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knob and tubeThere’s nothing quite like an old North Bay area home when it comes to character and charm, but combining a vintage home with a modern lifestyle often requires some compromises. However, the electrical wiring system isn’t an area in which compromises can be made, given the dangers of overloaded or deteriorated wiring. If your home is still powered by old-fashioned knob & tube wiring, there’s a number of good reasons to make upgrading your system a priority.

Knob & tube wiring was, up until the 1940s, the standard wiring system used to bring electric power into the home. While knob & tube systems were cutting-edge back when electricity was needed only to power a lights and a rudimentary home appliance or two, like those first electric toasters, they simply aren’t built to handle the electrical demand in the average home today. Of course, many homeowners are making do with outdated wiring, learning to shut off the coffeemaker before turning on the microwave to prevent blown fuses.

However, outdated knob & tube wiring isn’t one of those quaint quirks that give an old house character, it can be a danger to both the home and its residents. While knob & tube wiring that is in pristine condition isn’t necessarily dangerous, since it hasn’t been installed since the 1940s or 1950s, the chances of these systems being in perfect condition aren’t very good. Most have deteriorated over the decades they’ve been in place, and that deterioration can create hidden hazards inside the walls of older homes.

Since they weren’t designed to handle the load placed on them by modern appliances, most existing knob & tube systems have been overloaded from time to time. Overloading the system causes wires to overheat, and excessive heat can make wires brittle, leading to breaks that can create a fire or electrocution hazard. Aging wires often begin to sag inside the walls and crumbling insulation is also a common problem, a combination that can lead to electrical shorts, spark a fire or give someone a nasty shock as they turn on a light or plug something in.

Another issue with knob & tube wiring is that the majority of systems have been tinkered with over the years, as homeowners required repairs of upgrades to meet increasing household electrical needs. Unfortunately, electricians who inspect or work on these systems often find that they are riddled with poorly done and unsafe alterations, likely done by inexperienced homeowners or handy-men over the years, rather than qualified electric system professionals.

If you own an older North Bay area home that still has knob & tube wiring and haven’t had it inspected for electrical hazards, you should have your system looked over by a licensed electrician as soon as possible. Keeping a knob & tube system safe means having a thorough inspection done at least once a year. Even if your system poses no immediate dangers, re-wiring your home with safe, modern materials is wise, offering increased safety and peace of mind and eliminating the hassles that come with an outdated system. Wouldn’t it be nice to use the microwave without worrying about blowing a fuse?