The age of your home and the type of wiring can have an impact on your homeowners insurance rates. That's because the older the wiring, the more likely it is to be a fire hazard.
There are more than 45,000 electrical fires each year. About half of those involve lighting equipment or home electrical wiring, according to the U.S. Fire Department. Here's how wiring could affect your homeowners insurance.
Can I get homeowners insurance if I have knob and tube wiring?
Some insurance companies may not insure a home with knob and tube wiring, and others might charge higher rates.Knob and tube wiring is one of the earliest residential wiring systems. It's most commonly found in homes built between 1880 and 1940s. In this type of wiring, ceramic knobs anchor the wire to the house framing and porcelain tubes are used where it passes through the framing. The "hot wire" has a cloth or rubber insulation, called the "loom." This style of wiring is considered out-of-date.
Knob and tube wiring is often considered a hazard because of:
- Grounding: Knob and tube doesn't have a grounding conductor, which makes it hazardous in kitchens and bathrooms where it may come in contact with water.
- Age: The insulation surrounding the wiring could have deteriorated, dried and cracked, leaving wires exposed.
- Insulation: If knob and tube wiring is surrounded by insulation, it can cause heat to build up and cause a fire.
- Improper modifications: Modern household appliances such as televisions, dishwashers and refrigerators require a higher voltage than the appliances that were being used when knob and tube wiring was originally installed. It's not uncommon to find that inexperienced electricians made modifications in an attempt to meet new voltage demands, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
Can I get homeowners insurance if I have aluminum wiring?
Like knob and tube wiring, some insurance companies may not cover homes with aluminum wiring, while others may charge higher rates.Aluminum wiring was prevalent in homes built between 1965 and 1973. At the time, copper was expensive and aluminum was a cheaper substitute. Unfortunately, aluminum becomes defective faster than copper and is more dangerous for home wiring. Homes wired with aluminum are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections at outlets reach fire hazard conditions, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Aluminum wiring in homes is often considered a hazard because of:
- Aging: Aluminum wiring becomes less durable than copper wiring. Copper is more resistant to damage and generally has a longer life.
- Overheating: Because aluminum breaks down faster than copper, the risk of overheating is greater due to oxidation, excessive vibration and other issues.
What to do
If your home has knob and tube wiring or aluminum wiring, it's a good idea to have it checked by a licensed electrician to see if you need to have the wiring replaced. If you do update your wiring, ask if your home insurance company if you're eligible for a new wiring credit.