As a homeowner, it’s simple to take the convenience of electricity in your house for granted, but what happens when the electrical wiring goes bad? Remodeling an older home can be a challenge, especially when much of the work is hidden behind walls. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, 52% of American houses were built before 1980. That makes over half of houses in America over 40 years old. With older homes, the chance of incorrect electrical wiring or wiring in need of an update significantly increases.
What is Faulty Electrical Wiring?
Faulty wiring means there is either damage to the wires, or incorrect voltage running through them. This could be the result of an electrician cutting corners on safety, wires that have deteriorated with age, or wires damaged by rodents. In any case, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of bad electrical wiring.
When electricity does not flow properly, wires are likely to release more electricity than is necessary to run appliances. This leakage increases electricity usage and causes you to spend more money on electricity each month.
Not only can incorrect wiring drain your bank account, it can cause electrical surges in places that are not equipped to handle the heat, which creates a greater fire hazard. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that electrical outlets are involved in 5,300 fires every year.
Considering more than half of American homes are at least 40 years old, residential electrical wiring issues are extremely common. Concerned your house might be at risk? Here are five tell-tale signs you may have bad wiring.
Frequently tripping circuit breakers
It’s not uncommon for breakers to trip. That is exactly why we have them—to stop the flow of electricity when the circuit is overloaded. However, if breakers are frequently tripping, the first step is to reduce the number of devices plugged into the circuit. The next step is to replace the circuit breaker. If neither of those measures resolves the issue, the wiring should be inspected to avoid a fire hazard. It is also possible the circuit is simply overwhelmed by too many high-energy devices.
Keep an eye out for lights that flicker, buzz, or dim. When you plug in an appliance and the lights dim, this is a sign the electrical current is not flowing properly. Also listen for any light switches that buzz when you turn them on—this is another big red flag.
Hot electrical outlets
Because faulty wiring sends too much electricity to outlets, keep an eye out for hot, darkened, or scorched electrical outlets. This could be an indication that there is an energy leak heating up the wires and the outlet. This surge of electricity could fry appliances, or—if severe—could cause a fire.
Frayed or chewed wiring
If you notice frayed or chewed wiring, the concern goes beyond rodents in the house. When the protective plastic covering is broken, exposing the wires inside then the electrical circuit is open. This allows electricity to arc, which can cause dangerous electrical shocks and a fire.
Burning or smoky smell
If you smell burning, or melting plastic near an outlet, the wiring has already caused fire damage. Unplug everything from the outlet and contact a licensed electrician to inspect the wiring immediately.