The Key To Assessing Your NYC Apartment's Electrical Needs for Renovation

Do you have enough literal power to renovate your NYC apartment ideally? Do you know how to find out? We can help.

December 12, 2023

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The Key To Assessing Your NYC Apartment's Electrical Needs for Renovation

Identifying and explaining the most crucial aspect of your apartment's electrical system prior to renovation.

Table of contents

Purchasing an apartment in the heart of New York City is an exciting venture, but it comes with its fair share of challenges and surprises. One aspect that often catches prospective homeowners off guard is the state of the electrical system within their chosen space. In a city known for its diverse architecture and aging buildings, it's crucial to ensure the apartment you're eyeing has adequate electrical capacity to meet your proposed needs. Join us as we shine light on the powerful intricacies that lie behind the walls of NYC apartment renovations. 

[#Charm]Historic Charm, Modern Needs[#Charm]

Having a vision of your potential new home is an important first step in every prospective home purchase, but it is crucial to not lose sight of the unseen. While the idea that an older home may require an update to the electrical wiring is not a new one, oftentimes the actual amount of electrical capacity, or the lack thereof, catches many by surprise. 

Older buildings throughout NYC were wired to meet the electrical needs of the era when they were built. Absent of electrical service upgrades over the years, many properties lack the electrical capacity to adequately power modern day lifestyles. Appliances like washers and dryers, convection ovens, induction cooktops, and central air conditioning systems demand a great deal of electricity and without adequate amperage you may find yourself sacrificing your desired finished renovation, incurring unexpected costs, or worse, paying for something that you cannot fully utilize. 

These surprises can have significant implications to feasibility, time, and costs.  For example, without adequate electrical amperage you may not be able to install certain desired appliances, or worse, have your circuit breaker panel overloaded and trip every time you use certain appliances. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Electrical service upgrades in some buildings can cost as much as $50,000 and in some buildings they are prohibited outright. Understanding this and the specific implications to you is an important early step prior to agreeing to purchase a property.

Updated electrical box at our renovation at 52 Seventh Ave.

[#How]How To Determine The Electrical Capacity of Your Apartment[#How]

One way electrical capacity is measured is in amperage (amps). Most NYC apartments are wired for anywhere between 40 amps - 80 amps, although newer buildings and those that have recently undergone electrical service upgrades may contain 100 amps or more.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The average apartment with modern appliances needs a minimum of 70 amps or more to power all appliances or you risk the potential of tripping your circuit breakers. There are certain tricks we as professionals can employ to work within lower amperage environments but up only up to certain limitations. 

One layman’s way to determine the amperage of your apartment is to ask your super. Keep in mind that this approach has two limitations:

  1. Your building super may not know the exact answer (although most do)
  2. Even if the building super provides you with the right information, this information lives in a vacuum as it only addresses one part of the picture (The proposed electrical demand is just as important as the capacity)

Ideally, having a licensed electrician perform an inspection and provide an electrical load letter. This is a report detailing the proposed electrical usage in amperage versus the capacity of the apartment and whether the proposed usage is below or above the capacity. At Gallery, this is one of the early steps we employ in our due diligence process, as part of our full-service design-build renovations. For this, you will need to know what appliances and or features in appliances you intend to use (EX:  washer/dryers, induction cooktops, convection ovens, etc). 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Having knowledge of your exact desired appliances and having an electrician perform an electrical load test may be impractical when you are still in the offer stage of your home purchase. In this instance having a phone consultation with a professional can be the 2nd best option as part of your due diligence process. 

Original electrical box from our UWS renovation at 801 West End Ave. View full renovation before and after.

[#Action]Electricity in Action: A Layman's Guide to Amperage[#Action]

Imagine electricity as a flow of tiny particles called electrons racing through wires like water through pipes. Now, amperage is like the measure of how many of these electrons are zooming by in a given moment. Read below as we break down this concept in simple terms.

What is Amperage?

Amperage is like the Flow Rate

  • Picture a river. The amperage is how much water is rushing through it per second. In electricity, it's how many electrons are moving through a wire every second.

Unit of Measurement

  • We measure amperage in units called amperes (or just 'amps'). Think of it like counting how many water droplets flow through a pipe each second.

Understanding the Relationship

Ohm's Law

  • There's a rule called Ohm's Law. It's like a magic formula that says how much current (amperage) flows in a circuit depends on two things: the voltage (like the electric pressure) and the resistance (how much the wire resists the flow).
  • So, if you increase the voltage or decrease the resistance, more current (amps) flows. It's like turning up the water pressure or widening the river—more flow

Safety Measures

Circuit Breakers and Fuses

  • Now, imagine your electrical system has superheroes called circuit breakers and fuses. If too many electrons (amps) try to squeeze through, these superheroes say, "Whoa! That's too much!" and stop the flow to prevent problems, like overheating or fires.

In Everyday Life

Household Appliances

  • Each gadget in your home needs a certain amount of electrical flow (amps) to work. It's like saying, "This blender needs 5 amps to make your smoothie"

Charging Devices

  • Ever notice how your phone charger has a number, like 2.1 amps? That's the amount of flow it needs to charge your phone efficiently. Too little, and it's like a slow river; too much, and it could be like a flood!

Why Understanding Amperage Is Important 

In the world of electricity, amperage is all about the flow—how fast those little electrons are moving. Just like you wouldn't want a river to flood or dry up, it's crucial to have the right amount of amps in your electrical system to keep everything running smoothly and safely. Understanding amperage helps you make sure your gadgets work, your home stays safe, and the electrical river flows just right.

[#Route]The Easiest Route To Understand Electrical Capacity For Your NYC Apartment Renovation[#Route]

While there are tricks to reduce electrical demand of your home, the first piece of advice we give to a client in determining whether their prospective home has enough electrical amperage and whether they need to budget for a potential electrical service upgrade is to consult a professional.

Thinking of purchasing a property and would like a consultation regarding the electrical capacity of your home along with potential cost and timelines of your desired renovation? Schedule a consultation today, or learn more about Gallery, then view our portfolio of NYC apartment renovation before and afters.

We are an award-winning design-build firm in New York City with a full-service approach to renovations in Manhattan and Brooklyn that includes everything from interior design and architecture services to filing permits and construction management. We’re experts in pre-war apartment renovations, apartment combinations, room creations, full gut renovations and all that falls in between. Let us bring your dream home to life.

Chief Revenue Officer

Alex Ushyarovhttps://www.gallerykbny.com/authors/alex-u

Alex Ushyarov is the Chief Revenue Officer of Gallery KBNY, a full service design-build firm specializing in the design and interior renovation of apartments, townhomes, and lofts in NYC. Recognizing the importance of differentiation in a competitive industry, Alex has developed a clear and compelling brand identity for the company. Through meticulous market analysis and a deep understanding of customer needs, he has honed the firm's unique value proposition, highlighting its ability to deliver innovative, sustainable, and high-quality design-build solutions.

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