Approximately 51,000 residential electrical fires occur in the U.S. each year, costing American homeowners a total of $1.3 billion in property damage. Older, inadequate electrical systems not only pose a fire threat but also aren’t able to support the multitude of gadgets, appliances, and electronics owned by the average American household.
Here are a few signs you need to have either a part of your electrical system — such as the outlets — or the entire system upgraded.
Your Home Has a Fused-Based Electrical System
Before circuit breakers became popular, most American homes relied on fused-based electrical systems. This type of system features several fuses that work to prevent electrical surges from damaging wiring. When electrical surges occur, the fuses burn out and need to be replaced.
Fuse boxes have fewer circuits than circuit breakers, meaning that you must plug multiple appliances and electronics into a single outlet. However, doing so can overload the fuses, which is both costly and potentially dangerous. An overloaded, inadequate fuse box poses a serious fire hazard. Overwhelmed fuses can blow and start a fire.
If you aren't sure whether you have a circuit breaker or a fuse system, open the electrical panel box. Circuit breakers are switches and fuses are round and removable.
Your Circuit Breakers Are Constantly Tripping
Just because your home’s electrical system features a circuit breaker doesn't necessarily mean that it can keep up with your family's electrical needs. Circuit breakers are designed to trip, or turn themselves off, when they experience a surge or inconsistent flow of electricity. This tripping is a safety feature intended to prevent fires and other damage to the system.
If you find yourself constantly heading to the basement to flip the circuit breaker, your current electrical panel is insufficient and should be upgraded by a professional.
You Only Have Two-Prong Outlets
The National Electrical Code requires that all homes constructed after 1962 feature three-prong outlets. If your home was built before this date, it likely has a few two-prong outlets. Two-prong outlets are not only inconvenient but also potentially dangerous. In both two-prong and three-prong outlets, one vertical slot is hot and receives electricity, while the other remains neutral and sends electricity back to the source of power.
The third hole in a three-prong outlet is the ground wire, making it a grounded outlet. Grounded outlets are safer because they protect your electronics and appliances from power surges.
You Are Planning a Major Home Renovation
A small remodel or a major renovation both benefit from an electrical upgrade. Adding outlets to the kitchen and bathroom is a must for many homeowners who own multiple small appliances. Upgrading your circuit panel allows your family to enjoy the new space, new appliances, and new gadgets without overloading the system.
It is especially important to upgrade your electrical panel if you are adding rooms to your home.
Your Home Features Aluminum Wiring
Approximately 2 million homes in the United States were renovated or constructed with aluminum wiring rather than with the traditional copper wiring. Aluminum wiring was primarily used in homes during the 1960s and early 1970s. Unlike copper, which is more durable and lasts for several decades, aluminum wiring is more fragile and will often fray or loosen at connections, creating a serious fire hazard.
If your home was constructed or renovated during the 1960s or 1970s, contact a professional to have your wiring examined to determine if it is copper or aluminum.Rather than upgrading any aspect of your electrical system yourself, you should leave this chore to a professional. If you have any more questions, contact Lee Electrical Enterprise.