Circuits and Wiring

Is Your Atlanta Home’s Wiring Outdated?

A picture of wiring

Signs of Outdated, Old Electrical Wiring in Your Home

Atlanta was founded in 1847, meaning there are plenty of older homes in the city that might need an electrical upgrade. Whether you’re dealing with too few outlets or an obsolete wiring system, here’s how to recognize if your wiring is old and needs to be updated.

Signs of Old Electrical Wiring

If you have an older home, your electrical system may need to be replaced or require dedicated maintenance and care. But how do you know? Look for these tell-tale signs of bad wiring in a house (and schedule emergency repair if there are signs of excess heat or fire):

  • Frequently tripped breaker. The breaker switch flipping again could mean your electrical load is too much for the current circuit. This is a common issue with older homes that weren’t wired to handle modern electrical demand.

  • Unexplained burning smells. If you smell odd odors without a source, like burning or the smell of heating metal or plastic, it could be overheating wires behind your wall. This can quickly escalate into an electrical fire, so it’s best to have it inspected and repaired as soon as possible.

  • Burnt or darkened outlet plates. Heat-damaged electrical plates mean your wires are overheating and scorching the plate covers. Contact professionals for emergency repair to minimize the risk of a house fire.

  • Two-prong outlets. This indicates the outlet is not grounded and has no path to safely send extra electricity. It might shock you as you plug in a device, short-circuit the device, or even spark onto the carpet or curtains and start a fire.

  • No GFCIs. GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupters) outlets can save you from electrocution. This safety system instantaneously cuts power to the outlet when electricity fluctuates too much. The National Electrical Code requires these outlets next to sinks and other wet rooms in the house.

  • The house is 30 years or older. Older homes may have outdated wiring hidden behind the walls. If your home is older than 30 years and the wiring has never been updated, it’s probably time to have it rewired.

How Long Does Electrical Wiring Last?

On average, a home should be rewired every 25 years. Modern copper wire can physically last 100 years or more; however, shock and fire hazards increase as soon as the insulation coating the wires becomes damaged or wears away.

Old House Wiring Problems

How do you know what kind of outdated electrical wiring could be lurking behind your walls? Knowing when the house was built may give you a clue. Homes from the 1950s and before may still have remnants of knob and tube wiring, which can be dangerous with modern appliances. Houses built between 1960 and the mid-1970s likely have aluminum wiring. These types of old wiring can be especially dangerous, but why?

Knob and Tube Wiring

If your home was built during the 1950s or earlier, it might still have some knob and tube wiring. This wiring runs two lines, one for the hot wire and one for the neutral wire, around a porcelain knob. There is no third ground wire like in modern wiring.

Here’s what can go wrong with knob and tube wire systems:

  • Worn or damaged insulation. Over time, the wires become brittle, and as the rubber or cloth insulation wears away, the wires become exposed to the elements.

  • Two-prong system. While two prongs are not compatible with many modern devices, it affects more than the convenience of plugging something in. Without the grounding wire, the system cannot safely discharge excess electricity from an electrical overload.

  • Increased risk of fire. Knob and tube wiring is prone to overheat and may spark, overload outlets, and fry electrical devices. Not only can it cause fires on its own, but DIY fixes like covering the wires or reinsulating your home can be dangerous as well.

  • Complicated upkeep. To keep your knob and tube wiring in the best condition, schedule an electrical inspection, limit the number of appliances you run at once, and replace current outlets with GFCI outlets. Promptly have any frayed wire or cracked tubes and knobs repaired to prevent fires.

Aluminum Wiring

Between 1960 and 1972, two million homes throughout the U.S. were wired with an alloy of aluminum that the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported had 55% more electrical fires than the copper wires we use today. Aluminum wiring may remain in your home to this day.

Here are some associated hazards:

  • Loose connections. As aluminum heats from use, it expands. This adds space between connections when the wire cools back down. The loosened connection encourages arcing, which may spark fires or overheat outlets.

  • Exposed wire. As the wire expands and contracts, the insulation coating wears away, exposing the wire to damage. Oxygen causes the aluminum to corrode, minimizing the flow of electricity that can pass through the wire.

  • Worsens over time. The cycle of heating, expanding, loosened connections, exposed wires, corrosion, and limited electrical flow results in more heat, which causes more expansion, etc. In short, the longer you use the system, the more dangerous it can be and the greater the fire risk.

Replacing Electrical Wiring in Old Atlanta Homes

If you’ve discovered your Atlanta-area home has old electric wiring or noticed signs of faulty electrical wiring, keep your family safe by having it fixed quickly. Annual electrical maintenance checks can catch problems associated with old wiring before they become disastrous and provide peace of mind for residents of new and old homes.

The licensed electricians at Mister Sparky of Atlanta focus on speed and safety. We’ll identify electrical hazards and professionally perform the work needed to keep your home safe and sound. For skilled electrical service, call (770) 824-9592 or book online today.