Why Electrical Systems Deteriorate

You may be surprised to learn that hidden dangers are capable of lurking inside the walls of your home. Old electrical wiring can deteriorate and pose a safety hazard for many reasons and without your knowledge. Over time, insulation protecting the inner wires of your electrical system can break down due to aging, which could cause potentially dangerous electrical shorts. Insulation can also wear out when overloaded circuits cause excessive heat. In addition, older electrical systems lack the grounding systems that create paths to the earth and prevent shorts and fires. The safety of electrical wiring improves over time as building codes and fire codes advance, and modern electrical systems have grounding systems built into them. However, if you have an older home, you should be aware of possible problems that aging electrical systems can cause.
A 2009 National Fire Prevention Association study revealed that the leading cause of fires in houses and apartments in the United States is faulty wiring. As a house gets older, the danger of its wiring being outdated and unsafe becomes greater.

Warning Signs

Some indications that your electrical-wiring system may be outdated or unsafe include:

· Breakers tripping
· Fuses blowing regularly
· Dimming or flickering lights
· Burning smell in a particular room or an appliance
· Discolored outlets or switches
· Tingling sensation when touching a wall switch or an appliance
· Lack of ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in bathrooms, kitchens, utility rooms or other rooms exposed to moisture

All electrical systems deteriorate as they age, but wiring installed before 1966 poses the greatest threat because that is when contractors were still using rubber to insulate wires. We have now learned that rubber breaks down and may crumble after becoming hard and brittle, which exposes live wiring.

Dangers of Older Wiring

· Knob-and-tube

From around 1920 to 1950, homes had knob-and-tube wiring providing electricity. The system used black to indicate hot wires and white to indicate neutral wires and ran them through the walls separately to provide power for each room in the house. Many insurance companies refuse to provide coverage for a home until you replace knob-and-tube wiring with a safe alternative.

· Two-conductor

Homes built from around 1950 to early in the 1960s had electricity provided by two-conductor wiring, which does not have the ground wire necessary for safety. You will be unable to use devices requiring ground connections at outlets if you have a two-conductor wiring system. Most modern lifestyles require at least 100 amps of service and multiple outlets in every room, and a two-conductor system is typically too small to meet those needs.

· Aluminum

The aluminum wiring used between the mid-1960s through 1978 was inexpensive but created safety issues when the connections loosened over time. Aluminum wire experiences a greater degree of expansion and contraction than does the copper wire in use today. Exposed wires may oxidize and cause separation of electrical connections. Gaps between aluminum wiring and connectors can lead to overheating and cause fires, especially when you plug appliances into the outlets. After becoming aware of its link to a rise in electrical fires, consumers stopped using aluminum wiring.

· Fuse Panel

Because you can fit a fuse of any size into each slot of a fuse panel, some people may install larger fuses in circuits that have a habit of blowing fuses. Each branch wire has a limit to the electrical load it can handle without melting and becoming the source of a fire. An over-fused circuit is dangerous because the fuse cannot perform its intended function of protecting against fires when it is the wrong size.

Electricity serves a great purpose and provides many advantages, but never ignore the fact that it can also be deadly if not used properly.