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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Default Saftey of Old fuse box/electric/wires

    Hi! I am not sure if this is the right place to post, but I thought I would try anyway :-)
    I am renting an older home. Being a girl, i do not know to much about fuse boxes and electric.
    There is a very old fuse box in this house. It actually has "screw" in fuses. Over the past few weeks, I noticed my appliances and devices have been getting extremely hot, and the outlet are producing a spark when I plug something in. I (not knowing what to do) called my electric provider. They came out the next morning. they did some checking on the outside of the house and said everything was OK on their end. He told my landlord to have an electrician come to the house to check things on the inside. Needless to say, he did not. He came in, took a few things out of the box, put them back and said "everything looks fine".
    I am still very worried. I have not been able to find to much info on this type of system. I believe it may be called Knob and Tube ? I am looking for any info or web sites that may be able to help me determine (that I could maybe safely check) it is OK.
    As I mentioned, the fuse box is VERY old and stuffed with wires.I have even tried the library, and could not find much info there either. I did a peek in the attic, but because of insulation, I could not see to much. The only wire I saw was blue/greenish. It was wrapped around a random piece of metal that is nailed onto one of the wood beams. I am entirely to afraid to look in the crawlspace
    Thank you in advance for your help

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,803

    Default Re: Saftey of Old fuse box/electric/wires

    First if it is knob and tube wiring it should not be covered by insulation. It requires free air flow to dissipate heat and the insulation on the old wiring drys and get brittle with age and can fall off if disturbed. As far as I know there is not yet a national requirement to replace K&T wiring although some insurance companies will decline insuring homes with K&T wiring. K&T wiring is still in use in millions of homes.

    Heat is usually caused by excessive current draw above the rated capacity of the system. When the wiring was installed it was most likely sized for lighting and few electrical appliances, often times it's all 14 gauge wire rated at 15 amps. To often I have seen higher rated fuses, for example 30 amp fuses in place of 15 amp fuses, installed as appliances where added. This is an unsafe practice. It is very important to size the fuse to the wiring not the load

    The fact that the system uses screw in fuses rather than breakers is insignificant as both accomplish the same thing.

    Sparks when plugging and unplugging appliances can be caused by loose wiring on the outlets or plugging and unplugging appliances while the are on. You should always make sure an appliance if turned off when plugging or unplugging them.

    I hope this gives you some of the information you want.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Shamokin, Pa.
    Posts
    645

    Default Re: Saftey of Old fuse box/electric/wires

    Quote Originally Posted by JLMCDANIEL View Post
    First if it is knob and tube wiring it should not be covered by insulation. It requires free air flow to dissipate heat and the insulation on the old wiring drys and get brittle with age and can fall off if disturbed. As far as I know there is not yet a national requirement to replace K&T wiring although some insurance companies will decline insuring homes with K&T wiring. K&T wiring is still in use in millions of homes.

    Heat is usually caused by excessive current draw above the rated capacity of the system. When the wiring was installed it was most likely sized for lighting and few electrical appliances, often times it's all 14 gauge wire rated at 15 amps. To often I have seen higher rated fuses, for example 30 amp fuses in place of 15 amp fuses, installed as appliances where added. This is an unsafe practice. It is very important to size the fuse to the wiring not the load

    The fact that the system uses screw in fuses rather than breakers is insignificant as both accomplish the same thing.

    Sparks when plugging and unplugging appliances can be caused by loose wiring on the outlets or plugging and unplugging appliances while the are on. You should always make sure an appliance if turned off when plugging or unplugging them.

    I hope this gives you some of the information you want.
    Jack
    I agree with K&T being not covered with insulation. And yes it is a NEC violation to do such, as we both know. But I have seen plenty of homes with that very thing.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    British Columbia, CANADA
    Posts
    46

    Default Re: Saftey of Old fuse box/electric/wires

    Are you able to post some photos of what you see in the house? That might help.

    Also, don't be worried about asking questions..that's how you learn. After all, "there is no such thing as a dumb question...only dumb answers".

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Posts
    10

    Default Re: Saftey of Old fuse box/electric/wires

    Extstgelft, "being a girl" you can learn! Most guys don't know anything about electrical stuff either. You're well on your way - it's great that you're doing research ******, at the library, and asking questions. And paying attention to what's going on in your house.

    Never, never look behind the surface of anything electrical without turning the power off. Don't even take a cover plate off to look at an outlet or light switch. People who know wiring may do that or can figure out which fuse to take out to work on a circuit, but that still makes me nervous on an old house. Don't do that without someone experienced present. Really experienced. Even after wiring a couple of houses I won't work on anything in an old house unless the power's all off, and am really cautious about turning it back on.

    Keep doing your homework and asking those experts. Be careful, and have fun!

    Diane

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Posts
    10

    Default Re: Saftey of Old fuse box/electric/wires

    Wait a sec!

    Check the landlord/tenant laws in your state and municipality. In most (all?) states, tenants have the right to a safe residence. But not a right to do wiring or anything substantial on the house without the landlord's permission. Check your state's webpage (may be impossible to navigate!) or ask at the library. There is probably a tenant hotline or someone you can ask about your rights.

    Some things that may help:
    - Feel appliances at your friends' houses. Compare.
    - Previous tenants? Ask them if they had problems.
    - As Jack said: don't put plugs in or out while an appliance is turned on. Check the amps on the fuses. If they're more than 15 amps, call the landlord and/or electrician and ask about them relative to the wire size. You're more knowledgeable now so you can evaluate their answers.
    - If the fuses are replaced, you won't be able to use as many appliances at the same time, but you'll be safer.
    - Check the smoke detectors. If there aren't any, you need some. They're required (= landlord must install), at least in my state.

    Landlord/tenant people should be able to give you more advice, but do everything you can before getting legal with your landlord.

    Don't touch the wiring, or have anyone do any work without your landlord's permission, unless you have a great big liability insurance policy.

    Diane

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,803

    Default Re: Saftey of Old fuse box/electric/wires

    extstgelft,
    If you see plastic jacket on the wiring then it is not knob and tube.Here is a picture of Knob and tube wiring and it is a single conductor wire with a jacket on it that looks like woven cloth coated with tar. There would be two separate wires going to every junction box.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Saftey of Old fuse box/electric/wires

    Quote Originally Posted by extstgelft View Post
    Needless to say, he did not. He came in, took a few things out of the box, put them back and said "everything looks fine".
    Who is "he"? Are you saying that your landlord came in to inspect the wiring? Although laws vary from city to city, unless your landlord is a licensed electrician, he cannot legally do any work on the rental property.

    Tell your landlord that you feel the sparking outlets are a safety concern and that you want the problem addressed. Do this in writing. Do everything in writing. Also, keep meticulous records of what's going on.

    Your landlord has a responsibility to maintain a safe dwelling. Exactly what qualifies as "safe" varies geographically so I'd encourage you to find out who governs rental properties in your area and talk to them.

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