old house

Electrical Problems in Old Homes: What to Look Out For

Cities like Colorado Springs, Denver, and Pueblo are continually expanding and urbanizing—you can always spot a new neighborhood development on your commute to work. New homes are sprouting up all the time, and people are buying and moving. However, sometimes new isn’t always better (or cheaper). There are a lot of great, older homes throughout Colorado cities, and are often a better choice when it comes to real estate investments. If you currently own an older home, or you are considering purchasing an older home, you’re going to want to check for these common electrical problems that could cause issues in the future in terms of both safety and money.

Generally, homes that were built after 1940 are in the clear—they are usually safe and the electrical systems were installed up to code. Homes built prior to the 1940s should be evaluated, however, as many of the electrical wirings could have deteriorated or may not be able to power a home in this era of modern-day technology and appliances. Regardless of when your home was built, it might be a good idea to have an electrician come out and evaluate the wiring systems in your home and ensure that your family will be safe. Here are some things that you can look for yourself when it comes to old wiring in old homes:

Old Cables

Metal cased, fabric-covered, or frayed wires are signs that your wiring is outdated and unsafe. Many times during the early 1900s, electrical wiring was “protected” by metal jackets or canvas-like cloth, which can cause problems if the insulation in your walls has been damaged or aged, or even if the metal electrical cords were placed on inadequate grounding. If the wires get exposed or start to fray in these two locations (next to insulation or on top of a poor electrical foundation) this could be a serious fire hazard waiting to happen. You know you need to call an electrician and get your wiring replaced when you can see any scorch marks on switches or outlets, when you see torn, damaged, or missing insulation, or when you see exposed wires that could potentially cause a fire.

ZINSCO and FPE Panels

Zinsco Panels

While popular around the 1970s, Zinsco panels are almost obsolete today. However, older homes can still have these panels as a part of their home’s electrical system. Not every Zinsco panel needs to get replaced, but it would still be a good idea to get it inspected, as these panels have circuit breakers that have been known to melt into the main bus bar and cause a fire.

FPE Panels

Federal Pacific Electric panels were distributed throughout thousands of homes in the 1950s to the 1980s, and have an unfortunate reputation of being extremely hazardous to the safety of you and your home. These panels have been known for their inability to trip the circuit breaker when the circuit is overloaded or short. When the breaker doesn’t trip, it instantly puts your home at a fire risk because the circuit is taking on much more than it can handle and has no way to shut itself off.

If you recognize either two of these logos on your electric panels in your home, call an electrician immediately to get them inspected.

Old Fuse Boxes—Below 100 Amps of Power

Houses built before the late 1940s and early 1950s were not expected to handle the amount of electricity that we use in modern times. That being said, the homes were installed with a circuit box that can only power 60 amp service (four fuses), or sometimes even 30 amp service (two fuses). This means that your older home may not be able to power all of the appliances and electronics that you have in your house. If your breaker is tripping constantly, or your electric bill is through the roof, this may be a sign that your older home needs an electrical inspection to update the amp-service. Older electrical panels are also at risk of starting a fire. If you are unsure whether or not your home is experiencing this, call an electrician to be safe, and they will be able to give their expert opinion on whether or not you need to upgrade your electrical panel in your older house.

These are just a few signals of outdated electrical work in an older home, but each one is a serious risk to the safety of you and your family. If you have an older house, be sure to get it checked out and evaluated for safety. The same goes for those who are looking to buy an older home in the Colorado area, as the electrical work could be outdated and dangerous.

The WireNut can give you a professional opinion and be there to fix your outdated electrical wiring system fast.
Contact us to get a home inspection today, and err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety of your home.

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