electric though, if you do still have a 100 amp service, you may want to upgrade it just to be safe. Overloaded circuits are not good and the wiring might be old as well.
Hopefully the costs I have mentioned are on the high side, and you can find some better prices from electrical contractors there in Boston.