If you are having an electrical issue that’s been on your mind take this opportunity to have an Electrician at Nicholas Electric review your problem.Just fill out the short form to the right describing your situation and you’ll get an informative response from a knowledgeable electrical specialist. Don’t forget to include either your e-mail address or your phone number so your question can be answered!
Once again it’s that time of the year and Boy, do we have our hands full!
Everyone is getting ready for those those Cold Days of Winter!
You would be surprised how many home and business owners just plug that space heater in without knowing if their existing fuse box can handle the load – or if the plug is even grounded!
You can be shocked off of the space heater frame or even worse, if the circuit is over fused this can result in an electrical fire !
Keep in mind that a lot of the older homes were not wired to accommodate all of the new appliances used today (i.e. microwaves, computers, coffee pots, toasters, unit heaters and air conditioners…just to name a few).
A few signs of overloaded circuits are;
- Flickering or dimming lights
- Frequently blown fuses or tripping breakers.
- Dielectric breakdown on fuse cartridges (melted pull outs)
- A strong burning odor near the defective wiring device
Many homes in our area were constructed pre 1950′s and have what is called knob and tube wiring. One can determine if you have this type of wiring in your home, by closely looking at basement or attic and looking up at the joist or down under the insulation in the attic rafters.
To determine if your home is wired ” knob and tube”, just look for ceramic knobs or tubes in which the wire gets attached to, or passes through, joists or studs. If the knob and tube wiring is not easily visible, you can usually tell by looking at your electrical outlets and switches. You may only have two prong outlets to plug into. Basically, no ground at each outlet or fixture outlet means knob and tube wiring is present, likewise if you have older pushbutton switches, this is also a good sign you may have knob and tube
Nowadays, Home owners with knob and tube wiring may find it difficult or impossible to obtain insurance on their home because most insurance companies are reluctant to insure a house they perceive as risky. Insurance companies usually require a certificate of inspection and compliance from a REGISTERED electrician, that all knob and tube has been removed and replaced with modern 3 wire grounded TYPE NM CABLE
”ROMEX” circuits before it will insure a home that previously had knob and tube wiring. After Nicholas Electric Co., Inc. rewires your home, we will provide you a Certificate of Inspection from Middle Atlantic Inspection Agency or a City Of Pittsburgh certification that your home was rewired to National Electric Codes and then your insurance company will consider giving an insurance policy for your home.
Knob and tube wiring does not provide a third wire for grounding and is therefore considered unsafe in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and outdoors. In other areas, knob and tube wiring that is in good condition with sheathing intact, properly protected from damage, and that hasn’t been subjected to extended periods of overloading which can cause it to become brittle, should not pose an increased safety risk. Unfortunately through the years with today’s heavy loads i.e. microwaves, dishwasher’s blow-dryers etc., which were not even considered at the time of the installation of knob & tube type conductors has most likely deteriorated the insulation. When knob & tube wire was manufactured we had no plastics available for use. An unfortunate characteristic of rubber is that is becomes dried and brittle which allows it to simply break away from the copper wire thus causing an open conductor passing through a combustible material being wood or lathe.
Aside from the preceding concerns, the primary risk with knob and tube wiring, it seems, is its relative accessibility for amateur repairs, upgrades and maintenance. It is not uncommon to see a system with knob and tube wiring that has a history of amateur work. If a house does have knob and tube wiring it should be inspected to ensure that it is properly installed and in good condition.
If a few, but not all, of the circuits are in poor condition they can be replaced eventually without rewiring the whole house. However, if most or all of the circuits are in poor condition, it may be more economical to completely rewire the home. At Nicholas Electric Co., Inc our electricians can rewire your old, unsafe knob and tube wiring and replace it with modern electrical circuits.
Knob and Tube Wiring
What are some concerns with Knob and Tube wiring?
Above is a picture of knob and tube wiring which has been a safety concern because of its tendency to overheat when insulation is packed around it. Also since it has been around for some time now the chance of it having been overheated due to over-fusing is much higher. This has become a issue with insurance companies as they no longer want to insure houses with more than one circuit of knob and tube. There may still be a couple insurance companies that will insure knob and tube wiring and if you know of which please let us know.
When can you expect to see knob and tube wiring in a house? It was installed in homes up to the 1950′s and you will likely see it in homes built before there was wiring installed initially.
Knob and tube wiring was sometimes installed with a fuse on both the neutral and the power wires. This is a concern because in the event that the fuse on the neutral is blown the home owner will think that the circuit is no longer live when in reality you can still be hurt by injured because the circuit will still be live.
Because the uses of electricity has changed so much in the past 60 years since it was last installed it is common to find circuits that were extended by home owners who may or may not have done a good job. Because knob and tube was installed without junction boxes people think they can still make connections without junction boxes when in fact this is not any longer allowed. Lastly since the wiring is typically quite old the chances of it having been damaged is higher and it has aged, meaning the sheathing may be brittle or broken.
Did you know that most of the Home Owners Insurance Companies will not insure a home if it has Knob and Tube wiring? If you are looking at a home and are wondering how to determine if it has Knob and Tube wiring a good place to start looking is in the basement or the attic. Here is an example. If you look closely the porcelain knobs are in the back ground and If you look closer you can see the wires passing through a porcelain tube in the wall. The largest problems with Knob and Tube wiring is: 1. The sheathing gets damaged with age. 2. Improperly tapping into the system with newer methods of wiring. 3. Improperly protecting the circuits in the panel.
There are a few insurance companies that will insure a home if a Licensed Master Electrician will write a letter stating that all of the Knob and Tube wiring is safe. You should ask your insurance company before settling on a home.
If you need help in identifying this issue give us a call at 412-271-8001.