We all know that as things age, they often need replacing but sometimes homeowners neglect to take care of their home's electrical wiring and that can set them up for potential danger. Electrical consumption since the middle of the last century has increased in most homes on average about 400 percent.
If you're tripping your main safety circuit box that could be a sign that you're overloading the electrical outlets and an indication that an electrical contractor should examine your wiring. Oftentimes, homes are renovated several times without any electrical wiring updated. Yet, this is a part of the house that can cause huge problems if it isn't kept up-to-date.
Outdated circuit boxes. When a home hits the 40-year mark the biggest area of electrical concern is the circuit breaker box. Zack Israel, owner of Mike Electric, says that when the circuit box becomes outdated, "it doesn't do what it's supposed to do." He says that as the house ages, the brand of the circuit box becomes obsolete "and today, a new generation of improved boxes is being installed." Israel cautions homeowners about the danger of not replacing an old and outdated circuit box. "If the breaker doesn't trip then the wire might melt and cause a fire," says Israel.
Kitchen wiring upgrades. An area of an older home that typically needs upgraded wiring is the kitchen. "The kitchen is an area that always needs to be upgraded after 40 years. Several decades ago we didn't have microwaves and all the appliances that we have today," says Israel. He says that what can happen if the kitchen wiring isn't upgraded is that when appliances are used, the circuit breaker trips or, even worse, it doesn't trip at all. "So the kitchen is an area that you want to upgrade and bring more power to it," he says.
The electrical code requires two circuits of 20-amps, 120 volts for GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacles for the kitchen/eating area. However, more might be necessary depending on appliances being used.
Heavy-duty appliances need dedicated outlet. A common problem for homeowners occurs when there isn't proper distribution of the electrical circuits. Israel says homeowners often don't understand this. "Let's say for example that [depending on the weather] a homeowner tries to use a portable air conditioning system or heater and plugs it into just any plug—and boom! there's no power—it trips the circuit. This is common. People don't know that they need a dedicated circuit for that kind of appliance," says Israel.
Wire insulation cracks. Another big problem for older homes is that electrical wiring insulation cracks. "Especially in the ceiling lights, the heat from the light rises into the box and causes the wiring insulation to crack," says Israel. When homeowners consider tackling the task of rewiring their home they're often overwhelmed by it—feeling like it will be too expensive and too much trouble. While it is true rewiring can be a major renovation that, in some cases, even means the homeowner must leave the home for a period of time—due to electricity needing to be turned off or just the inconvenience of living with workers in your home -- the end result of peace of mind from knowing your electrical system is working properly and no longer at risk of causing a fire–(a major concern of home insurers)—is well worth the expense and any temporary hassles.