As rapidly as house and apartment construction develops, old homes still make up a large percentage of residences out there. Over the past century, the way that electrical wiring systems are built and installed in homes has changed drastically. One of the dangers of owning an old home is that they're more likely to catch on fire due to electrical accidents from old-style electrical wiring. Here are a few signs that can tell you if your home’s wiring is a fire hazard.
Knob & Tube Wiring
While no longer used today, knob & tube wiring was a big hit back in the late 1800’s all the way to the 1940s. This type of wiring uses white ceramic knobs that hold wires in place and ceramic tubes that protect the wires. There are several issues with knob & tube wiring which make it particularly dangerous to have in your home. Issues like lack of ground wires, the use of rubber which tends to degrade over time, and the need to avoid contact with insulation. Most insurance companies won’t even insure homes that use this type of wiring due to the high risks of fires. Companies that do will charge very high premiums because of it.
“A lot of houses that were built between the 1960s and 1970s use aluminum wiring,” says Robert Wilson, an electrical contractor from ContractorAdvisorly. “One of the issues with aluminum wiring is that over time it degrades and loosens causing the wires to become exposed. Unfortunately, this exposed wiring can easily overheat which can then lead to electrical fires. To make matters worse, a lot of insurance policies won’t cover your home if there is any type of aluminum wiring in it,” Wilson mentions. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), homes that use aluminum wiring are 55 times more likely to have wire connections that meet fire hazard conditions when compared to homes which use copper wiring.
Insulation Has Deteriorated
As with most things in your home, things will often deteriorate over time. One sign that your home's wiring is a potential fire hazard is that the insulation has deteriorated or become damaged. Wire insulation can be damaged by things like improper installation, rodents chewing on it, and overheating which all cause the wires to become exposed. Exposed wires are a huge fire hazard that should be fixed as soon as possible.
Low Amp Wiring
If you live in a really old home and you use the newest electronics then you can potentially be creating a fire hazard. This situation can cause an overload to occur when you draw more electricity than the circuit can handle which can start fires. According to Andrew James, a fire and water damage restoration contractor from IndianapolisRestorationPros, “Outdated wiring is one of the most common causes of electrical fires that we see in our jobs. Often, homes with very old electrical wiring aren’t prepared for handling electronics like air conditioners, TVs, and computers that draw a lot of amps.”
One of the most common causes of flickering or dimming lights is due to damaged wiring. Other times dimming lights are also caused by damaged circuit breakers. If the wiring was modified in the past, it’s possible it was done improperly which led to faulty wiring. Having damaged/faulty wiring is a fire hazard and should be looked at and fixed by an electrician. According to David Richardson from PropertyManagemently, “Flickering lights are one of the most common issues that tenants complain about as they point to outdated wiring which can be a fire hazard. So if you plan on renting out your home or living in it, then you will seriously want to consider updating your electrical system to prevent flickering lights.”
Consequences Of Ignoring Electrical Wiring Fire Hazards
“Electrical fires are a huge issue for any homeowner since they can cause unpredictable damage to the property and its residents. If you’re renting out a home who’s home wiring is a known fire hazard, you can open yourself up to lawsuits and expensive legal penalties. If you’re living in a home where the wiring is a known fire hazard then you’re insurance can deny you coverage for electrical fire damage,“ David mentions.
While the cost of updating a home wiring system certainly isn’t cheap with an average cost between $7,000-$10,000, it’s worth the peace of mind. Paying expensive home insurance, worrying about lawsuits and high risks of fires isn’t something any homeowner should be dealing with long term. The long term benefits to having an updated electrical wiring system in your home outweigh the initial investment cost.