How to Prepare for an Electrical Retrofit

The U.S. Department of Energy notes that retrofitting gives building owners a choice to prolong a building’s usefulness by integrating new technology into an existing structure. Retrofitting a design can go in several directions. Electrical retrofitting helps increase the energy efficiency of the building and may also lead to reductions in consumption. Commercial buildings and those dealing with industrial purposes should consider electrical retrofitting because of these potential benefits.

Planning for an electrical refit requires understanding the strategy behind the refit. Building owners will need to be aware that the structure may be unusable during the process and need to have contingencies in place to deal with this eventuality. The relocation of HVAC units should also figure into your strategizing because they require specialized personnel to deal with the infrastructure. Building owners can put several things in place to help them make the retrofitting process go a lot faster. Here, we examine the best approaches to preparing for an electrical retrofit:

Do You Need an Upgrade?

If the building’s electrical systems are new and integrate modern technology, a retrofit doesn’t make sense. However, if the building was last wired in the 1970s or ’80s, or even earlier, an electrical retrofit may be a reasonable consideration. Older electrical wiring methods were unsafe and didn’t have the built-in protections that modern systems do. Electrical contractors would always advise you to upgrade to the latest wiring, even if it means retrofitting the existing wiring.

Retrofitting introduces several potential benefits to a building as well. The Journal of Electrical Systems and Information Technology notes electrical retrofitting in an establishment dealing with food and beverage manufacture experienced reductions in energy consumption of more than 10 percent and a corresponding decrease in greenhouse-gas emissions. Older electrical wiring circuits are notoriously poor at being efficient. Retrofitting them with modern infrastructure will benefit the building in the long run by reducing their energy-consumption costs.

Retrofitting costs will vary based on several distinct factors, such as:

  • Building size and the industries located within it.
  • Operational requirements.
  • Goals, such as a reduction in energy consumption or emissions.
  • Other factors.

Building Owner Preparation

Retrofitting is likely to affect a lot of things within the building. Some areas will be entirely non-functional while others will face limited functionality over time. The following steps can help to limit the massive impact on the businesses located within the building:

1. Set Up a Continuity Plan for Business

Retrofitting the electricals in a building can be a time-consuming and invasive procedure. Businesses within the structure will need to relocate temporarily. Continuity plans take into account what would lead to a more productive building when faced with the drawback of electrical retrofitting. The building owner would need to decide whether it’s more economically viable to relocate the business within the building temporarily or whether it may be best to simply house a business somewhere else while the structure’s electricals get upgraded.

2. Develop a Backup Power Plan

If you choose to keep businesses operating within the building, they’ll need backup power because your main supply is likely to be interrupted or unstable during the process. Setting up a bank of generators so these locations can have electricity throughout the retrofitting process will offer them options to continue uninterrupted.

3. Set Up a Disposal Procedure

Retrofitting typically produces a lot of waste within the building. You shouldn’t wait until the final stages of the project to consider disposing of the old materials. Instead, consider streamlining a disposal process that aids in the efficient transfer of waste products out of the building, keeping the impact on the structure’s inhabitants to a minimum.

4. Work with a Contractor

You might have consulted a contractor for feedback and advice early on in the project. It’s best if you keep the contractor on hand and have him or her work alongside you on this project. Several contractors are specialized in retrofitting buildings. Their expertise will help make the project progress faster. Skilled contractors will guide you on how to implement the previous measures to keep businesses within the building going while you retrofit around them.

Don’t Be Afraid of Retrofitting

Buildings need to move with the times. If you have a structure that’s aged, and you don’t consider the electricals, it could lead to severe issues down the line. Low-voltage dips and shorts could lead to electrical shock. In some cases, they could even cause a fire. Retrofitting is a cheaper alternative to redoing the electrical wiring within a building completely. Asking a professional to guide you will make it a lot less painful for those still populating the building during the process.

About the Author

Bobby Lynn
Bobby Lynn is the owner of LiveWire Electrical , a fully licensed and insured residential and commercial electrical company serving Charlotte, N.C., and surrounding areas. Lynn has been in the electrical industry for more than 20 years and has a vast knowledge of all things electrical.

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