Nearly everyone has heard that bad wiring in your home can cause a fire, yet many have no idea how to identify a problem with their home's wiring. This can lead to senseless fires that pose a threat to your family's safety and can cause thousands of dollars in damage. Learning to recognize the warning signs of wiring problems in your home can save both lives and money. Here's what to look out for.

1. Old Wiring

You probably know old wiring can cause a problem, but you probably don't have an inkling what qualifies wiring as old. Knob and tube wiring installed in the early 1900s is obviously old, but you may be surprised to learn that aluminum wiring typically installed in the 1960s and 1970s is also referred to as old wiring and poses a risk in your home because the aluminum wire and the connections can become loose over time.

As a rule, if the wiring in your home was installed more than 40 years ago, it is considered old wiring and may not be up to code. While it may be safe if it was well maintained and cared for, you may want to have an licensed electrician check it out to be sure, even if you aren't experiencing any problems.

2. Hot Outlets

Check your outlets for overheating. If the outlet or the wall gets warm or hot when in use, take that as a signal your wiring needs attention. Your outlets should not feel warm to the touch. Turn off the switch or unplug appliances and do not use the switch or outlet until an electrician can check it out.

3. Buzzing or Fluttering Sounds

If plugging in appliances or flipping the switch to turn on the lights is accompanied by buzzing, humming, fluttering, or any other sounds, you have a problem. Outlets and switches should not make any noise when you use them. If you hear strange noises when you plug in a lamp or other appliance, check it in another outlet to rule out electrical problems with the appliance before calling an electrician.

But, don't be lulled into thinking that because the sound only happens occasionally, or that it isn't very loud, that you shouldn't be concerned. If your electrical wiring is making noises, there is a problem.

4. Shocks

If you experience a slight shock or tingling sensation when you turn on a switch or plug an appliance into the outlet, don't ignore it – but rule out static electricity before your make that call to the electrician. It is normal to experience shocks from static electricity during the winter months, especially if you are scuffing around in wool socks.

If you are wearing shoes with rubber soles or socks with a wool blend, try leather-soled shoes or cotton socks to reduce shocks from static electricity. If your problem continues after eliminating static electricity as the source, call your electrician to check the wiring to your outlet or switch.

5. Flickering Lights or Intermittent Power

If your lights flicker or your lose power to portions of the home only to have it return a few minutes later, you likely have problems with the wiring. Unless you are in the middle of raging storm – or holding a séance – take flickering lights seriously and seek the advice of a professional to correct the problem. Check that light bulbs are screwed in tightly and that lamps are plugged in securely before assuming the problem is with your wiring.

6. Tripped Circuit Breakers or Blown Fuses

Circuit breakers and fuses are designed to prevent damage to your home from power surges. Observe the proper use of appliances and do not overload the outlet with multiple appliances. If your circuit breaker trips frequently or you blow fuses often despite your efforts, take that as a sign your home needs some professional attention.

If you have other concerns about the wiring in your home, call your local electrician. He can inspect your wiring and make recommendations for correcting the problem.

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