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Is Old Electrical Wiring Dangerous?

Old homes have charm. They also often have electrical wiring issues. Learn about the most common problems, solutions, and repair costs, and how AHS can help.

 

Old wiring in home

There's a lot to be said in favor of older homes. They have history, not just as enduring structures but also as pillars of the neighborhood's sense of community. And older homes often possess charm and character that can be hard to achieve with new construction.

Unfortunately, older homes aren't modern. They can lack conveniences, or worse, feature outdated systems that require extensive repairs or outright replacement. Plumbing, insulation, storage space, the foundation — all of these elements merit close inspection if you're thinking about purchasing an older home. However, don't neglect the electrical wiring. You might be surprised to learn how much of a difference upgrading your electrical system will make to the comfort and satisfaction your home offers. 

Why Older Electrical Systems Can Be a Problem

Not having the power you need isn’t just irritating — it can create real hazards. Your electronics can become damaged, or they may stop functioning properly. Inefficient systems can translate into expensive utility bills. Worst of all, faulty wiring can create a fire hazard and even put members of your family at risk of suffering an electric shock.

How Much Power Do You Need?

As you can imagine, modern homes use quite a bit more power than homes did decades ago. Appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washers, dryers and HVAC systems, all take a toll on your electric system. According to the National Association of Realtors, homes today require 200 amps of electricity when they used to require only about 60 amps. Additionally, many older homes are wired with materials that are no longer considered safe or up to modern standards like knob and tube wiring or insulated cloth wiring (also known as rag wire or cloth sheathing).

How To Tell If You Have Enough Electricity

The easiest way to tell if your home is wired correctly is to contact a certified electrician. While you may have noticed telltale signs that your electrical system isn’t performing as it should, like flickering lights or consistent power surges, a certified electrician can perform a complete audit of your system. An electrical audit typically includes an inspection of:

  • Service capacity (the amps the system is delivering).
  • All electrical connections.
  • Circuit breakers, fuses and other control systems.
  • Outlets.
  • Wiring.

The electrician will note any issues related to the security or integrity of these components. Common issues include loose connections, worn-out or obsolete materials, moisture issues and anything that is in violation of local building codes.

The Cost of Rewiring a House

Should a certified electrician recommend that have the wiring in your home redone, your first question will probably be, "How much will it cost?" The answer will vary according to a number of factors, including:

  • The age of your home.
  • The size of your home
  • The ease with which old wiring can be pulled out and new wiring installed.
  • The cost of any associated renovations (e.g., repair to walls that must be cut open in order to access wiring).
  • The electrician's level of experience.
  • Geography and local market conditions.

As a rule of thumb, expect to pay an electrician an hourly rate in the range of $60 to $70. The national average falls somewhere between those numbers. And don't forget the cost of materials in addition to labor. New wiring, connection boxes, electrical panels and even lighting fixtures will all add to the project's cost. While exact estimates are hard to provide given all the variables, rewiring an older home will almost certainly require an investment of thousands rather than hundreds of dollars.  

For that reason, comparison shop before hiring an electrical contractor. Make sure the estimate the electrician delivers includes a complete breakdown of costs based on both materials and labor and that the electrician provides a measurable estimate of when work will be complete. Ask friends, family and neighbors for recommendations and interview several electricians before making your decision.       

Of course, if you have an American Home Shield® home warranty, a phone call is enough to confirm which aspects of your electrical system are covered. If repair or replacement is necessary, you'll also have access to our nationwide network of expert contractors, which is especially helpful if you have an older home. 


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