Knoweasy Electrical Guide: When to replace electrical wiring? - knoweasy

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Knoweasy Electrical Guide: When to replace electrical wiring?

September 10, 2021

From 2014 to 2018, the National Fire Protection Association reported an average of nearly 34,000 home electrical fires per year; wiring and related systems accounted for 7% of all home fires.
Bad wiring can occur anywhere in the home. It could be right behind a wall or outlet, out of sight, but still a clear and present danger. The following are a few signs that electrical wiring needs to be replaced.


1. Flickering lights

If the lights dim or begin to flicker when turned on, such as in a toaster or vacuum cleaner, the cord may be overloaded. Old, faulty or deteriorated wiring cannot support the current required for such demands. Dimmer lights have always been known to be out of order. A seemingly insignificant problem may actually be a precursor to a very dangerous situation.


2. The house is old

Homes built more than 40 years ago should be rewired for a variety of reasons. Current wiring can wear out. And, most homes use high-powered refrigerators, microwaves, stoves, dryers, entertainment systems, smart home devices and a host of other devices that demand more electricity. Electrical system updates, including wiring, circuit breakers and switchboards, can prevent short circuits, electric shocks or fires.


3. Wiring materials are old

Pay attention to the condition and composition of the electrical system. Inspections should be performed prior to retrofitting or if the system has not been inspected for a period of time. Fuse boxes should be replaced with circuit breaker panels. Old wiring that must be replaced immediately includes

Aluminum: A cheaper option than copper in the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum wiring is prone to sparks and shorts. It is also susceptible to loose connections. As a result, gaps can form, leading to overheating and potential fires. Problems with aluminum wire can also prevent enough power from reaching the equipment that needs it to function properly.
Knobs and tubes: Used in the late 1800s through the 1940s, they are very dangerous when used with modern appliances. Knob and tube wiring consists of porcelain knobs that hold wires to various building elements, allowing the wires to pass through walls. There is no ground in this setup, so connecting it to a three-prong outlet is a hazard.


4. Insulation beyond its useful life

Over time, insulation can degrade and become very weak. Seeing it is a major red flag. However, this material was often used to cover wires in the 1950s. Knob and tube wiring also used loom forms of cloth; these sleeves were placed over the wires and ran through the walls into the appliance. If you find cloth insulation, your home is in dire need of an electrical update.


5. Other red flags

  • Circuit breakers trip frequently.
  • You often rely on extension cords.
  • Sockets are discolored or stained from surges.
  • Electrical wiring appears to have been damaged by rodents.
  • Electrical panel is outdated (i.e., lower voltage rating, use of fuses).
  • There is a tingling sensation when you touch the switch/outlet/appliance.
  • You smell a burning smell somewhere.


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