The adage "never judge a book by its cover" is just as relevant when it comes to your home. You should never judge a home by its exterior. Even the most beautiful and flawless exterior can be covering a plethora of lurking issues with essential systems like electrical. This is especially true of older homes that have been quickly remodeled and then flipped so the previous owner can make a quick buck. Here are six signs to look for that might indicate your residential electrical system needs to be updated.
1. Knob and Tube Wiring
Knob and tube wiring, sometimes shortened to K&T wiring, was a system used in North American homes built between the 1880s and 1930s. Although most homes with this system have been updated, there are still a few homes with purely cosmetic updates that still have the old K&T system in place. Unfortunately, unless you have a basement or attic with exposed joists, the only way to know is to open up a wall. If you see old wires connected to porcelain tubes that are nailed to the joists, you have K&T. There are several dangerous problems with K&T including wires that have begun to sag over time, a lack of grounding, and fabric insulation that is a fire hazard.
2. Aluminum Wiring
Homes built between 1965 and 1972 may also still contain aluminum wiring rather than copper. Although the wiring itself is effective and can safely conduct electricity, it can present a major fire hazard at the connection points. Fortunately, an electrician can fix this problem by swapping out the aluminum for copper at the connection points and then splicing the new copper wire into the aluminum system, or it can be fixed by adding specialized connectors.
3. No GFCI Outlets
Another big red flag is a home without GFCI outlets. GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. You've probably seen this type of outlet before even if there are none in your home if you've ever noticed an outlet with two little buttons in the center, sometimes all white and sometimes red and black. This system is designed to prevent electrocution by stopping current leaks from a circuit through a human body to the ground. You'll be sure to find them in all outdoor areas as well as indoor areas where water is present like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and wet bars.
Warm Outlets There's nothing more troubling than an outlet that is warm to the touch, Unfortunately, a warm outlet could be a sign of a few existing problems that need to be addressed including outdated wiring like existing aluminum that hasn't been updated to copper at the connections or damaged wiring that needs to be addressed.
4. Dimming Lights
Another red flag is regularly dimming or flickering lights. It could be a sign that your system is outdated and therefore overloaded and can't handle your current electrical needs. However, it's also possible that dimming lights can be a problem with the source of electricity, such as the power coming in from the city or municipality. If you're experiencing regularly dimming, it's a good idea to talk to your neighbors to see if they're having similar issues so you can rule out that possibility.
5. Too Many Extension Cords
Old homes were built when people had fewer power requirements so they were also built with fewer outlets. If you find that you're constantly using extension cords to plug in everything that you need, it's time to have an electrician add new outlets and possibly even update the whole electrical system to meet your current power needs.