Electrical Safety For Your Home
Wires with broken or brittle insulation and worn outlets are often the culprits behind home fires. If your home was built more than 60 years ago, call a licensed electrical contractor to inspect its wiring.
The most frequently asked questions regarding wiring in old houses are:
Q: What are the signs of potential electrical hazards in the home?
A: Room lights dim when the refrigerator or air-conditioner kicks on; the TV screen shrinks; circuit breakers frequently trip or fuses frequently blow; and outlets or dimmer switches are hot to the touch.
Q: Is an old-fashioned fuse box a hazard?
A: No. Fuses offer the same protection against overloaded wiring as circuit breakers. However, when fuse boxes were common, houses had only 30- to 60-amperes service. Today's homes need at least 150- to 200-amperes service, so if you have a fuse box and you've added any large appliances over the years, get a professional electrical inspection.
Q: How can I tell when an outlet isn't safe?
A: If it no longer holds a plug snugly, if any parts of the outlet are broken, or if the outlet is hot to the touch, replace the outlet.
Q: Can I add more outlets in the kitchen?
A: Probably. Remember to install ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), and check your homeowner's insurance policy and local laws to see if a licensed electrician, rather than a handyman, must perform this work.
Q: How long does electrical wiring last?
A: That depends on the type of use and abuse levied against the system over the years. If in doubt, get a complete inspection.
Q: How long do outlets and switches last?
A: That depends on use—but electricians will tell you they've seen outlets older than 50 that still work fine, and others that wear out after a few years.
Source: The Leviton Institute