Older Home Kitchen

6 Common Electrical Problems That Can Affect Your Older Home

Older homes are notorious for having a variety of electrical problems. Some older homes have insufficient electrical service to power all their appliances and devices, while other older homes lack the modern innovations that help keep homeowners and their family members safe.

Older homes are notorious for having a variety of electrical problems. Some older homes have insufficient electrical service to power all their appliances and devices, while other older homes lack the modern innovations that help keep homeowners and their family members safe.

If you're a homeowner with an older house, it's important to be familiar with, recognize the signs of, and know what to do about the many electrical problems that can plague older homes. In this article, we'll discuss the kind of issues that you can find in older homes. We'll also talk about what these problems mean and what can be done about them. Here's what you need to know.

1. Insufficient Power

Modern homes use a lot of appliances and electrical devices that were absent from homes many years ago. To power these appliances and devices, today's homes typically have electrical boxes that deliver 100 to 200 amps of power. However, some older homes can have as little as 60 amps. That's simply not enough. 

How can you tell your home is getting insufficient power?

First, you can check the total amperage on your home's electrical panel. Circuit breakers have a main breaker at the top or bottom of the two columns. This main breaker controls the power to the entire panel. Usually, there's a label near the breaker that indicates how much power is delivered to the box.

You'll also notice signs of a problem if your home's electrical panel isn't delivering enough power to your home. 

Some symptoms include:

  • Lights dim when appliances turn on
  • Circuits trip frequently
  • You can't install any new appliances because there isn't enough electrical service

What should you do if your electrical panel isn't delivering enough power to your home? If your home's electrical panel is less than 100 amps, you almost certainly need a breaker box upgrade. Talk to an electrician to find out how much power your home needs. Your electrician can help you decide how much is adequate based on your home's size and number of people living in your home. Do not DIY an electrical panel installation - hire a pro. 

2. Aluminum Wiring

Wiring has changed a lot in the last several decades. One example of this is aluminum wiring, which was commonly installed in homes from the 1960's through the mid 1970's. Today, aluminum wiring is known to be potentially dangerous. Although some homes still have aluminum wiring, this type of wiring is prone to developing dangerous connections, which can overheat and start fires. Even wiring that has been fine for many years can still become a hazard.

How can you tell your home has aluminum wiring? Aluminum wires usually have an "AL" on the sheathing, or may say the word "aluminum."

What should you do if your home has aluminum wiring? If your home has aluminum wiring, get an assessment by an electrician. There are several ways to address the problem.

Your electrician can completely re-wire your home, or use a product to attach copper connections at the ends of all your wires. Have your electrician give you a quote for both, and you can decide which repair is best for your home. 

3. No GFCI Outlets

GFCI stands for "ground fault circuit interrupter." GFCI outlets work by monitoring the amount of electricity flowing into and out of a circuit. If there's a discrepancy in the flow of electricity, the outlet shuts down.

GFCI outlets are designed to stop accidental electrocutions. They're placed in kitchens, bathrooms and in other high moisture areas of the house. GFCI outlets became standard in some parts of the home decades ago, but some older homes don't have these outlets.

What should you do if your home lacks GFCI outlets?

GFCI outlets help keep people safe. If your home lacks GFCI outlets in high moisture rooms, you can have them installed by an electrician, or under some circumstances, you can install them yourself. See our previous blog article on GFCI outlets for more information.

4. Unsafe Electrical Box

Older homes can have unsafe electrical boxes. For example:

  • The electrical box is a brand that is now known to be unsafe. Zinsco and Federal Pacific electrical panels were at one time trusted names in home energy consumption. Electrical panels from these companies are now known to be a fire hazard, but may still be found in some older homes. If found, they should be removed and replaced.
  • Your electrical box is a fuse box. Fuse boxes were commonly installed in homes in the middle part of the 20th century. Today, we use circuit breaker boxes instead of fuse boxes. Although there is nothing inherently dangerous about a fuse box, some boxes have been altered by homeowners in such a way that would make them unsafe. An example of this is the practice of inserting a penny in place of a fuse. Pennies are an excellent conductor of electricity and can be used in place of a fuse. However, putting a penny in place of a fuse can lead to electrical overload, because unlike a fuse box, pennies will allow any amount of electricity to flow through them. 

How can you tell if your breaker box is unsafe? Sometimes it's very hard to tell whether an older breaker box is dangerous. The best way to find out if your box has a problem is to have it inspected by an electrician. 

5. DIY Projects that Went Wrong

Homeowners can do the funniest things. They install new light fixtures and ceiling fans, upgrade their garbage disposals and switch out their appliances - and sometimes, they do the work all wrong. Sometimes these DIY projects can go for years without creating problems, but many old homes are full of DIY projects that should have been left to the professionals. 

How can you tell your home has a problem? One way to identify DIY projects that should never haven taken place is by getting a home inspection, either by an electrician or a certified home inspector. Once you've gotten an inspection, you can decide for yourself what needs to be fixed urgently. 

How can you avoid DIY fails in the future? The best way to avoid this problem in the future is by hiring a residential electrician to conduct installations and repairs. While it's good to save money by doing work yourself, keep in mind that you can actually lose money on some DIY projects. Doing the work yourself only to have it repaired by a professional when it goes wrong can waste your time and money, and may even devalue your home.

6. Knob and Tube Wiring

Knob and tube wiring is another obsolete form of wiring that was common in homes up through the early-to-middle part of the 20th century. Like fuse boxes, knob and tube wiring is not inherently dangerous. However, like fuse boxes, this type of wiring has been around for a long time and has had a lot of time to be modified in unsafe ways. 

What should you do about knob and tube wiring? If your home has knob and tube wiring, have it inspected by an electrician. It may need replacement, but it's best to get a professional opinion before deciding to act. 

Have an Older Home? Need An Inspection? Contact Add-All Electric

There are a lot of things that can go wrong with the electrical systems in older homes, in addition to the problems we've listed here. From frayed wiring to lack of electrical outlets, there are many things that can go wrong with the wiring in old home. The best way to catch these problems is by hiring an electrician in Dallas that you can trust. Contact Add-All Electric to have your home's wiring inspected and repaired.


Our Dallas Electricians Provide Services in the Following Cities:

Little Elm Tx

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