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Old homes come with a fascinating history and antique beauty. Still, it is vital to ensure your home’s beauty goes hand in hand with safety and security. The code for electrical work is updated every three years, so everything in your electrical system needs to meet the standard.

Electrical Problems to Look for in Older Homes

Here are some common electrical problems to monitor for in your older home:

1. Short Circuits and Dead Outlets

a white electrical outlet shows black smoke damage on the outlet and surrounding wall

A short circuit that takes place outside of your appliances likely points to a short in your wiring or outlets. A dead outlet may be due to a tripped poor connection or a tripped breaker from excessive heat buildup that causes melted wires or outlets. This must be addressed by a professional to reduce the risk of injury or fire.

2. Excessive Extension Cords and Power Strips

power strips and extension cords with many plugs and cords plugged in

Older homes were built with fewer outlets than homes today. Owners of older houses tend to use extension cords and power strips. These are also prone to cuts and damage.

3. Flickering or Dimming Lights

a light bulb hangs against a wall

Flickering or dimming lights are typically caused by an issue with a bulb, a loose light plug, or a faulty switch. It is also possible this is a larger issue, like a sensory overload on a circuit or loose or outdated wirings. If simple fixes are not solving the issue, it is best to have a professional take a look.

4. Frequent Bulb Blowouts & Tripping Breakers

Close-up of a tripped circuit breaker with black switches

Sometimes bulbs blow out because of poor connections with the light fixture (i.e., the bulb is too loose). The voltage may also be too high, overloading circuits and leading to tripped breakers.

5. Improper Grounding

a grounded wire

Older homes tend to have a two-wire system, and most electrical items today require a three-prong cord. A modern system should be permanently grounded to a metal rod driven into the ground, with a copper conductor that connects the rod to a set of terminals. This directs currents safely throughout the system.

6. No CFGI and Electrical Panels

a circuit breaker in a new construction home

A CFGI is a ground-fault circuit interrupter. They help protect people from electric shock and are not found in homes with older electrical systems. ZINSCO and FPE panels are outdated and fail more often than new models. These often do not trip and allow electric surges to go through the building, which can melt wiring, breakers, and the electrical panel itself.

7. Old Cables and Wiring Systems

a rusty, old electric system

In backstabbed wiring, wires are stripped of insulation and pushed into a device, rather than properly connected to a screw terminal. In homes built before 1950, electricians used Knob and Tube wiring, run wire through porcelain cylinders.  This type of wiring is not grounded or insulated. These old wiring systems can’t handle the number of electronics most households use nowadays.

You’ll also know your wiring is unsafe if it is frayed or encased in metal or fabric. 

8. Unexplained Surge in Energy Usage

a counter showing 27,482 kWh

Heavy wear and tear of outdated wiring affects the efficiency of your appliances. This can strain appliances and cause overheating. Your energy bill may skyrocket, and there may be an increased risk of fire.

9. Warm Outlets or Switches

a finger pressing a light switch

Warm outlets are only fine with dimming switches. Otherwise, this is a serious safety concern that needs to be addressed by a professional right away. 


Electrical jobs must be done correctly to avoid the risk of short circuit, electrocution, or electrical fire. Whether you’re building, remodeling, or buying an old or new house, our team of experts will ensure the electrical safety of your home so you can rest easy. Call now to book an electrical inspection.