If a home is more than 40 years old and has the original wiring, it is time for an update. MSN Real Estate says there are a disproportionate number of fires in these homes. In homes from the 1950s or older, original wiring includes a rubber material which compounds the problem by becoming brittle as it ages. Ungrounded electrical outlets are an indicator there are no recent updates.
Homes often give indicators of lurking problems. Breakers that trip frequently or older fuse type systems that blow fuses when electronic devices are added are indications that problems are beginning. Another indicator is the dimming or flickering of lights, sometimes caused by a loose connection, but often an indicator of a circuit overload, according to State Farm.
State Farm instructs homeowners to look for discolored switch plates, plugs and cords, also indicating electrical trouble. If these devices feel hot to the touch, they have the potential to heat flammable materials to begin a fire. Switches that make buzzing noises as someone activates them are likely to be defective. Wiring problems are often the source of otherwise unexplainable burning smells.
MSN Real Estate recommends having a licensed electrician perform an inspection if the owner suspects a problem. While costs vary, they are generally affordable. In addition, some companies apply the cost of the inspection to work resulting from it.