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The Top 5 Electrical Problems Found in Older Homes

Electrical safety standards have changed quite a bit over the years. Consequently, if you own an older home, it could very well be time for some updates, especially if you’re planning on buying new appliances or replacing your HVAC system, which will increase the amount of power flowing through your home’s circuits.

Here are some of the most common electrical problems found in older homes.

1. Damaged Aluminum Wiring

Aluminum wiring used to be preferable to copper wiring during the late 1960s to mid-1970s because it was more cost-effective. Unfortunately, it’s more prone to damage for a couple of reasons:

  • It oxidizes and corrodes, which makes overheating and an electrical fire more likely.
  • The metal expands when it gets hot and shrinks when it gets cold, which causes wear and tear over time.

The biggest risk of overheating and fire comes from poor wire connections. While replacing your aluminum wiring isn’t required, keep in mind that having it in your home may void your homeowners insurance policy, depending on who your carrier is.

2. Frequently Tripping Breakers

The occasional tripped breaker is no cause for concern. However, if resetting one or more of your home’s breakers becomes routine, that means there’s a problem. Typically, the issue is that the circuit is overloaded with too much electricity.

You might be able to avoid this problem by unplugging appliances and electronics that you’re not using. The long-term solution typically involves adding an additional circuit to accommodate more energy use. This might be the more practical option if you’re looking to add high-powered appliances to your home.

3. Outlets That Are Not Correctly Grounded

Outlets need to be grounded because that will help protect your appliances and electronics from sudden electrical surges. When an electrical circuit is grounded, excess current has a safe place to travel (into the ground). If the outlet isn’t grounded and a surge happens, whatever is plugged into the outlet could potentially “fry.”

The problem is that many older homes are still equipped with a two-wire system, as opposed to a three-wire system, and that prevents the outlets from being grounded. You can often look at an outlet to determine if it’s grounded and part of a three-wire system:

  • If it has three holes, then it’s most likely grounded and part of a three-wire system.
  • If it has only two holes, then the outlet is part of a two-wire system and is not grounded.

Keep in mind, even if the outlet has three holes, it does not necessarily mean that the outlet has been grounded correctly, especially if the previous homeowners attempted to add their own ground. For this reason, we recommend getting an electrical safety inspection so that you can be sure you are avoiding any hazards.

4. Overlamping

Each light fixture in your home has a maximum wattage that it’s designed to handle. If a light bulb’s wattage is higher than the fixture’s maximum wattage, you could be in for some major problems, including,

  • A scorched socket
  • Melted insulation
  • Sparks (arcing), which could result in an electrical fire

Usually, a fixture will tell you the maximum wattage it can handle, but if it was made prior to 1985, that information might not be present. For unmarked fixtures, stick to bulbs that are 60-watt and under.

5. Not Enough Outlets

This is more of an inconvenience rather than a safety issue, although hazards can arise when you need to resort to extension cords and outlet adapters for everyday use. In newer homes, outlets are required within 4 feet of a doorway and then every 12 feet following, but in some especially older homes, some rooms might only come equipped with one outlet. You can solve this problem by asking a licensed electrician to install more outlets for you.

At My Electric Works, our electricians take pride in providing customers throughout Columbus with excellent service and reliable solutions to all sorts of electrical problems. Give us a call at (614) 515-4520 or contact us online today!