NYC Renovation Chronicles

Buddy, can you spare an amp?

By Clare Donohue  | October 1, 2009 - 7:11AM
renovation chronicles image.jpg

The Situation:

Yesterday, my client called me in a panic:  "They just told me I have 'inadequate electrical service!'"

No, it's not some dreaded disease--it just means she doesn't have enough juice to power up her new 48" fridge, built-in cappuccino maker, toaster and AC all at once. It's something typical to city renovations, when we upgrade our "Honeymooner's"-era appliances to today's models.

Here's the deal:

• As part of any serious renovation, you'll have to submit a formal electrical plan to your building and the city. Your building decides the maximum amount power allotted to each apartment, based on how much is available to the building as a whole. The question is whether you need more, or have enough available but aren't using it all.

• By today's code, every appliance must run on its own circuit. That means a lot more circuits than your apartment was built for--it may only have one circuit for your entire kitchen! With your designer or architect, lay out exactly how many lights, outlets, HVACs and appliances you'll be adding.

• An electrician will look at your circuit breaker to assess how much power is currently available to your apartment, and compare it to how much you'll need. He will draft a "load letter" for the building's engineer to review.

• If there is enough power, you'll just need a new, larger circuit breaker, and to run new lines from the breaker to your new appliances.

• If there's not enough power, and your building approves the amount you're asking for, you'll have to bring it up from the basement. Expect that to cost about $2,000 per floor. (If you're on a low floor, you get off easy.)

• Remember that dual-fuel ovens and some air conditioners require a 220 line. Some buildings will not allow you to install that. Don't purchase an appliance until you know for sure. 
Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.