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Landlord Tips and Techniques • July 1, 2002

Why Do Older Apartments Have So Many Electrical Problems?

By David W. Baleno All Pro Electric

Reprinted from Tips 'N' Trends, Rental Housing Association of Pierce County, June 2002

Most older apartments have insufficient electrical systems compared to the strict electrical codes that are enforced nowadays.

1.  Problem: Old and insufficient lighting fixtures. Tenants tend to up the wattage of the bulbs in lighting fixtures to generate more light in the unit.  The older lighting fixtures tent to be rated at only 60 watts.  These old lighting fixtures have no insulated protection.  This creates massive amounts of heat filtering up to the electrical box in the ceiling.  The problem with this is the coating on the wires becomes hard and brittle from the heat generated from a high watt light bulb, it breaks off leaving exposed wiring in the ceiling.

Solution: Replace the older lighting fixtures with new energy efficient lighting fixtures.  These lighting fixtures will burn cooler and last longer and double the illumination in the unit.  The tenant cannot upgrade the wattage on these lighting fixtures.

2.  Problem: Insufficient circuit breakers and wiring.  There are not enough electrical circuits to handle modern day conveniences we have to choose from.  People think if they can buy it they can just plug it in.  For instance, electric floor heaters, microwave ovens, toaster ovens, coffee makers, blow dryers, big screen TVs, window A/C units. All of these appliances have high amp demands, such as: microwaves pull 17 to 20 amps — floor heaters minimum 20 amps — toaster oven 17.5 to 19.5 amps — coffee makers 12.7 to 15.9 amps — blow dryers 17.5 to 19.5 amps — window A/C units 20 to 30 amps.

  Solution: The old sub panel and breakers need to be upgraded.  New circuits and plugs need to be installed to handle the new electrical demands.

3.  Problem: Vandalism and theft problems.  Back when these older apartments were built, outdoor lighting wasn't such an issue.  Nowadays it's a BIG issue.  People want to feel safe and secure where they live.  Existing outside lighting on these older apartment buildings is insufficient and costly to the owner. Maintenance and electrical costs are very high. It's a never-ending battle.  These older systems do not operate properly.

  Solution: Upgrade outside lighting systems to energy efficient, high output, vandal proof lighting fixtures that operate by a photocell switching system.  This will exclude the old outdated time clock system that constantly needs to be reset.  This investment will save the owner hundreds of dollars in maintenance and electrical cost per year.  Resulting in tenants feeling safer and more secure.


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