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Scherer Electric Blog

What Types of Wiring and Electrical Panels Are Outdated?


Residential electrical technology continues to march forward, and that means out of date older systems. In many cases, you won’t need to worry about technology in your house that’s a couple of years old. But you may need to worry about technology that’s several decades old!

We’re going to look at four outdated types of wiring and electrical panels we find in many homes. We recommend our customers have these replaced or updated.  

Knob and Tube Wiring

This is an extremely antiquated form of wiring, but there are many vintage homes in Western New York that still have it. Knob and tube wiring runs copper wires (often covered in cloth to insulate it) through a series of drilled holes in wood that have porcelain tubes protecting them from heat. The wires are strung along between tubes on a set of porcelain knobs. 

This type of wiring was once the standard for homes when indoor electricity first became available, but it became obsolete in the 1940s. Knob and tube wiring is ungrounded and therefore can’t use three-prong outlets. It can also turn into a safety hazard. There is no code requirement to replace knob and tube wiring, but we strongly advise whole-home rewiring to remove it.

Aluminum Wiring

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, a rise in the cost of copper caused many electricians to switch to using aluminum wires for new home construction. Although aluminum is an excellent conductor of electricity, it expands and contracts more than copper over time, causing it to wear down faster.

It loosens connections because of this expansion and can create major fire hazards. You may not need full rewiring to replace it, but we do recommend making upgrades to put in copper connection points to eliminate the main hazard.

Fuse Boxes

The old fuse box is now antiquated. Fuses protect the electrical system by burning out when there’s an excess of voltage moving through them, cutting off the electrical flow. Although this is an effective method of preventing electrical damage, the modern electrical demand in homes requires larger and larger fuses—and this leads to a serious fire hazard. Fuses are also inconvenient compared to modern circuit breaker electrical panels: you don’t need to replace a whole fuse, just reset a breaker switch.

Federal Pacific Electrical Panels

This is a specific brand of electrical panel that was installed extensively in homes between 1960 and 1990, when the company that manufactured them went out of business. Federal Pacific panels have an alarmingly high rate of failure (25%) from electrical overloads, causing a breaker to fail to trip and allow high current to continue to pass through the circuit. We strongly recommend replacing a FPE panel if you have one. We have more information about them here.

If you think you need an electrician in Amherst, NY to update and rewire parts of your house, trust our team of certified electricians. We can perform an electrical inspection for your home to discover not only outdated wiring and panels, but also damaged wiring and outlets and opportunities for you to improve your home’s electrical efficiency.

Scherer Electric Is Western New York’s Favorite Electrician! Call us today for an electric inspection for your house to find out what replacements you may need.

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