Electric circuits in old houses--the Random Approach

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Awl--
I got a 1920 English Tudor in Yonkers, NY. Cloth wiring, good shape/quality, soldered splices throughout (a very good thing). I also have TWENTY fused circuits in the main house. Sounds good, so far. But here's the catch: Any given fuse will control a few outlets and lights ALL OVER the house!! There is no rhyme or reason as to what fuse is controlling whatever.
Was this random/statistical approach done on purpose, sort of "averaging out" likely usage of a circuit by spreading it all over the house? Or was the installer lazy/on drugs? Inyone else have a situation like this, and if so, were you able to do anything by way of improving it? I would much like to "consolidate" circuits room by room, on a fuse/breaker. TIA.
--
Mr. P.V.\'d (formerly Droll Troll), Yonkers, NY
Ever-preparing for The Grand Insertion
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If the outlets arent grounded, I wouldnt worry about it.
You probably have Knob and tube without grounds.
If thats the case your lucky to have homeowners insurance, most companies wouldnt insure knob and tube, too many fires and troubles, after all its over a 100 years old, how long do you keep a vehicle?
I would plan a complete rewire, cause its day is coming.
A friend had knob and tube, his insurance company got sold, the new company gave him 90 days to rewire complete or no more homeowners. He objected and found no other company would insure him either, so he reluctantly rewired his entire home, it took most of his small savings he was retired.
your day is coming ................... sorry for the bad news
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Well, it's not 100 y.o. yet--Actually, it's 86 y.o. :) And no knob and tube. Actually BX cable throughout! W/ liberal use of 3-way switches, some piping to basement/sub basement areas, piping even for phone lines and an intercom!! May have been a re-wire in the 1940's, but a 1st class job.
Still, the randomness of the circuits is a pain, and is the real issue.
Don't know if my insurance co would know the diff in wiring anyway--never seemed to come up at inspection, or closing. The Home inspection was a joke, anyway, despite being done by a top co. Useless.
BTW, I keep my vehicles 'til the tranny falls off on the highway. :) -- Mr. P.V.'d (formerly Droll Troll), Yonkers, NY Ever-preparing for The Grand Insertion Party Nominee, IPPVM Independent Party of the Proctologically Violated®© (M)asses "That's proly not a hemorrhoid you're feeling.... " entropic3.14decay at optonline2.718 dot net; remove pi and e to reply--ie, all d'numbuhs

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"Proctologically Violated©®" wrote:

Even beyond the knob and tube insurance issue, many companies are charging higher premiums if your electrical is older than 30-40 years. Update everything and notify your insurer and you may get a cut in your premium.
Pete C.
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wrote:

I've kept them longer than that. Had the engine/transmssion fall out of a VW bus at a stop sign; I wonderer why it didn't go until a passing driver told me my engine was laying on the pavement. Jacked it back up and wired it in place and drove it home and fixed it ;)
--
Free men own guns - www.geocities/CapitolHill/5357/

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Nick Hull wrote:

\\ just got rid of my old van it had 400,000 miles on it. great vehicle...
everything wears out, please list stuff that lasts 80 years or more......
come on I dare you!
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On *one* engine/tranny?? What make? Call'em up, get yourself on TV!
--
------
Mr. P.V.\'d (formerly Droll Troll), Yonkers, NY
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I have some clocks that are over 250 years old. They run fine. -- Doug
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

In a thread in this news group within the last year I believe all the electricians that commented said knob and tube was not a hazard (if not abused or over fused). No specific information was presented by you (or anyone else) that K&T results in "too many fires and troubles".
Phil Munro posted 2 links with information on K&T safety: http://www.waptac.org/sp.asp?idq90 is a report to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs on adding building insulation around existing K&T wiring. No record of hazard was found in the large number of K&T installations that had insulation added around them.
http://www.maine.gov/pfr/ins/hearing_2003-13680.htm is the record of a complaint to the Maine state Bureau of Insurance by a homeowner against an insurance company. The insurance company denied renewal of a policy based on K&T wiring. The insurance company was ordered to renew the policy because tne insurance company "provided no justification for its position that knob and tube wiring per se automatically provides grounds for nonrenewal".
In my opinion, K&T is the latest redlining scheme by the insurance companies.
--bud--
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Bud-- wrote:

