Common Home Electrical Problems and Code Violations

Is your home an outlaw? Chances are that if it’s more than a couple of decades old, you may have things that wouldn’t pass muster if an electrical inspector were to show up tomorrow. Some may just be nuisances, but some can be downright dangerous. Here are some things to look at:

Outdated Wiring

If your home was built before the mid-70s, you may have wiring that wouldn’t be legal today. Up till the 1940s, knob-and-tube (KT) wiring was common. Separate hot and return wires ran through joists and studs in ceramic tubes and were supported along the way by ceramic knobs. While not unsafe per se, KT wiring is typically undersized for modern loads, is vulnerable to aging and damage, and isn’t grounded, causing a dangerous shock hazard. Many insurance companies won’t cover a house with KT wiring and an inspector will insist it be replaced.

Aluminum wiring may be an issue, too. Common in home construction from the late ‘60s to the late ‘70s, aluminum wire is safe, but presents several concerns, especially if it’s joined to copper wire anywhere. If you have aluminum wiring, an inspector will want to verify that it’s properly installed. This can be a complicated process and should only be handled by licensed pros.

Undersized Service and Wiring

Many older homes still have 60-amp service panels and until recently, 100-amp service was standard. But modern homes may need more power than these panels provide. Hot tubs, steam showers, double ovens and other upgrades call for extra power as do many remodels and additions. Branch circuits can also be inadequate for extra demands created by entertainment centers, home offices, or extra appliances. A licensed electrician can tell you if you need an upgrade; an inspector may insist on it.

Improper Panel Configurations

Too often, DIYers and handymen will solve a tripping breaker or fuse nuisance by replacing the offender with a larger-capacity one. This is both dangerous and illegal. Breakers are matched to wire size and load capacity. A larger breaker lets more current flow before tripping and invites disaster. Extra breakers may also have been added during a remodel or rewire, which is fine as long as the main service is able to handle it. But just because there is room for more breakers doesn’t mean you should do it. An electrician can tell you if it’s safe. An inspector will tell you if it isn’t. Who would you rather deal with?

Improper Grounding

Electrical codes require proper grounding of all circuits, a condition that may not exist in older homes or in amateur work. Beyond that, codes require that outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and outdoors have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection to minimize shock hazards. It’s not that expensive to upgrade as long as your branch circuits have three-wire grounded service to begin with. An inspector will insist on it. A pro will do it right.

Get a Residential Electrical Evaluation

Don’t risk your home and family with outlaw wiring. A Residential Electrical Evaluation by Allstar Electrical Services will point out these and any other problems in your home’s wiring. We visually inspect your service panel and breakers and check for any potential hazards and illegal or out-of-code situations as well as pointing out any other issues that may affect the safety and convenience of your electrical service. Reach us for more information at 303-399-7420.

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