There are houses in the U.S. that do not have electricity. Drayton Hall, an antebellum plantation outside Charleston, S.C., never had electricity and still does not.

There are homes in the southwest desert, Appalachia and other remote areas that electric lines have not reached.

Aside from these rare examples, almost everyone has electric lights and uses electrical appliances. There are some old houses, however, especially ones that have never been remodeled, that have very inadequate and even dangerous systems.

A faulty electrical system is no reason to reject an old house but it's a good idea to know about potential problems. During the original inspection, find and check the fuse box or central panel. It is a modern panel with circuit breakers and metao-or plastic-covered cable the system is probably up to code and in good shape.

A system that still uses fuses, has cotton-covered wire, and looks as though it is held together with tape, will probably have to be replaced. Check the panel for a label showing the number of ampheres the power company is supplying the house. (An ampere measures the amount of current being pushed through the wire). Thirty-amp systems used to be considered adequate but most homes now need 100 or 200 amps. If there is no label you will have to call an electrician or arrange with the power company to find out. There will probably be a charge.

You should also find out how many circuits there are and what outlets or appliances are on each circuit. (A circuit is one track of wire that has a limited number of outlets). To do this you will need a notebook and a partner.

The first step is to number the fuses or circuit breakers. Modern panels are usually numbered. One person stands at the central panel. Beginning with circuit number 1 the partner turns off one fuse or breaker while you note which light and appliances go off. This is repeated with each circuit until all of the outlets, overhead lights and switches are matched with a circuit. Put all of this information on a piece of paper and tape it to the inside of your panel box.