Older Homes may need an Electrical Repair
If you live in an older home or are thinking of moving to one, you should be aware that the home may be in need of electrical repair if the wiring and panel have not been upgraded. Wires fitted with cloth insulation, knob and tube or aluminum wiring and insufficient grounding were all common in the past and require remedial action to ensure the safety of you and your family.
Wires with cloth insulation were the standard for for homes built up to the 1950′s and, in some areas, considerably later. The cloth insulation often dries out over time, becoming brittle, cracking and falling away. This is a hazard that can lead to short circuiting, causing damage to your appliances, electric shocks or a fire developing from the exposed wire beneath. Modern standards use wires insulated with forms of plastic, which is much more durable and better suited to the purpose.
Knob and Tube wiring
Knob and tube wiring was also used in homes up until the 1950′s, although it became less common after 1935. It consists of white ceramic knobs used to wind the wires round, to hold them in place, and ceramic tubes which created channels for wires to pass through joists or other parts of the home’s structure. Old knob and tube wiring is unlikely to have sufficient capacity for today’s electrical needs. Cases have been found where home owners have replaced fuses on knob and tube wiring systems with fuses rated for a higher current to enable additional appliances to be used. This can easily lead to overloading, causing wires to heat up and start a fire.
Copper is most commonly used for household wiring, but during the 1960′s and 1970′s over 2 million homes were fitted with aluminum wires because of the high price of copper at that time. In 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission published a report of research which found that homes with aluminum wiring were 55 times more likely to have connections that posed a fire hazard than homes with copper wiring. Because of improperly formed connections and the differences in the way different metals expand and contract with heat, over time the aluminum can overheat at a terminal and develop into a hazard.
The safest solution to this problem is to replace all the aluminum wiring with copper, but this is a major undertaking and can be very expensive. It is also possible to carry out a repair, which involves replacing part of the aluminum wire with copper at every connection point, which includes all outlets, switches, fixtures and junction boxes. Special connectors can be used to splice the copper and aluminum wires safely.
Lack of Grounding and Two Prong Outlets
Grounding was not considered important in a time when the average family used much less electricity than is common now. All new houses are grounded so that any electric current that leaks into uninsulated metal is carried away safely into the ground. Modern appliances come fitted with three-prong plugs, which can only be fitted into three-prong outlets. In some older homes, two
prong outlets have been replaced at some point in the past with three-prong ones, but without the proper grounding. Just connecting a three-prong outlet does not create the necessary grounding to ensure safety and may lead a home owner into a false sense of security.
While any of these issues may not be causing an immediate problem, they do constitute potential dangers which need to be rectified to assure the safety of you and your family. If you think your older home is affected, contact a licensed contractor to undertake the necessary electrical repair, so that you can rest easy.