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Electrical Load & Air Conditioning

May 6, 2022 | Blog


If there’s anything we know at Arnold Electrical it’s old Chicago homes, so let’s start this month’s blog off with a little trivia:

Do you know what wasn’t very common when most of Chicago’s homes were built in the 1920s-50s?
Well, there are a few answers to that. but today’s winner is…

Air conditioning!

Most of Chicago’s homes weren’t equipped with an air conditioning system when built, and many (yours might be one of them!) still make it through winter every year with their original radiators. And as it finally starts to get warmer, you might be of the many Chicagoland homeowners wondering how to bring their home’s cooling system into the 21st century.

Why Not A Window Unit?

Some homes that aren’t equipped with central heating and cooling systems were built with dedicated 240volt breakers and circuits just for window unit air conditioners. If that’s the case, you can just buy a 240 volt window unit & call it a day!

Unfortunately, the majority of Chicago homes were built with 120 volt electrical systems, so a 240 volt window unit isn’t an option. Thankfully, you can still go for a smaller 120 volt window unit.

One issue you might run into if you opt for a window unit is the placement of those 120/240 volt breakers. They’re not always near the window you want to use! While it may seem like the natural solution, do not use an extension cord to reach the unit. That cord will heat up and could cause an electrical fire! The issue gets even bigger when more than one air conditioning unit gets plugged into the same outlet.

Even if it doesn’t result in a fire, you could still trip a breaker or blow a fuse which leads to even costlier repairs. This can all be avoided entirely by installing additional window unit breakers, or going for central air…

How To Upgrade To Central Air

The first step to upgrading your home to central air is to see if your home uses fuses or breakers. Fuse panels in old Chicago homes are wayyyy too small for modern homes’ and families’ electrical needs, so if your home uses screw-in fuses you’ll probably have to upgrade to a breaker panel. There just isn’t any room to add one for an air conditioner! Fuse panels have a 25-30 year lifespan, so your home might be in need of an upgrade anyway.

When adding any type of large electrical appliance such as central air or double ovens, the first step is doing a load calculation to determine if your existing 100amp electrical service will suffice or if you’ll need an upgrade to the modern standard 200amp system.

Leave It To Arnold Electrical Services

While Arnold Electrical can handle the electrical side, you’ll need to hire separate heating and cooling contractors. Contact us for a free in-home consultation with one of our senior electricians to evaluate your electrical system and load calculation to determine if you’ll need an upgrade. This takes anywhere from 60-90 minutes and after walking you through our upfront price options, some work could be completed on the same day.

A good plan is to schedule your electrical service in between your air conditioning unit delivery & installation. The unit will sit in your yard while we get to work, and your heating & air conditioning tech will come back and start it up when it’s all wired in!

Thanks for reading & don’t forget to take advantage of this month’s offer — just mention this blog to buy any USB or GFCI outlet installed & get one free! Easy as that!

Why Choose Arnold Electrical?

Reliable Service
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Emergency calls and regular service calls are performed on a flat rate. No surprises!
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