Is Your Home's Electrical System Safe?

Posted on: 22 September 2015

If you live in a new home, then everything had to be inspected and signed off on before you moved in, including the electrical system. However, if you live in an older home, particularly one you've been living in for awhile, than problems could be lurking in the walls. Electrical problems are not something that you should leave unresolved-- they can cause fires and destroy your expensive electronics.

Outlets That Aren't Grounded

This is an easy one to spot and is not terribly difficult to fix. Take a tour of the outlets in your house. They should all have three spots for wires to go-- two for the plug and one for ground. In the case of a power surge, the current will be allowed to flow out through the ground instead of remaining in the device, which can cause it to catch fire. While many small appliances and lamps don't use a grounding wire, you should still have them available in the outlet. In addition, you should never, ever remove the grounding pin from a wire in order to make it work in one of these older outlets. It is there because the device is not safe to use without one.

If you are careful, it is possible to replace the insufficient outlets yourself, but it is probably better to hire an electrician, especially if you have multiple outlets that need work. They can ensure the project is completed properly the first time and check for additional wiring problems while they are there.

Circuit Breaker Is Too Small

Americans use more electricity than ever before, and modern appliances can be particularly energy hungry. Older circuit breakers (or homes that still use a fuse system) are simply not cut out to deal with modern power loads. You've probably experienced this if you've ever been in a house or apartment where certain appliances couldn't be used at the same time. If you are looking to upgrade the appliances, you might even reach a point where they can't even be installed until you upgrade your electrical panel.

This is one job where there is so much at stake you definitely want to leave it to a professional. The panel needs to be sized correctly for your home and lifestyle, and the electrician needs to ensure that there aren't too many high load devices on any one circuit. The benefit of experience will help ensure that these two conditions are met on the first try.

Frayed Wiring

Perhaps the scariest problem with old wiring is the fact that the insulation can start to crack and break over time. When it comes to old wiring, this is the most likely one to cause a fire. While you are working on upgrading the circuit breaker or installing new outlets, take a minute to inspect the condition of the wires. Running new wiring throughout the house is going to be a serious project, so you may want to take it in stages. Do the areas that you use the most first, and you may even want to consider leaving the breaker off in places like the basement and garage where you do not spend much time until you can upgrade the wiring.

If you spot any of these problems in your home, you should have them addressed as soon as possible. While you may not like the expense of having to replace wiring that still technically works, doing nothing and allowing the wiring issues to cause serious damage will cost you in the long run. These are the sort of investments that are truly worthwhile as a homeowner as the cost of doing nothing is inestimable.