Yes, it is indeed a scam of sorts by the insurance companies. Depending on how well they pay off your local regulators you may or may not be able to force them to renew, at least temporarily. Doing so will not serve your interests however since they will find other excuses to raise your premiums and of course deny claims should you have any.
Ultimately you are better off updating your electrical since it will:
1. Improve safety due to grounds, GFCIs, AFCIs and load capacities that meet today's standards.
2. Improve the homes value and saleability.
3. Avoid insurance cancellation hassles.
4. Lower insurance premiums.
5. Eliminate one possible excuse for denying or shorting a claim.
Pete C.
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:Ultimately you are better off updating your electrical since it will: : :1. Improve safety due to grounds, GFCIs, AFCIs and load capacities that :meet today's standards. : :2. Improve the homes value and saleability. : :3. Avoid insurance cancellation hassles. : :4. Lower insurance premiums. : :5. Eliminate one possible excuse for denying or shorting a claim.
Plus it will give you an opportunity to install a whole house surge protection system.
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Dan_Musicant wrote:

Plus you can add all the necessary switches and outlets necessary today. K&T often had just ONE outlet per room, totally inadquate today.....
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wrote:

And probably NO outlets in the bathroom.
--
53 days until the winter solstice celebration

Mark Lloyd
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As a licensed electrical contractor in Westchester county, I've never seen or heard of anyone being denied home insurance due to K&T wiring, and in my experience, I've never seen any that wasn't in excellent shape regardless or its age. Conversely, I've seen plenty of early BX cloth covered conductors in poor condition. This was often caused by light fixtures with large wattage bulbs being very close to the outlet boxes, which baked the wires. To answer your question about wiring techniques, there was no ryme or reason. You generally want to install a certain amount of outlets and lights on a circuit. Depending upon the layout of the house and ease of installation, you may wrap around a room or you may go from basement to attic and then down. Today with AFCI's and GFCI's, wiring must be done in a more structured manner.
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Hey, ahm in Yonkers! You're right about dried cloth at fixtures. But I am amazed at the suppleness of the cloth wiring. It is also 14 ga, I believe--wished it were 12 ga, but oh well. So I keep any room heaters on "low", and have re-wired utility rooms for things like the washer/dryer, boiler, shop spaces, A/C, etc.
I do like the soldered splices--wire nuts always gave me the willies, conduction-wise. Very well done, overall--except for that random approach business at the fuse box. Oh well....
My own personal opinion, shared by only a few electricians, is that the wire nut is the weak link in modern electrical construction, and that other than things like overloaded outlets/faulty appliances/frayed cords/improperly breakered circuits (gee, quite a list!!), that after all that, wire nuts themselves were probably the next cause of fires, electric-wise. I'm surprised the Code doesn't require solder. Would be great for Local 3... :)
If my insurance company were to give me shit, could I get a licensed electrician to write "an opinion" on the shape of my wiring, to stave off a hike? Or the ins co just don't give a damm? -- Mr. P.V.'d (formerly Droll Troll), Yonkers, NY Ending Corruption in Congress is the Single Best Way to Materially Improve Your Life: Stop Corruption in Congress, Send the Ultimate Message: Absolutely Vote, for *Anyone BUT* a Democrat or a Republican entropic3.14decay at optonline2.718 dot net; remove pi and e to reply--ie, all d'numbuhs

