High Voltage Electrical Demands Call for Building Upgrades

A few generations ago, even the largest residential buildings had basic electrical needs, such as lighting the building and running some washing machines. Residents back then generally only had a TV, a radio, some lamps and a few kitchen appliances. Until not long ago, older residential buildings that were constructed more than a century ago and electrified later were able to provide enough power for their residents' needs.

These days, apartment-dwellers often have air conditioners, dehumidifiers, air purification systems, washer-dryers, sound systems, computer setups and many other gadgets, all of which draw power through the building's electrical system. While a person may live in a fine old historic building, he and his neighbors' 21st century needs can make the building's electrical system seem not so fine. Such antiquated buildings may need upgrades to their electrical system or to individual units, and those upgrades may or may not be the resident's financial responsibility.

Though the process can be challenging, older buildings do have some options for upgrading their electrical systems. For each board member or property manager concerned with the need to upgrade a building's electrical system, the first question in the electrical upgrade process should be, how much work needs to be done? Sometimes an individual unit can be upgraded, but there are buildings that might require a complete electrical overhaul to catch up to date.

Historically Speaking, Buildings Not Updated

Generally speaking, the city's historic and landmarked residential buildings have not been completely re-wired over the years, because such upgrading can be difficult and expensive. Upgrades to buildings' electrical systems in the city have often been done piecemeal, which in some cases, actually require a more comprehensive approach. If a building's residents are constantly upgrading their units and improving their electrical systems, the structure might need an overall building electrical upgrade, says Jeff Heidings, president of Siren Management Corp., a property management company in Manhattan. "In a lot of prewar buildings, the current power is insufficient," he says.

In a way, electrical upgrades in residential buildings are an example of the law of supply and demand at work. People are bound to upgrade their tools and electronics to fit their lifestyle, sometimes way ahead of what the building's electrical system is capable of handling. Making the building's electrical infrastructure conform to residents' needs is not simply done, or quickly accomplished. In many of the older residential buildings in the city, it can be difficult to do a complete overhaul of the building's electrical system, because of the methods and materials used in historic construction, says Matthew Detore, owner of Detore Electrical Construction in Manhattan.


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  • my homeowers insurance is requiring me to upgrade my electrical system. my house was built in 1978, i have copper wires, breakers, central air etc... is this common?
  • who psys for the indivial apt upgrade fro 30 amps to 60 amps, the owner of the co-op or the co-op management?