When you buy a house that was built in the 1970s or earlier, you might not realize that while it may be “up to code,” some of the electrical components included in your home are still not very safe.
One of the most common things that gets “grandfathered in” (not considered a electrical code violation since it was installed prior to the new codes) are outdated outlets.
Yes, electrical outlets have improved over the years. Especially in safety.
Here’s what you should be on the lookout for in your home regarding your electrical outlets and when you should give an electrician a call.
If you decide to try to do any of these fixes yourself, you’ll need to shut off the main breaker for your home.
You should also always use a wire tester on the outlet you’re fixing before you get to work to make certain the power is off.
Need more electrical outlets in the house
Do you often find yourself without a free outlet when you need one? Are you using a lot of power strips?
You might have too few electrical outlets in your house.
While today’s electrical code requires outlets within four feet of a doorway and every 12 feet thereafter, older homes often didn’t have as many receptacles.
Usually, this wouldn’t be too dangerous. However, if paired with an overloaded weak power strip or outdated circuit breaker, this could start a fire.
If you’ve noticed your circuit breaker or fuse box tripping a lot this is a sure sign of an issue of some sort.
If you need more outlets in your home, an electrician will have to cut holes in the walls and ceilings to get the wires to the desired outlet position.
However, if you’re in the Springfield, Missouri area and hire Bonnivier Electric, we’ll always patch the holes for you and leave your home as clean as we found it.
Loose electrical outlets
If you have any electrical outlets that are loose or falling out of the wall, it’s usually because they’re fitted into an electrical box that has been installed too far into the wall.
This is another issue that needs fixed as soon as possible.
The wires into the outlet could shake loose which in turn leaves you at risk for fire or electric shock.
To fix a loose outlet, you can reinstall the box and outlet, if possible. Or you can install outlet shims.
Heavily worn contacts in outlet
Do plugs constantly fall out of one or more of the outlets in your home?
That means the contacts inside the outlet are heavily worn and will no longer hold the prongs of a plug in properly.
This isn’t just a nuisance, it’s a fire hazard.
Worn contacts that cause a loose plug can allow for arcing (when an electrical current jumps across a gap).
You need to immediately replace electrical outlets that have loose contacts.
No GFCI outlets
Ground-fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs, are safe electrical outlets that can shut down the circuit to the outlet within four milliseconds and prevent a deadly shock.
They look like this:
Again, the latest electrical codes require homes to have these outlets but older ones are grandfathered in.
At minimum, your home needs to have GFCI outlets around any sink and all of your outdoor outlets should be of this variety.
If you have a basement or a garage, all of the outlets in those areas should be GFCIs as well.
Obviously, this is a must-do for safety reasons.
This is a job some homeowners could do. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it, you can certainly give an electrician a call.
It might be a good idea anyway, because if your home doesn’t have updated outlets it could be hiding other outdated electrical components they should come look for.
Ungrounded electrical outlets
Do you have any outlets with only two prongs on them like this?
This is an outdated, ungrounded outlet (today, code requires all outlets be grounded).
First, DO NOT use an adapter to try to fit three-prong plugs into this outlet. You could destroy both the device you’re using or risk electrocution.
Other than that, these outlets are usually just an annoyance when you go to plug in a three-prong cord.
If you want, you can just replace these outlets or have an electrician do it. However, you might have to update your wiring to actually have them be grounded.
If your electrical outlets aren’t working, or are outdated, call us
Bonnivier Electric in Springfield, Missouri has certified electricians who can get your home up to current code and safe for you and your family.
We’re the ones Springfield businesses trust, but we’re residential electricians too!