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Crimped connectors are another very solid way of making splices, assuming you have a crimping tool better than the pieces of crap you see most often at Home Despot, Radio Shack, etc. This is a good source for the connectors: www.panduit.com
Crimps are LEGAL in many locations. Where they're not, it's usually not because someone thinks they're unsafe. They just haven't gotten around to changing the rules yet.
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Folks:
Gosh, lotsa stuff. With a thread like this you just have to use the mulligan stew approach...throw anything in and see how it boils.
Zeroth...note that I am not a professional electrician, and do not have the depth of experience that this job would provide. I do have about 10 years of adding to, replacing, and upgrading electrical systems on various old houses I, my family, and friends have owned to refer to, and I do grok the relevant parts of the NEC, even if I can't cite article and section. I find it quite disturbing that on 90% of the occasions when I recommend to various DIYers I meet at the stores that they go down to the nice library and ask the nice blue-haired ladies to point them to the NEC residential manual the reply is a shrug and a return to picking out 2 1/4" deep old-work boxes. Sigh.
First...there is a 10th circle of Hell for insurance company policymakers and their one-size-fits-all Stat 101 modeling methods. Each K&T system must be considered individually by a competent electrician, like any electrical system. An intact, properly loaded K&T system, all splices properly twisted and soldered, rubber and friction tape, and properly added to is quite safe. A poorly hacked system like my house used to have, with old-school NM twisted or simply hooked on to stripped NM, 6 cables jammed into inaccessible 3 1/4" round j-boxes, hospital grade electrical tape :), all buried in cellulose insulation, is unsafe...but quite insurable, since all the *visible* wiring was old NM. Old NM, some of it beginning to pyrolize in the hot, overstuffed boxes.
Note that the K&T insulation, not so overheated, was still in good condition, though 30 years older.
Second...metal does not "crystallize", but it does fatigue, leaving a rough, "crystalline" appearance. A "cold joint", where the solder was melted and did not heat the wire enough to bond to it, has a rough, "crystalline" appearance. A properly made solder joint does not rely on the lead for conduction, but twists the wires intimately together. The lead protects and secures the joint.
Third...wire nuts can fail, yes, but in modern systems they are all stuffed in (hopefully accessible) boxes. The nut, if put on right, also twists the wires together internally, as well as clamping them with spring pressure. I also like to wrap some tape clockwise around the skirt of the nut, which a lot of people seem to hate, but I have a delusion that it adds a slight margin of safety in case the spring should weaken or the shell should become brittle or otherwise lose its grip on the spring. I have found older (bakelite I think) and ceramic wire nuts that were only held on by the tape wrapping some paranoid electrician gave them, pulling quite easily off the still well-conducting twisted-together wires. Of course those were pretwisted, but I find that Ideal wirenuts are quite capable of internally twisting 2 or 3 wires. With most other
brands I usually pre-twist.
Now for the original post. If you're not planning to do a from-scratch rewire, it would probably be best not to change much, as long as the old system is safe. There's really no way to recommend what you'd do unless I saw the system in person. Perhaps as you rewire parts of the house for convenience or remodeling it would be a good time to rationalize some of the circuits, if there's more than 2 represented in each room. Having 2 feeding each room (each circuit itself going to several rooms) can be quite nice when one of them fails, and you don't have to drag out the candles. :)
Cordially yours: G P
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Yeah, I just add new circuits as I need'em, or shift some of the heavier stuff on to new circuits. The old wire, altho in excellent shape, is 14 ga.
Also silver coated/tinned!!! Throughout!!! This may interest you: In the 1996 NEC, under conductors, nickel-plated (iirc) wire has like FOUR times the ampacity as regular copper wire!!! Why would that be?? I know that *bare* wire is rated at a much higher ampacity than insulated wire, and I believe this was all insulated. But the nickel plating just ramps the ampacity way up! Weird? So mebbe my 14 ga is more like 12--or 10!!
If you need the exact page number, holler--it'll proly take a while for eyes to adjust to the small print. :) -- Mr. P.V.'d (formerly Droll Troll), Yonkers, NY Stop Corruption in Congress & Send the Ultimate Message: Absolutely Vote, for *Anyone BUT* a Democrat or a Republican Ending Corruption in Congress is the Single Best Way to Materially Improve Your Life entropic3.14decay at optonline2.718 dot net; remove pi and e to reply--ie, all d'numbuhs

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I'm just recalling something I've seen mentioned before, so take this with a grain of salt...
The majority of the power transferred over a wire is carried on the surface of the wire, not the core.
Perhaps the nickel/copper combination is lower in resistance?
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Yeah, you probably heard it from me. :) But, for a while, it was looking like I was wrong. :( Lotta people on the physics, engineering ng disagree w/ surface conduction of a wire. BUT, if this is in fact the reason for surface plating wire, mebbe I was right!! And if this is what the NEC is citing, then mebbe it is the case!
Who knows..... -- Mr. P.V.'d (formerly Droll Troll), Yonkers, NY Stop Corruption in Congress & Send the Ultimate Message: Absolutely Vote, for *Anyone BUT* a Democrat or a Republican Ending Corruption in Congress is the Single Best Way to Materially Improve Your Life entropic3.14decay at optonline2.718 dot net; remove pi and e to reply--ie, all d'numbuhs

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