Electrical Installation Cost for Common and Affordable Upgrades
new receptacle/circuit | ground non-grounded receptacle | flat-screen TV inset receptacle | breaker panel cleanup/repair | replace electric panel / upgrade electric service (200A) | upgrade receptale to GFCI | replace light fixture (luminaire) | automatic sump-pump | whole-house surge suppressor | automatic standby generator
- Properly-grounded receptacles—recommended for computers, newer televisions, air conditioning units and refrigerators. Grounding-type receptacles often have been installed where there is no true ground connection. I suggest you buy and use a GFCI and grounding plug-in tester wherever you plan to connect high-power or expensive equipment –or have me test for free while looking at other work for you. Grounded equipment may contain lethal current and relies on the ground connection to trip your breaker if internal wiring faults and energizes exposed metal surfaces. Surge suppressors commonly used for computers and entertainment centers must have a true ground connection in order to dissipate surges and protect your equipment. A ‘fake’ ground socket puts valuable computers and data, flat-screen TV’s and other expensive equipment – and people – at risk.
Electrical installation cost: Grounding non-grounded receptacle locations can often cost only $50/ea. and is usually under $85 per location, for work orders totaling $225 or more. Another option, where only personnel safety is concerned and sensitive equipment is not an issue, is to protect non-grounding locations using GFCI receptacles, which may be done for under $40/ea (see below). Note that locations to be used for heavy loads such as air conditioning or space heating should be upgraded on modern, grounding cable rather than retrofit-grounded (see new circuits, below).
- New circuits/new receptacles–provide improved reliability over just grounding an existing receptacle, and can reduce overload on pre-existing circuits by shifting load to a new circuit. New and/or dedicated circuits are critical if you plan to connect high-power cord-and-plug equipment such as space heaters or window air conditioners. Cost varies greatly and is usually cheapest in the basement, then the ground floor, then the top floor, and most expensive in a middle floor, which is isolated from any unfinished utility space (basement, attic) where wire may run between accessible floor joists or rafters. In 2010, the cost to install new residential circuits in Philadelphia and most other areas went up by $40, due to the expensive AFCI-type circuit breaker now required for new locations throughout a home. Be sure to verify AFCI-protection when comparing quotes from other installers.
Electrical installation cost: A basement receptacle on a new circuit could be from $100. A 1st floor receptacle on a new circuit could be from $165. Other locations may be $300 and up, although multiple receptacles on a single new circuit may average less.
- Flat-screen TV mounting with new recessed receptacles and A/V jacks — One of the great potentials for flat-screen LCD, LED and Plasma TV’s is the elimination of bulky ‘entertainment center’ furniture, or the ability to install the multimedia display in areas not possible with the deep footprint and excessive weight of cathode-ray tube (CRT) TV’s. But a satisfying no-furniture flat-screen installation requires some specialized electrical power and AV wiring/cabling that may be beyond the weekend handyman of the house. A good installation will need a new — ideally, recessed — receptacle and A/V wall-plate to permit the connection of cord-and-plug power and A/V sources behind the TV without creating a bulge there that prevents it from laying as flat as possible against the wall. Articulated swing-arm mounts may further require fabrication of special structural support if your preferred location doesn’t happen to fall on a good wall stud.
Electrical installation cost: A typical installation including power receptacle and AV wall plate for one AV source, as well as structural support and complete mounting and setup for the flat panel display, may run from $250 – $600, depending on the availability of nearby power circuits or an accessible home-run path to a distribution/breaker panel, and similar availability/accessibility of cable run for your desired AV source(s). See also whole-house surge suppressor to protect expensive electronics.
- Service Disconnect/Distribution Breaker Panel assessments, clean ups and grounding (aka ‘Fuse Panel’)—great for rental properties, pre-purchase or newly purchased properties, and older electrical systems. About 1/4 of residential breaker panels I encounter have an error in grounding and/or bonding, and many more have other improper wiring. These problems remain invisible until a major short-circuit or lightning event occurs. Then, bare conductors may become overloaded, heat up and ignite fires, or expensive electronics may be subject to chronic or sudden voltage spikes they would not otherwise sustain.
