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When Old Wiring Is Dangerous, Not Quaint

Published on NewsOK Published: October 9, 2013

Photo: Paul Cross/Flickr.comBuying, and living in, an older home can be totally charming. But along with the quaint comes the antiquated; the rooms that are a touch too small, the old plumbing that leaks and grumbles to itself, and aging electrical systems that simply aren't up to daily use. Where do you draw the line when it comes to an old electrical system and the difference between quaint quirks, and actual electrical hazards that need to be addressed?

Hopefully, your home was inspected before you bought it, and the inspector should have checked out the electrical system and given you some advice. If the electrical system hasn't been looked at recently, it's time to call an electrician and have it evaluated. One thing you'll definitely want to establish is what kind of wiring system you have, because if you're still livijng with old knob and tube wiring, it's got to go.

This wiring is ungrounded, and it often has fraying insulation, cracking wires, and other problems after decades of use. There's a higher risk of fires and electrical shock, neither of which you want in your home, and it can also be a code violation, depending on where you live. Because of the known risks associated with aging knob and tube, some insurance companies are picky about it too, and you might have trouble getting coverage if you don't replace it.

Do you have random outlets and switches that don't work? You need to find out why, because there could be a problem. If any outlets or switches spark, get hot, hum, emit smoke, or otherwise behave unnaturally, get it addressed doubletime, because you could be looking at a serious electrical issue. Cut off power to that circuit at the junction box, and call an electrician for help.

Speaking of which, what kind of shape is your junction box in? Is it exposed, rusting, or otherwise compromised? Does it still have fuses, or has it been replaced and transitioned to breakers? Fuses aren't necessarily a bad thing, but they do indicate that the box hasn't been replaced in a while, which means that it could be harboring electrical problems.

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