Most homes today have the capacity to handle 220 volts in their electrical systems. Modern dryers, stoves, hot water heaters and other appliances all use the high voltage standard, which can deliver twice as much as the 110 volts used by computers, televisions, smaller appliances and other electronics. Chances are your house already has the ability to use 220 volts, but some older homes do not and therefore have no way of powering more heavy-duty equipment. Fortunately, with the help of an electrician, you can add 220 volt service to your home, or run more 220 circuits if you need to add extra outlets.
Bringing in Maximum Voltage
Modern homes hooked up to the electricity grid take in energy from the utility company at 220 volts, which is then split into two 110 volt lines. Those lines are what bring electricity to your conventional outlets, so you can plug in and use your devices without overloading them with power. Homes built in recent years can therefore accommodate 220 volt circuits as well, which can be distinguished in the circuit box because the switches they use are twice the size of those for 110 volt circuits.
Older homes, however, sometimes only have the capacity for 110 volts in total. If that is the case in your home, you will need to upgrade if you want to use many modern appliances, and certainly if you want to sell your home or bring it up to speed on local code issues. If you aren't sure if your home has 220 volt service, call up your utility company, or have an electrician come take a look.
Adding in Extra Circuits
If you don't have 220 volt service, the electric company will have to run a new line into your home, and an electrician will need to replace your circuit box and possibly all your internal wiring as well, particularly if it uses outdated technology like aluminum wires or knob and tube. The process will not be cheap – costing a few thousand dollars at the low end – but as a result, you will improve the safety of your home and may be able to qualify for lower homeowners insurance rates.
If you, like most people, already have 220 service in your home, but need to add more circuits at the higher capacity, the job will be a lot easier. An electrician can add extra circuits to your breaker box so you can power whatever equipment you need. Make sure you specify if you need 3-wire circuits, which are used for most electric water heaters and boilers, or 4-wire circuits, which are more common for stoves and dryers.
Making the Grade in Safety
Remember, upgrading the wiring in your home can be dangerous work with stringent local building code standards. Unless you are already a qualified contractor, you should have an experienced electrician complete the work for you to ensure that it is all done safely and correctly. If you need to upgrade your home to 220 volt service, call up an expert electrician today.