Electrical installation cost: Panel inspections or cleanups run from $35 (observe and report) to $250 depending on previous condition; installing a supplementary ground rod (grounding electrode) as required for new service installations is another $100. Whole-house surge suppression can be added to this service at reduced cost.
- Swap out standard receptacles for GFCI’s. Ground Fault Circuit Interruption protects people from lethal current when the circuit or a plug-in device has a fault. Because house current flows more readily through a person who is grounded, GFCI protection is required where grounding is likely from contact with plumbing or non-insulating floors, such as anywhere near a sink, outdoors, and in unfinished basements. Unlike circuit breakers, which may take more than 10 seconds to open a fault (or never open), GFCI’s detect small but still lethal current leakages and open (turn off) the circuit in a fraction of one second, saving lives.
- AFCI Protection for existing circuits. Required for all dwelling areas since 2010 in Philadelphia, Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters may be most useful for preventing fires when applied to old circuits: pre-existing wiring. The AFCI breaker costs $40 (vs. $5 for a comparable standard breaker). Note that the highly-sensitive electronics in these circuit breakers may reveal defects in extension cords or appliances (usually their cords), that have remained latent prior to AFCI installation. This can be inconvenient, at first, but identifying these defects before they spark a fire can only be good.
- Changing/replacing luminaires (lighting fixtures). Swap out an old fixture for something new. While I’m at it I can make sure the wiring is right (polarity is often reversed in old houses) and not heat-damaged, and correct anything I find; many times, original fixture locations have no wiring enclosure, and I will install this for fire safety and to support the new fixture safely.
Electrical installation cost: If you provide the new fixture, changing fixtures at an existing location can range $35-$100. If a wiring/support box must be installed, the cost may be up to $150. Fans are $175, and moving a light fixture location on the same ceiling may be about $300.
- Add an exterior light—an easy way to improve security around your property. Motion detectors, switched lines, timers and ‘dusk-til-dawn’ photo-sensitive systems cost less to install and operate than you might think.
Electrical installation cost: New exterior locations can often be run for under $200, if you provide the luminaire (lighting fixture). I can provide utilitarian exterior luminaires starting at $35, or consult on providing a fixture to best please you in any budget range.
- 220V Appliance installation/ receptacles. All laundry appliances need electricity. An electric-only dryer needs an extra 110V above what’s available on a standard 3-prong socket. Whether you replaced your gas/electric dryer with an electric-only, or you’re installing an electric oven or dual-fuel range for your kitchen renovation, I can usually create room in your distribution/breaker panel for the larger 2pole circuit, verify the panel load capacity, and get the 220V receptacle where you need it. I can arrange pickup-and-delivery and installation for your appliance as well, although your value (if not the size of your scheduling window) will often be better with the original vendor.
Electrical installation cost: A 240V receptacle to a basement or 1st Floor location will usually be under $225. Locations very near to a distribution/breaker panel may be under $75, if part of a work order totaling $200 or more.
- Breaker Panel replacement or panel upgrade. Most homes and even small businesses have a single service disconnect/distribution breaker panel serving all the branch circuit loads in the building.
Electrical installation cost: A simple replacement of a rusty panel or panel with too few breaker slots may run from $375 plus $10 per existing circuit breaker. Note that many installers will sell you a service upgrade when a larger panel may serve your needs at a lower cost. However, a service upgrade is always something to consider if the panel being replaced is your service disconnect equipment (featuring a 100A or 200A main breaker and located near to the utility meter). You may want to take the opportunity to upgrade the service ampacity (capacity in Amps) and/or replace an aged service cable at the same time with the breaker panel. New complete 100A services start at $975; 200A from $1450, including all permits and inspections, NEC-compliant system grounding, and a GFCI receptacle at the new panel location.
UPGRADE ADDER: Whole-house surge suppression: $100 with panel replacement.
UPGRADE ADDER: Generac GenReady (or similar) service panel with local generator transfer switch: from $250.
