Can your old home keep up with all the new electricity demands?

Rewiring an Old House

by Debra Karplus

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Your local gas and electric company offers free energy audits, so you schedule one. The energy auditor comes to the house and seems professional and knowledgeable and praises you on the many energy-saving measures that you have already done to your home. But as he is leaving, he giggles a bit as he comments on the old knob and tube wiring that you still have. You've never had any problems with your home electrical system; you plug in appliances, turn on lights, and everything works without any trouble. So, should you upgrade you home's electricity system and replace the old knob and tube wiring?

According to, homes built before about 1930 used knob and tube wiring. Though considered to be safe, even by today's standards, its life expectancy is approximately eighty years. That old wiring is not covered with protective insulation and can dry out, sometimes leading to house fires. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), , states in a 2011 report, that there are about 28,600 electrical fires each year in the United States. You definitely don't want your home on that list!

Additionally, the old wiring allowed for two-pronged plugs, not for the grounded, much safer, three-pronged plugs. Add in the factor that the old wiring does not allow for the large refrigerators and all the electronic gizmos and gadgets of today's world. These days, people use more electricity for more devices.

Insurance and Financing

On, some interesting points are made about knob and tube wiring that owners of old homes should be aware of. If you are selling your older home and it still has the old wiring, some realtors will inform you that this could be a sticking point and an impediment in selling the house quickly. This is because many lenders won't finance a home with obsolete wiring. Additionally, many homeowners' insurance companies won't insure a home that is still wired with knob and tube.

Pay Now or Pay Later

Ask some of your neighbors or friends who are living in older homes if they have had the wiring upgraded. You are likely to hear them respond, "We have had some of the house done as we have done different remodeling jobs." Your house, too, may already be partially rewired. So what should you do now?

If you are planning to sell your old home in the very near future, you may not want to bother upgrading the electrical system and just sell the house "as is,", knocking some money off the selling price to allow the buyer to get the house financed, rewired, and insured. Do yourself a favor and get at least one estimate from an electrician to get a ballpark figure of how much rewiring might cost the potential buyer.

Taking the Right Steps to Getting Your Home Rewired

But if you have no immediate plans to sell this older home, you might seriously consider making the investments in an upgraded electrical system as soon as possible. The good news is that you don't have to have it all done at once; this can be beneficial to your home finances.

Start by getting several estimates. The job doesn't necessarily need to be done by a licensed electrician. So if you know someone who really knows what they are doing and comes highly recommended, they might be the right person to do the job. A licensed electrician, though, will know all the local codes about issues such as how many outlets need to be in a room based on its square footage, and whether smoke detectors need to be electrically wired into some of the rooms.

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Many of your downstairs outlets and receptacles can possibly be done without cutting any holes in floors, ceilings or walls. It may be a good idea initially to just get that wiring done. Some electricians will charge you their hourly rate, while others may charge per outlet, $85 per outlet, for example, or about $500 to do your entire downstairs.

Where rewiring gets dusty and messy and more expensive is for the jobs where wires can't just be fished through existing holes, and new holes, about the size of the electrician's hand, need to be cut. This will take the electrician more time to wire these spots, but also, you will need to get someone in when the wiring job is done to repair some drywall and paint it.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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