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4 Signs Your Home Needs Rewiring – and What to Expect Next

Over time, homes need to be rewired. Not only does insulation and hardware wear out over time (increasing the risk for events like electrical fires), but safety standards change over time, too. What may have been considered “safe” 40 years ago may be considered hazardous today. Rewiring your home is a big investment, and it can be tricky to decide whether or not it’s time to make the move. Here are four ways to tell that a rewire should happen in the near future.

Over time, homes need to be rewired. Not only does insulation and hardware wear out over time (increasing the risk for events like electrical fires), but safety standards change over time, too. What may have been considered “safe” 40 years ago may be considered hazardous today. Rewiring your home is a big investment, and it can be tricky to decide whether or not it’s time to make the move. Here are four ways to tell that a rewire should happen in the near future.

1. Your Home Wiring is Over 40 Years Old

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, homes over 40 years old (figure published in 2010) typically have wiring that is neither up to today’s safety standards nor sufficient to provide power to today’s appliances and devices. That means if your home’s wiring predates the ‘70s, it’s time for an upgrade. Even if you don’t need a complete rewire, wear and tear can mean that you should refurbish sections or circuits in your home to maintain a good level of safety. If you notice loose outlets, worn insulation, or sparking outlets, get inspected.

Let’s say you have a 30-year-old home, the wiring is still in good quality, and there are no major warning signs in the electrical infrastructure of your house. Even in this case, the house could still be too old to be electrically safe. Why? Because of the way we use electricity today versus. 30 years ago. If you only have a couple of outlets in a room of high electrical demand, you likely have a familiar scenario or multiple power strips, extension cords, and “piggybacking” outlet expansions. This is dangerous, and a sign that you need to add more circuits to your home, even if the existing wiring is in good condition.

2. Outlets or Light Switches Are Warm (or Hot) to the Touch

This is a sign something may be going on with the circuit. It’s even possible that there could be a short in just that circuit alone, but that could be an early indicator of an aging system. Other early warning signs of a circuit shorting issue include a faint burnt smell that lingers with no discernable source, flickering lights, or buzzing sounds from the wiring in the walls.

3. Your Home Has Aluminum Wiring

This constitutes an immediate rewire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) explains that aluminum wiring, typically found in houses build before 1972, are 55 percent more likely to be fire hazards. An electrician will be able to tell you if you have aluminum wiring on an inspection, or if you have any unfinished sections of your home (basements, attics, garages), you can see with a flashlight if the cable jackets have an “AL” label on them.

Besides a complete rewire, the CPSC does accept two other methods of repair, including the COPALUM method and the AlumniConn method, but recommends a replacement with copper wire if at all possible as the best method available.

4. Your House Two-Prong Outlets

Around the 1960s, outlets with three prongs instead of the usual two started popping up in homes in the United States. That third prong provides a major safety boost. Called the “ground” prong, this literally connects straight to the ground, and prevents appliances from delivering electric (potentially deadly) shocks. If a wire comes loose in an appliance (and comes in contact with the metal case), touching that appliance can lead to an electrical shock. That third prong, however, allows the electricity to flow to the ground. It will also trip the circuit breaker. If you’ve ever been warned against clipping off the third prong or using three-to-two prong adapters, this is why. The appliance will still function after these adaptations, but it will not be nearly as safe to use.

If you suspect that it may be time for a rewire, it’s time to get inspected. A local electrician should be able to perform an inspection of your home to determine if it’s indeed time to rewire, as well as give you cost estimates, review local regulations, and let you know what to expect from the process.

Depending on the size of your home and its architecture, a complete rewire can take anywhere from a few days to over a week, and could cost between $5,000 and $15,000. While a full rewire of a larger house is a serious investment, protecting your home and family is one of the most important investments you can make.


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