Old Home Wiring: Is It Safe?

Many homes have older wiring systems. It's important to make sure they don't present a safety hazard.

Your Old Home Wiring: Is It Safe?

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Anyone who has ever owned an older home has seen the old knob and tube wiring systems, or dealt with frayed or torn electric wires. The question is, are older wiring systems a safety hazard?

Over 41,000 home fires each year are caused by faulty electrical wiring, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The Electrical Safety Foundation also estimates that over fifty million U.S. homes don't meet current electrical code safety standards.

While these statistics are alarming, older wiring doesn't necessarily spell trouble. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests the following key indicators as signs of potential problems with your electrical system:

  • Lights dim, or the television picture shrinks when other appliances are turned on.
  • Circuit breakers often need resetting, or fuses need frequent replacement.
  • Appliances such as toasters or irons don't get as hot as they should, or take a long time to heat up.

Older electrical systems can cause other issues as well. Older homes are not often equipped with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). GFCIs are designed to protect against electrical hazards in bathrooms and kitchens. A lack of electrical outlets can also lead to frequent use of extension cords, which is associated with an increase in fire hazards.

If you suspect that your home wiring is not up to code or is a safety hazard, have it inspected by a qualified electrical contractor. For more information, see the Guide to Home Wiring Hazards from the CPSC.

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