Before we explain what knob-and-tube wiring is, and what it means for a property that has it, let's get one thing out of the way: knob-and-tube wiring is not the end of the world. If your property happens to have it, however, it’s worth educating yourself about it.
What Is It?
Schenectady, NY home inspectors will definitely check the electrical wiring when walking the grounds of any property. And, if their report comes back with "knob and tube" written on it, some people may find themselves instantly concerned. Schenectady, NY has a higher percentage of knob and tube wiring when compared to surrounding municipalities. This may be due to the fact that General Electric is located in Schenectady NY.
Knob-and-tube wiring is a somewhat controversial type of electrical wiring installed in many older homes. However, it's important that you realize that it's not always a problem. In fact, it's not really inferior to modern wiring when considering most major aspects. But, like anything old, there are instances when it may need to be replaced.
Knob-and-tube wiring was installed in homes up until about 1950. It gets its name from the ceramic knobs that surround the wire, protecting them as they pass through the wood framing in your floor joists or ceiling beams.
The biggest difference between knob-and-tube wiring and modern wiring is that the black wires and the white wires run separately with several inches of space between them. Modern wiring, on the other hand, wraps the black wire, white wire, and ground wire into a single cable. The wire insulation used is also different, with modern wiring using plastic compared to the rubber used in knob-and-tube wiring.
Since the rubber insulation on knob-and-tube wiring breaks down over time, that's usually the cause for its replacement. This is usually the result of mechanical abuse or overheating.
The Advantages of Knob-and-Tube Wiring
There are actually some pros associated with knob-and-tube wiring, although you may not hear them spoken about that often. First and foremost, knob-and-tube wiring used larger diameter copper wire compared to today's wiring.
These larger wires stay cooler even with high loads of electricity flowing through them. The disadvantage to the wire, however, is that any knob-and-tube wiring you run into today has been in service for upwards of 60 years, and that causes wear-and-tear overtime that can be a cause for its replacement.
If your property has knob-and-tube wiring, one consideration to make is the absence of a ground
wire. The ground wire acts as an emergency path for any stray electricity, which helps protect you and others against shocks. Knob-and-tube wiring does not have a ground cable.
Some common problems you may face with knob-and-tube wiring include:
Any of these issues can lead to short circuiting or overheating in a knob-and-tube wiring setup. You can ask a home inspector if you have concerns about these issues. If it turns out you need to replace or may need to replace it in the future, it's best to do so during a remodel.
Although knob-and-tube wiring is older, that doesn't mean that you need to replace it simply because that's what your house has. However, you should have it inspected and evaluated on an annual basis to ensure it's running optimally and safely. If you are purchasing a home in Schenectady NY it has been my personal observation that Knob and tube wiring is more prevalent in Schenectady NY. Make sure you ask your home inspector if knob and tube exists in your home during the home inspection and what condition the wiring is in.
The Author Adam Clark is the owner and operator of Shield Guard Home Inspections. Adam Clark is a local Home Inspector located in Albany NY that has performed over 6000 Inspections