If you're shopping for a new house, unless it's a brand-new one built this year, there have probably been electrical code updates since it went up, so for maximum safety you may need to do some upgrades. This is especially the case with an older house; even if the wiring system has been updated so it no longer includes dangerous forms of wiring such as knob-and-tube or aluminum, you may still need to make one or more of these four upgrades.
1. GFCI outlets
If the home was built more recently than 1971, you probably have some GFCI outlets, but do you have enough? For maximum safety they should be in any area that's likely to have water nearby; this includes not only the kitchen and bathroom but also places like the mudroom, the garage, the basement, the pool room, and any outside areas with electrical access. If the home doesn't have GFCIs in all of these areas, your personal safety requires that they be added as soon as possible. Don't let this scare you away from buying the home, though; as updates go, this is one of the easiest and cheapest.
2. New circuit breaker box
Of course, any electrical system that still has a fuse box is hopelessly outdated. You can replace the fuse box with a circuit box relatively easily, but be sure to have an electrical inspection done to make sure there aren't worse electrical problems hidden elsewhere in the house. And even if the house does have a circuit breaker box rather than a fuse box, it may still need replacing if it doesn't have enough capacity to power the entire house easily (for example, if the house has recently had an addition built) or if it's over 25 years old.
3. Surge protection
Although surge protection isn't a very new concept, it's still not written into electrical code. This means that as a homeowner, you'll be responsible for adding your own surge protection. If the home doesn't have a whole-house protector, you'll need to have one installed by your electrical contractor to supplement your point-of-use surge protectors and protect the wiring itself (surges can actually blow out outlets and fry wiring), as well as those appliances that don't have point-of-use protectors attached (such as your dishwasher).
4. Dedicated circuits
Many large appliances are big enough to cause a power fluctuation in the circuit when they cycle on. If you've ever noticed your lights dimming when a large appliance turns on, you realize how much this can affect the power supply. But did you know that having less power can actually damage devices and appliances just as much as power surges can? Putting these large appliances on their own circuits is the best way to prevent this and to ensure that each appliance and device has a sufficient power supply. Refrigerators and dishwashers, as well as HVAC systems, microwaves, and other appliances with large power draws should all have dedicated circuits.
These four upgrades are all things that may be necessary when you move into a new house. Be sure to ask your electrician, like one from Williams Electric Supply, for an estimate of how much each one would cost so you can decide whether it's worth the additional cost before you close on the house.