The first step in determining whether you want to buy a house is inspecting it. When you walk into a house for the first time, you’ll notice several things, from the color scheme to the room layout. Few people ever pay attention to the electrical system. However, when you move in and start plugging appliances into sockets, you may realize that the house’s electrical system has severe issues.
When shopping for a new home, you should keep an eye out for electrical problems before you sign on the dotted line. There are some obvious signs to tell you whether you should hire an electrician to check out the home’s wiring. In this post, we’ll help you spot the most common electrical problems homes may have and how to deal with them.
Cracked/Burnt Outlets and Switches
When you walk into each room of the house you’re visiting, cast an eye on the wall sockets and the switches. If there’s a severe electrical problem lurking under the surface, you’ll spot it immediately. Switches or outlets will have black scorch marks on them. If you take a whiff near these outlets, you might encounter the scent of ionized air – that smell you associate with electricity. These issues point to a problem with the house’s wiring and require an expert to sort them out properly.
If a switch or outlet is cracked, that’s an even worse sign. These problems usually come from sparking or short circuits within the electrical system. If you only notice these problems in a handful of locations, you can quickly get an electrician to sort them out. However, if you see them in several areas within the house, the building may need complete rewiring after acquiring the house. You may want to make this a priority since faulty electrical sockets can cause a fire hazard.
When you visit the house, pay close attention to the sockets in the rooms. Are they the two-prong or three-prong type? Most modern homes have three-prong plugs as a standard, but older homes have a two-prong variety. According to the Digital Museum of Plug Sockets, outlet standardization happened in 1948, although their installation wasn’t required until the 1960s. Two-prong outlets only have two wires running through them – the live and the neutral. The third prong carries a ground, which protects appliances from surges. Without the third prong, a dangerous situation may arise.
If you’ve never plugged something into a two-prong plug before, you may be in for a rude surprise. Because there’s no grounding, a two-prong plug will routinely spark when you plug anything into or take a plug out of it. There might even be an accompanying noise to go with the electrical sparking. The lack of a third prong makes these outlets a hazard and will require a complete overhaul of the electrical system to fix.
Multiple Daisy-Chained Extension Cords
Extension cords can be a godsend in some cases, but if you’re noticing several of them plugged together in your journey through the house, you’ll quickly realize something is awry with the house’s electrical distribution. The building doesn’t have enough outlets for running everyday appliances. While you can connect extension cords together, you’re taking a risk by doing so. Extension cords can help you get electricity to places your wiring doesn’t naturally run. The problem with having several of them stacked together is that they are likely to overload your breaker.
The lack of outlets isn’t a dealbreaker as far as issues go, but you will need to perform extensive rewiring on your house. You may also need to increase your breaker box’s capacity or install a new one to take the added load safely. If you intend to buy a house with these issues, you will be spending a bit on getting the electrical system safe and functional.
Disorganized Breaker Boxes
When doing your house visit, you need to check out the breaker box. A few agents may not even know where it’s located, but you will need to find it. The breaker box can tell a story, including when the original inhabitants wired the house. The Spruce notes several ratings for breaker boxes through the years, with most modern panels being 100-amp or 200-amp. If you open up the box and the entire panel is a mess, you may be in for a bad time.
Overcrowded breaker panels can be a problem since they are straining the breaker’s capacity to manage the electricity needs of the house. A well-organized breaker box will have all the wires neatly fastened inside the panel, with a single wire attached to each breaker. Disorganized panels can cause an electrical hazard if wires come into contact with one another, leading to a short circuit, which may damage appliances and potentially cause electrocution.
You Spot Aluminum or Knob-and-Tube Wiring
Looking at the wiring in a home as you pass from room to room will let you spot things like older wiring systems. Knob-and-tube (K&T) or aluminum wiring aren’t a modern standard, but they remain functional in many cases. However, because these systems are dated and were possibly installed before codes were invented, you won’t be sure when they’ll fail. If you decide to buy the house, you will need to get an electrician to rewire the entire building to modern standards. The electrical system might be working today, but there’s no telling when it’ll start experiencing issues.
Hire an Electrician to Inspect a Home’s Electricals
Trained electricians can delve into a home’s wiring and give you a full report on what needs to change. Ideally, you should get your electrician to inspect the home before you decide to buy. Chances are you’ll still need to perform electrical maintenance on the house, especially if no one has occupied it in a while. These electrical issues aren’t dealbreakers by themselves, but they are points to note. When buying a home, you will need to figure out what needs to change so you can plan your expenses. Your electrician is a valuable resource in guiding your decision, and you should listen to their professional advice.
We hope you found this blog post Electrical Problems to Look Out for When Buying a New House useful. Be sure to check out our post Tips to Choose a Reliable Electrical Service Provider for more great tips!
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