There’s a certain charm in owning an older home but according to Birnie Home Safe, a residential electrical contractor, these residences can harbor dangerous electrical hazards.
“We know that older homes were built under different standards than they are today,” says John Flanagan General Manager of Birnie Home Safe. “Over time the electrical degrade, that’s why they need to be replaced or maintained by a licensed electrical contractor [LEC].”
The electrical contractor that has serviced thousands of homes in the Greater Toronto Area, confirms that 99% of the homes they’ve inspected harbor electrical defects and 40% of these residences contain dangerous fire conditions.
Flanagan believes that homeowners are unaware about the potential dangers in these homes. “We don’t see what’s going on behind the walls so we take on this ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ mentality which is wrong. We need to change our thinking.”
According to Flanagan, if you own an older home, if your home’s had multiple owners or renovations, you should consider an electrical inspection.
Here are five common electrical hazards specific to older homes.
Overloaded Circuits: An overloaded circuit draws in more current than the circuit can handle. This occurs when too many devices are plugged in at once. According to Flanagan, overloaded circuits are common in older homes because these residences lack the electrical infrastructure to safely power today’s appliances.
Aged Wiring: Unless it’s been updated, residences in older homes are powering devices with aged and brittle wiring. “Overtime our electrical wiring degrades from years of inevitable wear-and-tear and excessive heat, caused by overloaded circuits, that’s what breaks down the wires,” Flanagan says.
Aluminum Wiring: Aluminum wire was the electrical system of choice back in the late 60s and early 70s, today it’s very dangerous. Some homeowners are under the impression that homes with this system need to be re-wired this is false explains Flanagan. “Aluminum wiring can easily be maintained, this is performed by bridging copper pigtail between existing aluminum wire and the electrical device.” He also says receptacles and switches should also be replaced with ones that are suited for aluminum wiring.
Missing or non-functioning GFCIs: GFCI technology was introduced in the 1970s. This system, which prevents ground faults and shock hazards, is now mandated in areas where water may come into contact with electrical devices. “Many older homes have non-existent or non-functioning GFCIs, because this system didn’t exist when the home was built, it’s important to install GFCIs today,” Flanagan explains.
Outlet Deficiency: Older homes weren’t built with enough outlets or circuits to safely plug into the 21st century. To make up for this, homeowners unknowingly put their older homes at risk with the use and abuse of extension cords and power strips. Flanagan says these devices are for temporary use only. “Just because you have more plug-in space you haven’t increased the available amperage of the circuit.”
Birnie Home Safe has a free preliminary assessment program where residents can find out if their older homes will benefit from an electrical inspection. Request your preliminary electrical assessment now.