If you think of your home as a body, the electrical system is undoubtedly the beating heart, constantly providing energy through the walls and pumping power into everything from the HVAC system to your toaster.
However, just like many critical systems in your own body, you often don’t even notice everything the electrical system does until something goes wrong.
Here are four electrician projects that can improve your home and protect against future disaster. These are complicated tasks, so hire a licensed electrician and listen to their advice about your best options.
Replace the electrical panel
Average cost: $1,300-$3,000
The electrical panel manages the link between external power lines and the energy flowing into your house. You may need to replace an old panel because it’s worn out, or upgrade to allow more power in the home. You may need this if your panel is outdated and can’t handle your current needs, or if you make home additions that draw more energy.
If you’re replacing a panel with the same amperage, the cost will remain relatively low. However, if you’re upgrading to a higher amperage, expect to pay more.
Rewire your house
Rewiring is a job you’re not likely to have to do very often — and a good thing, given the expense. You may need to do it in the event of a major disaster such as a lightning strike, or if you have an older home with decades-old wiring that is no longer safe. The cost will vary greatly depending on the size of your house and the number of electrical connections to replace.
Make sure your pro pulls the correct permits for your area and gets it inspected in accordance with local code. Most cities and towns require permits for rewiring, and it can create a big headache if you try to sell your home and an inspection uncovers work done without a required permit.
Install a lightning protection system
A lightning strike carries hundreds of millions of volts of electricity. A strike on your home can cause enormous damage. A lightning protection system can divert lightning from your home and preserve your appliances and wiring. Such systems range from around $100 for a basic surge protector to $3,000 for lightning rods and a grounding system that will direct the energy into the ground away from the house.
You can also add whole-house surge protectors to your electrical panel. These cost between $300 and $500 on average.
Add a home generator
When storms wipe out power and knock down lines, it’s possible your home can be without energy for quite some time. However, a home-based electrical generator can cover your heat, light and electricity needs in an emergency.
Two things most impact cost: size and power source. Small models are easily portable and inexpensive, but generate only a limited amount of power. Whole-house models will be larger and more reliable, but more expensive.
Most generators operate from gasoline, natural gas, diesel fuel, liquid propane and solar power. Each has pros and cons — for instance, gasoline is readily available and inexpensive, but has a short shelf life. Diesel fuel is easier to store and more efficient, but diesel units tend to be the most expensive options. Your electrician can explain the options for you.
10 items in your garage you can toss right now
Broken or duplicate tools
You probably don’t need five hammers, and that broken drill is just collecting dust on a shelf. Take stock of your tool collection, and consolidate so you don’t have an overflowing toolbox (or too many bulky bins filled with tools).
Chances are you have no use for that old clunky computer printer and fax machine from the early ’90s. “If it’s in the garage, there’s a 90% chance that your old CPU is not worth the time it would take you to bring it back up to speed for day-to-day use,” says organizing and storing expert Emma Gordon of Clutter.com. “It’s better to find a recycling program that can take it off your hands.”
Old newspapers, magazines and catalogs
“You’re not going to read these again,” says Gordon. “If they’ve been banished from the house to the garage, they need to go.” If you can’t part with all of them, allow yourself to keep a few special editions or issues. Donate or recycle the rest.
Plastic planter trays
“It’s tempting to keep the trays after popping our spring blooms,” says Gordon. “Unless you’re a regular gardener, there’s no reason to keep these trays after transplanting. Clear them out so you don’t have to deal with spiders or other garage critters that will make a home in them.”
Old paint cans
Face it: You’re not going to use that hideous color of paint anywhere in your house. If you think you might need to touch up any of the rooms in your house, figure out which can of paint goes with which room, and label it with the room (dining room) and color (linen white). Remember that you can’t throw away full (or partially full) paint cans, so you’ll either need to find a hazardous-waste collection site or pour clean kitty litter in the can to dry up any remaining paint before disposing of the kitty litter and paint, and recycling the can.
Unused DIY project materials
While you’re clearing cans from old home-improvement projects, toss out old materials from DIY projects. “Almost every garage in America has a flimsy aluminum paint tray coated in house paint, with a matching roller in a crumpled grocery bag,” Gordon says. “As homeowners, we like to think we’re going to get more than one use out of our paint brushes, trays and other DIY tools, but it’s more likely we’ll forget and buy these items again anyway. The only reason to save otherwise disposable DIY tools would be if you have a project in mind that you plan to tackle soon.”
Old sports equipment
“Toss out balls if they don’t hold air anymore,” says Gordon. Same goes for broken tennis rackets, skis, helmets and more. If one of your kids no longer plays a sport, donate the used gear to a thrift store that accepts sports equipment.
Old shoes and clothes
“I promise you won’t miss the clothes and shoes you’re storing in the garage,” says Gordon. “These are the items that you don’t even have in your weekly outfit rotation, and if they haven’t been kept in an airtight container, they will require a lot of laundering to nix the garage fumes and dust.”
Sadly, your beloved tape collection is now obsolete. “Remember the static or flipping over to the ‘B-side’? Compared to streaming services, these outdated forms of entertainment require a lot of fussing,” says Gordon. “Make a quick list of the albums and movies you consider staples for your household, and plan to purchase in digital format.”
Bring that old chair you’ve been meaning to reupholster for years, or those old and outdated holiday decorations, to the thrift store or a donation center. If you can’t imagine placing them back inside your house anytime soon, you should say goodbye to those pieces.