Common Electrical Issues to Watch for with Older Homes

Many older homes contain wiring that is outdated and requires electrical repair, leading to tripped breakers, overloaded circuits, or dead outlets.

Old wiring poses a potential fire hazard and this isn't the only electrical issue you might run into with an older home. If you plan to buy a home in Madison and you are considering a historic home or an older home, you should be aware of these issues.

Flickering Lights

Flickering lights are an increasingly prevalent electrical issue in older homes, often as a result of loose light bulbs or malfunctioning dimmer switches, or they could signal older and outdated wiring that requires a professional inspection.

Loose connections can lead to arcing, an electrical fire hazard. Older homes may contain aluminum wiring which must be upgraded with copper. Furthermore, upgrading from cloth-covered knob-and-tube wiring to modern 100-amp service is critical for both the well-being of family members and the appliances in your home.

Flickering lights in just one room or area indicate a switch failure or related issue; if they begin flickering throughout your home, however, this could indicate larger problems like an overloaded main electrical panel with loose service conductors that needs addressing immediately.

Old Breakers

Older homes typically experience one of the greatest issues when it comes to electrical appliances: outdated wiring. Modern electrical devices require much more power than what was designed into old circuits in older homes, which leads to frequent fuse explosions in breaker boxes that pose fire hazards and cause frequent fuse pops in fuses that don't pop often enough.

If your house still uses fuses rather than breaker panels, consider having it immediately replaced by a professional electrician who can install one that meets amperage specifications.

An additional precautionary step to take is having your house checked for aluminum wires, knob, and tube wiring, or armored cable that may have been hidden behind walls. Such wires don't pose the same risks as copper wiring and should be avoided as soon as possible.

Search for unprotected junction boxes in attics, basements, and garages as this could indicate an unauthorized remodel or repair that falls short of code requirements. Covering these junction boxes can help prevent fires while decreasing mold risks; any unguarded boxes should be covered using non-flammable material like fiberglass.

Dead Outlets

Old houses don't always have enough outlets for our modern electronic gadgets. Dead outlets can cause serious electrical issues like tripping breakers and need to be repaired by an electrician as soon as possible.

An outlet that's dead signifies no electricity is reaching it and this could result in melting insulation or fire hazards. Therefore, it's crucial that it's replaced immediately while also using a voltage tester to verify no current is flowing through it.

To fix a dead outlet, switch off its circuit breaker first and use a screwdriver to pry open its cover with a screwdriver and inspect for burn marks or loose connections, such as terminal screws and stab-in connections (wires pressed against the back of the outlet). If any connections appear loose, tighten them using your screwdriver or try replacing wire connectors if any appear loose; otherwise, contact a professional electrician and have their service replace yours asap. If your circuit breaker keeps tripping, it should be replaced by professional electricians instead.

Uncovered Junction Boxes

Electrical systems provide us with many daily conveniences we often take for granted: flip the switch and the lights come on; plug in our toaster or phone charger and everything works seamlessly. But these conveniences should never be taken for granted.

Electrical systems in old homes often present an array of complications, from outdated wiring and makeshift upgrades to connections that may pose fire hazards.

According to electrical codes, anytime multiple wires are spliced together into something such as a junction box, their connection must be fully enclosed and protected from fire hazards. Any exposed box poses an immediate risk, even if held together using plastic caps and electrical tape.

Some devices, like light fixtures that don't require boxes for mounting, feature their own built-in junction boxes - although they serve different functions from residential boxes and could still be compromised by rodents and pests. A home inspector should check for these and replace any that have gone missing - an inexpensive cover from your local hardware store could be an easy, do-it-yourself fix!

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