As houses age, electrical wiring can wear out, causing dangerous predicaments within the walls that homeowners can’t see. Familiarizing yourself with how wiring works and being aware of warning signs can help to detect potential problems early and to avoid costly damage caused by electrical fires.
Your home’s wiring starts at the service panel, which delivers electricity to different areas of the house. The service panel also helps prevent wires from overheating. When a surge occurs, a circuit breaker within the panel trips or a fuse blows to shut down power. How electricity travels from the service panel throughout the house depends upon the type of wiring system in place. There are three types:
- Knob-and-tube: This system uses porcelain tubes to protect insulated copper wire conductors and is supported by porcelain knobs nailed to the lumber, and was installed in homes through the 1940s. Due to its age and lack of grounding, knob-and-tube wiring is considered a fire hazard.
- Aluminum: An inexpensive replacement for copper in the 1960s and 1970s. Though cheaper, aluminum wiring can be a fire risk because overheating can occur where the wire attaches to outlets and other fixtures.
- Grounded: This system was first installed in homes in the 1940s and it is still used today. It is considered the safest wiring system because it safeguards against electric shock.
Telltale signs that problems may exist with the wiring in your home:
- Signs of outdated wiring (noted above)
- Lack of grounded, three-prong outlets; tamper-resistant outlets; and ground-fault circuit interrupters, which should be located in garages, outdoor spaces and damp areas of the house
- Lights that flicker or dim
- Circuits that trip or fuses that blow repeatedly
- Crackling, sizzling or buzzing sounds coming from the electrical system
- Warm or discolored outlets
- Cords that feel hot to the touch
- Burning smells
- Arcing or sparking when plugging cords into outlets
- Getting shocked when you touch switches, outlets or appliances
- Cracked or frayed wires, or signs that rodents have chewed on wires
- Smoking outlets or appliances
To avoid problems, have a certified electrician inspect the wiring in your home periodically, especially if it is more than 40 years old. If you’re not sure when the wiring was last inspected, look for a date and electrician’s signature on the service panel. You also can regularly review your home’s electrical system for signs that wiring is failing or no longer meets your needs.
Note: Data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. Denver West Insurance Brokers makes no representations as to accuracy, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.