Experienced Electricians for Homes in Genesee County with Knob and Tube Wiring


flint-mi-electricianKnob and tube wiring, sometimes called simply K & T wiring, is common to find in older homes built from 1890-1930. Even some homes in Flint, Flushing, and Grand Blanc, built in the 1940s or 1950s, contain knob and tube wiring, though it not as common. If your Genesee County home has knob and tube wiring, and you haven’t yet replaced it, we wanted to give you some information that can help you make an informed decision about whether you should leave it, consider rewiring your home, or do something in between.

What Is Knob and Tube Wiring?

Knob and tube wiring was considered state-of-the-art technology at the turn of the last century. Knob and tube wiring installations contain only two wires (as opposed to three in modern wiring), a hot wire and a neutral wire, with no ground wire. Because of this, outlets in homes with knob and tube wiring have only two holes, not three. The two wires are held in place by ceramic knobs, and also have ceramic tubes covering the wires where they run through wall studs or floor joists, giving the wiring system its name.

Limitations of Knob and Tube Wiring in Genesee County Homes

Most knob and tube systems are restricted to 60 amp service, which is not adequate for homes with multiple electric appliances (stove, oven, clothes dryer, air conditioner, etc.). If your home has a gas stove or dryer, it may be adequate, but if your electrical demands increase, you will run into a problem. There is also a limit to the amount of circuits that can be on a knob and tube system, and that number is usually less than what is adequate for modern electrical loads. In addition, the outlets in a home with knob and tube wiring are not adequate for certain appliances, since they don’t accept three-pronged plugs.

Risks Associated with Knob and Tube Wiring

As previously mentioned, knob and tube wiring contains no ground wire. This means you have no protection in the event of a short or excess charge, putting your home at risk for fire or you at risk for electrical shock.

Knob and tube systems often do not contain enough outlets necessary for the electrical demands of modern homes, causing many homeowners to go against the recommendations of electricians and electrical safety experts and run multiple extension cords or power strips to compensate for the lack of electrical outlets.

As electricians in Genesee County, we see a lot of modifications done to knob and tube wiring that were done improperly. Most often, the systems were added to with wiring extensions that draw too much power on the knob and tube circuits, creating a very real fire hazard. Another issue we see is knob and tube wiring that was covered with building insulation at a later date. Putting insulation over knob and tube wiring causes the wires to become hotter than intended and puts them in direct contact with a combustible material, creating a perfect storm for a house fire.

The knob and tube wiring system was most likely safe when it was first installed in your home 70+ years ago, but given the materials used, it is not as safe now as it once was. The rubber insulation used in knob and tube wiring deteriorates over time, exposing bare wires. In addition, the wiring itself can become brittle, increasing the chance of short or fire.

What to Do if Your Genesee County Home Has Knob and Tube Wiring

The simplest thing you can do to make your knob and tube wiring safer, if it is in good working order and adequate for your electrical needs, is to add a ground fault circuit breaker to all circuits with knob and tube wiring on it. Doing so will reduce your risk of electrical fire. This should be done by a licensed electrician in Genesee County who is experienced dealing with older homes and their wiring.

You could also choose to completely rewire your home or business. If you go this route, an electrician will run new circuits and replace fuses with modern circuit breakers. This is the more costly way to go, and will also require you to be “off the grid” for a period of time, but it is the safest option. It also may be the required option, since more and more insurance companies are refusing to insure homes with knob and tube wiring. If they aren’t refusing altogether, they are usually charging higher premiums.

If your home has knob and tube wiring, or if you suspect it does, given the home’s age, contact Electrician Express for a complete inspection of your wiring. We can make recommendations for your specific situation that will make your home safe and give you a wiring system that is adequate for your needs.

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