Anyone who has watched Canada’s own Mike Holmes on Holmes on Homes knows that he insists all the electrical work carried out during his renovations be done by qualified professionals like those of us at A-Star Electric of Calgary. Even Mike Holmes won’t do his own electrical work, and for good reason. Bad electrical work can result in overloaded circuits, impossible-to-reach junction boxes, dangerous connections and a badly set up breaker box. All of these are unsafe and can be difficult and expensive to fix.
But there’s one thing that really agitates Mike Holmes more than anything else, and that’s knob and tube wiring. Common in homes built in Alberta from the 1900s to the 1950s, knob and tube wiring is so hazardous that if you purchase a home or business building that has it, you will likely have a very hard time finding the proper insurance. If you are interesting in buying an older building, contact us at A-Star for a professional electrical safety inspection. We can easily spot knob and tube wiring, and if you have it, we recommend you make it a condition of sale to have your entire electrical system replaced before you finalize your purchase.
Knob and tube wiring does not incorporate ground wires. Ground wires provide protection from surges and other faults by routing extra currents caused by a frayed or damaged wire away from your circuits and safely into the grounding bus of your box. Knob and tube wiring has hot and neutral wires only, which means you have zero defense from a fault. Shocks and fires can happen easily.
The sheathing used for knob and tube wiring is also a problem, as it only offers minimal insulation and readily disintegrates over time. This is exacerbated by the fact that the buildings that have knob and tube wiring are also old, meaning they are made from more flammable materials and have less effective fire safeguards built in.
Finally, knob and tube wiring is meant for 15 amps of current, whereas older electrical systems tend to send far more than this – often up to 60 amps. Wires can very easily overheat and spark.
One way to tell if a home or building has knob and tube wiring by a visual inspection is if the outlets only work for a two-pronged plug in. This greatly restricts your choice in appliances. Additionally, the third prong in modern plug ins is actually the grounding prong, which makes it far less likely for you to receive a shock when plugging in and unplugging your electric devices.
Steps for Replacing Old Wiring
The best time to replace your knob and tube wiring is when you are carrying out renovations. This will allow your professional electrician to completely replace your wiring at the same time, which should reduce disruptions.
But if you are not planning to carry out major renovations, call our certified journeymen Calgary electricians at A-Star anyway if you suspect you might be purchasing a building with knob and tube wiring. You do have options. It’s possible that your building has a combination of knob and tube and modern wiring. In this case we can add what is called a ground fault circuit breaker to each of the knob and tube circuits. These are specifically designed to add a circuit loop at the top of your breaker box to divert and dispel electrical surges safely. However, home and business insurance companies may still not provide coverage with this kind of “quick fix.”
A full replacement of all you knob and tube wiring is always what we recommend. This is not a job for an amateur. We can disconnect all of your old wiring and leave it in place while we run your new wiring to the same areas of your building, which is not dangerous as the old wiring will not be attached to any power source. We will patch all the holes to perfection and leave your home or business just as clean as it was before we started. If not cleaner!
A more comprehensive option is to completely remove and replace all of your old knob and tube wiring. This requires more work on our part – especially when it comes to removing the ceramic tubes that were used to insulate wires when passing through framing – however it will provide you with a lot more options in the long run. We can upgrade or replace your breaker box at the same time, adding circuits if needed, and also add more modern and attractive outlets so that you’re never short of somewhere to plug in.
Contact A-Star for Your Electrician Needs in Calgary
Alberta has a number of strict guidelines and codes in place for all electrical work. As we work together to design or improve your electrical work, we will ensure that all codes are met or surpassed and that all necessary inspections have been completed. We will create an electrical system for you that works at its peak and meets all your needs, while keeping you safe from unwanted perils such as power outages and fires. Contact us now!