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Common Wiring Issues in Old Homes: 1960s-1980s


In our last article, we discussed common wiring issues in homes from the first half of the twentieth century. Today we are going to explore homes built in the latter half. The 1960s and 1970s brought about massive changes. As our way of living began to shift, our needs for electricity became greater. As a result, the electrical systems we used needed to change to meet those new standards.

Up the Amps

The 1950s, most houses were easily powered with 60 amp systems. By the 1960s, this amperage was increased to 100. This allowed homeowners to power their microwave, dishwasher, and refrigerator all on one circuit. While this was great for our groovy grandparents, this increase isn’t quite enough to sustain our modern day appliances. New homes are built with several dedicated circuits because each of our appliances uses that much more electricity. Because the 100 amp panels from the 1960s had limited space for breakers, those who still have those units in their home will need a sub-panel or a new panel entirely.

The Start of GFCI

In 1961, electrical engineer Charles Dalziel invented the ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI. This device is a circuit breaker that will shut off electric power in the event of a ground-fault. This occurs when electricity leaks through the ground instead of returning back along the circuit. Ground-faults aren’t just a waste of energy—they can lead to electrical shock, burns, and even fire. The use of GFCIs after their invention was slow-going at first. Initially, they were only used around pools. Eventually they were required to be installed in bathrooms. But it wasn’t until 1987 that GFCIs were required to be used in garages and any receptacle within six feet of a sink. For homeowners with houses built previous to that year, this is something they will need an electrician to inspect and rectify.

Aluminum Wiring

Before the 1960s, copper was the most common material used in household wiring. But a massive shortage left costs for this metal way too high for the average homeowner. As a result, builders turned to aluminum wiring in new construction. Aluminum is a great conductor and was relatively cheap, so it was the obvious choice. Unfortunately, a few years later, a host of electrical fires cropped up in homes with aluminum wiring. You see, when the industry switched to aluminum wiring, they didn’t make any changes to the light switches or receptacles. These units all had terminals made of copper or other metals. What people quickly learned was that a corrosive chemical reaction will occur between two dissimilar metals when connected. So while aluminum wiring isn’t dangerous in and of itself, it does require a close inspection to determine whether it will be safe for your home.

Homes built from the 1960s onwards tend to need less of an overhaul than their early century predecessors, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their unique challenges. If you own an older home it is imperative to have a trained electrician inspect the house for any of these issues. A simple inspection can save you time and money, and maybe even your home. Don’t put it off any longer, call the experts at 4-Star today at 403-768-1863!

Written by 4-Star Electric

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