Crossing Wires

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How To Unravel The Confusion & Problems Posed By A Complex & Faulty Home Wiring System

A week after moving into his new house, Bill Anderson opened the aging light fixture wire box and immediately thought he was in a scene from an action movie.

Electrical Wires, yellow, red and white, crisscrossed everywhere above the lights on his three seasons room. Just like a bomb squad ace trying to decide which wire to cut, Anderson didn’t know where to start as he began the confusing process of replacing his lights. Even MacGyver would be stumped.

“It was like a Rubik’s Cube,” the Onalaska, Wis., IT specialist said. “Nothing made any logical sense.”

Anderson said it was like his home’s electrical system had been wired by someone with attention deficit disorder. Running along ceiling in the three seasons room were wires for the family room lights next door. The light switch for the three seasons room was located in the family room. The switches in the circuit breaker in the main circuit breaker was unmarked.

Older homes, particularly those 40 years or older, can include a myriad of wiring code violations, mistakes, confusing and dangerous connections. Houses with older wiring systems, convoluted wiring and wiring overload and shortage problems can be an $8,000-$15,000 rewiring headache, according to Angie’s List.

“The circuits in these older homes weren’t designed to power the many gadgets of modern life,” said Allen Gallant, an electrician for the television edition of This Old House.

But these issues can be more than an inconvenience. They can be a serious fire or electrocution hazard. The U.S. Fire Administration reports an average of 67,800 home electrical fires break out in the U.S. each year. The property damage price tag: $1.1 billion. The cost in human life: 485.

Plus, if you’re not a professional electrician or educated on how electricity works and flows through a house, Do-It-Yourself home rewiring can lead you and your family into a wiring nightmare that can leave your home in the dark, and your wallet burning cash.

But how does the average homeowner know if their home has serious and dangerous wiring issues? Here are State Farm’s Top 11 Signs of Home Electrical System Failure:

  1. Frequent blown fuses or tripped breakers
  2. An over-amped or over-fused electrical panel
  3. Dimming or flickering lights, indicating the circuit is overloaded or has a loose connection
  4. Hot or discolored switch plates, cords, or plugs
  5. Light bulbs that frequently burn out in a socket, signaling a fixture that can’t handle the bulb wattage
  6. Buzzing or sizzling sounds
  7. A burning smell
  8. Arcs or sparks from an outlet when you plug or unplug a cord
  9. Loose outlets
  10. Cracked, cut, or broken insulation
  11. Electrical shock when you plug in or touch a cord

In the event you experience any of these warning signs, consult an electrician to inspect your home wiring system.

For where there’s shoddy wiring, there is a chance for outright disaster. Here are measures experts recommend for avoiding home electrical fires, and home wiring disasters:

1) Avoid Yanking Cords Out of the Wall Socket: Not even a good idea even in the movie, ripping a cord out of a socket can damage the interior wiring within your wall. Interior wiring damage can lead to issues receiving power through the outlet or a fire. Always grip the plug on rubber material when removing it from the wall socket.

2) Check Wires and Cables Regularly: Faulty or damaged wiring can cause injury. Check home appliance cables and wires periodically, like ceiling fans and lights. If you notice loose or damaged wiring, replace it immediately. If you notice a damaged wire is running throughout the house, do what Bill Anderson did, call an electrician.

3) Avoid Water and Electricity: A worse mix than oil and water, keep electrical items away from sinks, the bathroom and household areas that include water.

4) Know if you’re not the Property Brothers or Bob Vila: Again, folks, if you are not a trained electrician, do not make electrical repairs on your own. Doing so, can lead to severe injury and even death.

A home’s wiring system can seem as complex as Astrophysics, but knowing the signs that your home may have its wires crossed can keep your home’s electricity flowing bright, safe and without dangerous interruption.

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