Is Your Electrical System Compliant?

Posted on: 16 August 2017

People who are planning to buy an older home may be unsure whether the electrical system of that home meets the current electrical code requirements or whether it is outdated. This article discusses three simple ways that you can use to find out whether the electrical system is up to date without involving an expert.

The Grounding Conductor

Modern homes have a grounding conductor to protect the home and its occupants from electrical hazards such as shocks, which can result from a fault within an electrical system. This protective measure did not exist several decades ago. How can you be certain that the home you wish to buy has this feature? Check the wall sockets/receptacles. Wall outlets that have three prongs normally have a ground connection. Two-prong power outlets lack a ground conductor. You can go ahead and open one of the outlets in order to confirm that three wires are connected inside that receptacle.

Circuit Breakers

Outdated electrical systems rely on fuses to cut the power supply in case an anomaly such as an overload occurs. Modern homes have circuit breakers to perform that role. Fuses have several shortcomings that led to their abandonment in newer systems. First, they made system maintenance costly because one had to buy a replacement fuse each time the existing one was activated and blew. Secondly, it was very easy to replace the old fuse with another of a dissimilar capacity, since most of those fuses rated for domestic use could fit any circuit. This left the home exposed to electrical fires if bigger fuse was used to protect a circuit that could only handle a small electrical load. 

Circuit breakers are a better option because one can reset the same breaker after it has tripped. Confirm the presence of a circuit breaker by opening the electrical panel of the home. Check for screw-in glass fuses that have a visible wire inside the glass. Breakers have an off and on position to signify whether the breaker has tripped or not.

Polarised Outlets

Modern appliances and electronics are very sensitive to the power supply running through them. It is therefore important to avoid making any errors when plugging cables into an outlet. Polarised outlets make this possible. One side of the outlet has a larger opening than the other side. This configuration matches the construction of polarised plugs on appliances. Outdated systems don't have these polarised outlets.

What should you do when you see one or more indicators of outdated electrical systems in that house that you want to buy? Talk to an electrical contractor about your concerns. That expert will check for other features of non-compliant electrical systems, such as aluminium wiring, before advising you about what steps will be needed to change the wiring so that you are protected from any risk caused by an outdated electrical system.