UPGRADE ADDER: AFCI protection for pre-existing circuits: $50/circuit.
- Automatic sump pumps in recessed cisterns can save a lot of headache and enhance safety by draining basement water before it reaches floor height. Any water above the float set-level in the cistern (below finished floor level) will trigger the pump to operate until levels are brought down. Flooded basements can be an electric shock / electrocution (death) hazard for people, so anything that avoids last-minute wrangling with extension cords and portable cord-and-plug connected sump pumps will improve your safety. Locating a permanent installation below floor level allows the pump to operate before water levels have reached the 3/8″ level required for portable types to even begin operating.My standard installation involves a 16″ cutout into the concrete slab, installing a cistern, and float-activated sump pump connected to a new dedicated, GFCI-protected receptacle. A moisture alarm is optional and some may wish to consider more comprehensive ‘dry basement’ contracts that guarantee living-space quality dryness (and run from $8,000 and up).
- Whole-house surge suppressors provide manufacturer-insured warranty protection up to your home insurance deductible, for electronic equipment damages resulting from transient voltage surges in your home. Examples include $350 logic boards in new refrigerators, microwaves, laundry and other major appliances; consumer electronics such as DVD-players, and computers. One reason that electrical system grounding and proper receptacle equipment grounding/bonding are so important is that these measures minimize damage from surges by providing a low-impedence path to earth, rather than allow induced voltage to energize exposed metal in your equipment and metal piping systems. Cord-and-plug connected surge suppressor multi-outlet strips will not function as surge suppressors without proper grounding (although models equipped with a fuse may interrupt a major surge). Whole-house surge suppressors cut to the chase by installing at the service equipment where grounding should always be present, and protecting grounded and ungrounded circuits from surges (although the suppressor warranty supplementary insurance coverage does not apply to equipment connected without grounding).
- Automatic standby generators make blackouts a breeze. The units turn themselves on and off and manage interconnection with your electrical service with automatic transfer switching, so as to prevent energizing the grid while it is undergoing repairs by utility workers. Residential systems range from 7kW to 50kW and can be set up to handle basic essentials like refrigeration and some lighting, all the way up to 100% backup of all loads in the house — including electric HVAC, pool pumps, water heating, cooking appliances, etc. I recommend a modest system incorporating automatic load management — allowing the connection of virtually all your normal household loads, but forcing you to reduce consumption during a grid outage event by shedding loads one at a time, automatically and on-the-fly, as necessary to continue serving the ‘critical loads’ you define and stay within the capabilities of the generator. Check out an informational video by Generac, a premier manufacturer of automatic standby generators.
Electrical installation cost: The basic installation runs from $5,500 for a 8kW or 10kW LP/natural-gas-fired automatic generator capable of serving 10-12 circuits, including refrigerator, control/fan for gas-fired home heating systems, and several general lighting and convenience receptacle circuits. Automatic load management and increased capacities increase cost.
Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation Price List
PHDC’s electrical 2011 price list appears to be reasonable, if a little low for the types of smaller contracts (less than $1000) I tend to see for home repairs. PHDC operates a program to make emergency repairs on behalf of low-income homeowners in Philadelphia. Rather than negotiate or solicit bids for these small projects, PHDC publishes an annual price list and issues work orders to pre-qualified contractors based on the list, with case-specific price deviations when deemed appropriate by the PHDC inspector managing the project.
Bear in mind that the average work order at a single work site for electrical repair contractors in this PHDC program is $4,500, and other trades go up from there. The $4,500 may include a service replacement at $1050 and a new dryer circuit at $195, with those bigger numbers helping pay to get workers and tools on site, where they can then take care of additional, smaller repair items with little or no overhead cost.
Bottom line? Don’t expect to get a single receptacle replaced for $33 (as listed in this price guide), unless the work is part of a larger work order totaling at least $150. For small repair/renovation jobs totaling $1000 and under, the pricing in the electrical portion of this list appears to be around 10% under my customary charges, and do not include the $300 base line rate for an electrical construction permit.
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