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Home Inspection

What Is Knob and Tube Wiring and Why Is it a Safety Hazard?

Knob and Tube WiringIf you’re thinking about buying an older home, be sure to keep an eye out for knob and tube wiring. This outdated style of wiring, commonly used in homes built between 1880 and 1950, is considered obsolete and may constitute a safety hazard. Here’s what you need to know:

How Does It Work?

Knob and tube wiring utilizes copper conductors that are protected and insulated by porcelain tubes. Along their length, the tubes are supported by porcelain knobs that are nailed to nearby studs and joists. When the wires enter a wall or switch, they are protected by a “loom.” The loom is made of flexible cloth or rubber insulation. Note that knob and tube wiring cannot support three-pronged appliances because it lacks a ground wire.

Is It Dangerous?

Knob and tube wiring is not inherently unsafe. Rather, it can become hazardous due to age, improper modifications and situations where building insulation envelops its wires. Because it has no grounding conductor, knob and tube wiring is also more vulnerable to fires than modern electrical wiring.

Is It Legal?

While knob and tube wiring is not permitted in any new construction, there is no safety code that mandates its complete removal.

Should You Have It Removed

Ultimately, this may depend on your budget. It’s expensive to completely rewire a house, but damaged or improperly modified knob and tube wiring is a serious fire hazard. It’s always best to have a professional electrician evaluate the situation.

A thorough home inspection can help uncover knob and tube wiring, along with other issues that affect older homes, such as faulty insulation, foundation issues and more. If you’re in the Chicago area, call First Choice Inspectors at (773) 429-9711 to get your free quote today.

Categories
Home Inspection

Warning Signs of Faulty Electrical Wiring

Scorched OutletConcerned about DIY or outdated electrical work in your home or a home you’re thinking about buying? Faulty wiring can be expensive to replace and pose serious safety risks to homeowners. Today we’ll address a few telltale signs of bad electrical work to look out for.

Hot Outlets

Although electrical appliances may generate heat when operating, your outlets should never be hot to the touch. The one exception is dimmer switches, which do get warm in the course of normal operation. However, these should never feel uncomfortably hot.

Flickering Lights

No, it’s not a ghost. Flickering lights are a common sign of a loose electrical connection.

Strange Odors

Some new appliances have a noticeable scent when you first plug them in. However, if you notice an odd smell (particularly a burning smell or the smell of ozone) coming from an outlet, immediately unplug all appliances from that outlet and have an electrician check out the problem.

Fuses That Always Blow, or Breakers That Always Trip

Fuses and circuit breakers are designed to prevent overloading by failing when necessary. If you trip a breaker every time you blow dry your hair or turn on the vacuum cleaner, it’s likely the result of inadequate or poorly-installed wiring.

Crackling, Popping or Buzzing From and Outlet

You should never hear noises coming from your outlets. If you do, it could be the result of loose prongs, fraying wire or another electrical issue.

Sparking

If a fuse box, outlet or breaker panel is sparking, call an electrician ASAP.

A thorough home inspection can help detect faulty electrical work, along with other issues including foundation problems, insulation gaps and more. If you’re in the Chicago area, call First Choice Inspectors at (773) 429-9711 to get your free quote today!

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Home Maintenance

Avoid These Common Household Electrical Hazards

Avoid These Common Household Electrical HazardsSpend much time as a home inspector, and you’re bound to see some pretty frightening examples of DIY electrical work. From frayed extension cords to ancient knob and tube wiring, we’ve seen our fair share of electrical hazards over the years. Fortunately, most of these hazards can be quickly remedied in order to keep you and your family safe. Today, we’ll look at a few of the most common electrical hazards we encounter in our line of work.

Over Fused Circuits

This problem tends to happen in older homes whose electrical systems are still protected by a fuse box rather than a circuit breaker. Most circuits in your home should be protected by 15 amp fuses. Sometimes, when fuses blow, homeowners will replace them with larger 30 amp fuses. These large fuses constitute a fire hazard because they won’t blow before electrical loads reach dangerous levels. If you see any green 30 amp fuses in your fuse box, replace them with 15 amp fuses as soon as possible.

Daisy Chained Extension Cords

This is one of the most prevalent electrical hazards we see. It happens when homeowners plug multiple extension cords and/or power strips together in tandem in order to increase their length or number of outlets. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), the improper use of extension cords is responsible for roughly 3,300 house fires every year. Extension cords should only be used as temporary solutions, and they should never be plugged together with other extension cords or power strips.

Worn or Corroded Wiring

This problem is especially common in appliances such as old light fixtures. If you suspect the wiring in an appliance is faulty, have it inspected by a qualified electrician and rewired if necessary. If you’re ever shocked by an appliance, unplug it and don’t use it again until you can have it repaired.

Covered Cords

In home offices, we’ll sometimes see electrical cords covered by carpets to keep them out of sight. This does help to organize your wires, but it can also cause them to heat up faster and potentially cause fires. Wires hidden under carpets also tend to get walked on and run over by rolling chairs more often, causing them to wear faster. Keep your wires organized with zip ties instead, and keep them out from under carpets.