There is so much charm in an older house that it can be easy to ignore the problems that can also come with age. In particular, there can be a number of electrical problems that an older home is more likely to have. You can get professional help at this link, but generally be on the lookout for these problems:
Back in the day, homes operated with a few light bulbs and possibly some small appliances. High electricity demand just wasn’t required, and homes weren’t built to accommodate it. Today’s home should have a 200 amp service panel. Anything less should be upgraded by a professional electrician.
This is one of those problems you can actually see right away when you look at the outlets. Older homes that haven’t had too many electrical updates may still have wall outlets with only 2 holes, meant to be used with 2-prong plugs. They aren’t necessarily a disaster on their own, though they provide a quick clue that wiring hasn’t been updated (see the next tip).
Many small electrical devices only have 2-prong plugs anyway so you might not have an immediate need to get the outlets replaced. Larger items with heavier power draws (computers, TVs, appliances) will almost certainly all have 3-prong plugs. It is highly risky to pry off that extra prong to make the plugs work, so you should not consider that approach. Instead, plan on replacing them.
While the outlets we just mentioned are also unsafe, now we’re talking about the actual wiring itself. Over the decades, various materials for home wiring have come and gone with copper winning out today as the safest option. Very old homes will have what is called “knob and tube” wiring, and that must be replaced immediately. Look for large ceramic knobs at all the wire junctures.
Newer homes (say in the 30 – 40-year-old range) will be past the knob and tube stage with aluminum wiring. Unfortunately, that is also no longer considered safe either. Check by either peeling back a little of the vinyl coating and see if the wire is silver, or check for stamped markings on the cladding. It will say AL, ALUM or ACM.
Sure, mice can be a problem with new homes too, but the longer a house is standing, the more likely it is that little pests have done some damage. As they investigate your walls, they often do a little chewing on the wires. Once they break through the plastic cladding, the exposed wire is a fire and shock risk.
Fuses, not Breakers
Back to the main electrical panel for a moment. An older home may still use the old-fashioned fuses in the panel as a safeguard rather than the standard breaker switch. The fuse “blows” when the current is at an unsafe level, protecting from damage and shocks. Today’s equipment has a breaker switch that immediately snaps off instead. You just have to flip the switch back to fix the problem. It’s difficult to buy replacement fuses these days, and such an old panel needs to be replaced.