Knob and Tube was the first generation of electrical wiring ever used. And if your home was built between the 1900s to the 1940s you’re probably familiar with it.
Maybe you’ve had some electrical upgrades since then, maybe you haven’t. What you should know is that knob and tube, although deemed the electrical system of choice back in the day, is not safe by today’s electrical safety standards.
The name “knob and tube” is pretty self-explanatory – it’s named after the ceramic knobs that are used to support the ceramic tubes that encase the wires. The knobs hold the tubes in place as they pass through the wood framing of your home.
One of the biggest differences between modern wiring and knob and tube is that the knob and tube system runs white and black wires separately.
So what’s the problem?
Since the knob and tube system uses no ground wire, there’s no protection when a fault occurs. As a result, you increase your risk of shocks and fires.
Today, these wires are bundled together with a ground wire in a single plastic sheathing cable.
It’s also important to mention that modern wiring is insulated with plastic, while knob and tube use rubber. The breakdown of the rubber insulation, over time, is often a reason to have your knob and tube replaced.
But it’s not the only reason.
If you have or think you have, knob and tube wiring in your home, here’s why you need to upgrade your electrical.
- Degradation: Knob and tube wiring will eventually break down and if your home has seen multiple homeowners, handymen and contractors, the mechanical abuse – and inevitable wear and tear- makes the knob and tube system unsafe. The symptoms of old knob and tube wiring include cracked or broken tubes, sagging or frayed wires and broken sheathing that exposes live wires.
- Dangerous combos: We’ve inspected several homes that have been wired with old knob and tube and modern wiring. This is extremely dangerous and against the electrical code. Think of it this way, you’re now using different materials that are contracting and expanding at different rates. If left in the wrong hands, altering your knob and tube can ignite a fire.
- Electrical demand: With the rise of technology there is a higher electrical demand. Homeowners with knob and tube often overuse and abuse extension cords and power bars. There’s simply not enough power for modern-day living.
- Poor Connections: Problems with knob and tube wire can result from amateurish connections made after original installation.
- Weakness: The rubber insulation on knob and tube can become brittle; this usually happens in high heat areas like receptacles, fixtures and switches.
- Old technology: Homes with knob and tube wiring will likely have two-prong receptacles. Since there is no ground wire, there is an increased chance of shock and injury, especially around water.
- 60 amp service: Knob-and-tube uses a 60 amp service, today it is recommended that homeowners use a 100 amp service/ breaker panel.
Your older home has that character and charm that newer homes can’t live up to. That’s why it’s important to protect your investment from electrical hazards. There’s really nothing worse than fighting a fire that could’ve been prevented. Luckily there are ways to preserve your beautiful home without having to tear down your walls.
Simple procedures like upgrading your 60 amp, fusible, service to at least a 100 amp service, installing proper grounding and replacing old under-ground switches and receptacles with approved devices, changing your panel to meet today’s electrical demands – are all things Birnie HOME SAFE can do to make sure you and your loved ones are safe.
If you’re not sure if you have knob-and-tube in your older home check the attic and basement to see if you can find any knob and tube wiring. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to look through the walls to see if any of this type of wiring is hidden underneath. The only person who can detect these hazards behind your walls is a certified and trained Birnie HOME SAFE electrician.
Want to find out more? Drop us a line! We’d love to come to your home for a no-fee assessment.