If you are in the market for the charm and beauty of an older home, you also know that you might be embracing plenty of repairs to bring the home up to modern standards. One of the most important aspects of updating an older house is improving the electrical system. Many older homes have had some electrical upgrades, but without an inspection, you won't know what's going on inside the walls.
Here are some of the most common electrical repairs you might need to make to an older home.
1. Grounded outlets.
Older outlets allowed for only 2-prong plugs. Once appliances like blenders and mixers started being released with the safer three-pronged plug that included the grounding element, people upgraded their outlets to accommodate these new items. However, these may not have been upgraded properly. It's very common to have a modern plug that allowed for a grounded plug, but the outlet itself is not grounded to anything.
Fixing these can be simple, but since historic homes have had many years of electrical upgrades and repairs, it can be more complex than you think. The grounding wire may not be there, or it might be there, but it might not attach to anything else, or it might connect to another outlet, switch, or light in some way. Finding the pathways can be tricky, and if you are not experienced with electrical repair, you'll need an electrician to get your outlets up to snuff.
This is especially important to do in the bathrooms. Many people install GFCI style outlets in the bathroom. These outlets are supposed to immediately throw the breaker if water enters the outlet, helping to prevent accidental electrocution. However, sometimes the outlets are GFCI in appearance only, meaning they do not provide the safety necessary.
2. Existing knob and tube.
Some home have had partial electrical upgrades over the years with new breaker boxes and wiring for fixtures and appliances. However, some newer wiring will still piggyback off of the original knob and tube that was first installed in the house. As a system, knob and tube is not inherently dangerous. However, with the modern load of electricity, along with the combination of two different types of wiring systems, it becomes a fire hazard because of the modifications to the system that people might have made to it in the past. Also, grounding wires cannot be installed with knob and tube systems, making it impossible to upgrade the outlets until you've replaced the knob and tube with modern wiring.
One way you can easily tell is knob and tube might still be in your home is flickering lights from loosening connections. Knob and tube wires can droop as they age, which can weaken some of the connections along the current path. This is one of the reasons why older houses stereotypically have flickering lights.
3. Insufficient power.
Consumption of electricity has drastically increased over the years, and if an electrical system hasn't been upgraded, the power in your home probably won't meet all your needs. Sometimes, outlets might have been added to the system without accounting for the pull of power needed to support them. If you run your freezer, fridge, lights, electric dryer, and dishwasher at the same time, the draw might be too great and you'll see the lights dim and your appliances struggle or even shut off. You'll need an electrician to assess what your current system can handle and what upgrades might need to happen in order for you to add extra outlets or more lights.
For more information on diagnosing electrical problems and addressing needed repairs, contact a local and qualified electrician who has experience working with older homes.