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Dangers of Aging Wiring

Electricity moves through our homes, powering devices and charging phones on a daily basis. We know that every appliance will eventually break, and that replacements will be necessary over time. But we tend to forget that, inside the walls, there are wires, cables, and switches seeing just as much wear and tear (if not more) as the devices we regularly replace.

This is why we recommend getting a full electrical inspection on older homes. In fact, if you haven’t had your home inspected in the last ten years, then we recommend having a full electrical safety inspection performed. Who knows, you might find out that the outlet that’s never worked is an easy fix while you’re getting your home protected against electrical disasters.

Code Updates

The National Electric Code (NEC) is responsible for maintaining strict guidelines on wiring for buildings, residential or commercial. As technologies change and advance (whether because we learn about the dangers of existing technology or because homes adopt new technologies such as USB outlets), the NEC is updated to reflect these changes.

Of course, houses and buildings don’t automatically update when changes are approved by the NEC (that would be nice, wouldn’t it?). From simple changes like the location of outlets in a room, to major safety revisions for mandatory GFCI receptacles, keeping your home up to code is just one problem with buying or living in an older home. Staying up to date can be challenging, but the rewards when it comes to safety are immense.

Aluminum Wiring

Another reason to get your home inspected (especially for really old homes) is in the case of aluminum wiring. Aluminum was used as a cheap alternative to the copper wiring found in homes. Aluminum is used for high-voltage line transmission and it was thought that it would be useful for wiring homes cheaply. Unfortunately, aluminum expands and contracts by a much larger degree than copper when heated.

This thermal expansion cause many wires to lose contact with their terminals (the point where wires connect to switches, fixtures, and outlets). Aluminum wiring would heat up, lose contact, cool down, and regain contact (then repeat the process) electrical arcing would occur between the wire and the terminal. Every time there’s an arc, carbon residue is left on the surface. For aluminum wiring, the carbon buildup can eventually make the contact fail to operate. Often, the heat of the wire and the heat from an arc were capable of igniting the carbon and causing an electrical fire.

Aluminum wiring is no longer used in homes. If you suspect that the wiring in your house is made of aluminum, contact a professional electrician (like Mainstream Electric) and have your house re-wired as soon as possible.

Insulation Chafing and Wear

Another part of getting your home inspected is a visual inspection of wiring and connections. Damaged insulation, loose contacts, or incorrectly connected wiring can all lead to electrical fires or potential damage to your home. If you notice hot faceplates or electrical shocks when touching certain switches or outlets, it’s time to get an inspection of that receptacle or circuit immediately.

Over time, the settling of the house, vibrations from sound, and the movement of any vermin in the walls can lead to wear on the insulation surrounding wires. Once that insulation is stripped away, bared electrical wires can arc, or simply heat up enough to catch surrounding insulation ablaze. It’s important to have your home inspected every 10 years, or if you’ve recently had a problem with mice or rats (which like to chew through wiring) for aging and wear on electrical components.