Electrical Codes” />
Outdated electrical codes can seem harmless, but following them can lead to dangerous situations. As an electrical contractor, I often see homeowners who have followed outdated codes and run into problems. In this article, I will explain what outdated electrical codes are, why they can be dangerous, and why you should ignore them.
What are Outdated Electrical Codes?
Electrical codes are sets of standards that dictate how electrical systems should be installed and maintained. They are put forth by organizations like the National Electrical Code (NEC) and local jurisdictions.
These codes are updated every 3-5 years to reflect new technologies, safety practices, and learnings from past incidents. When an updated electrical code is published, previous versions become outdated.
Some examples of outdated electrical codes include:
- Requiring only 15 amp circuits in kitchens, when 20 amps is now standard
- Allowing aluminum wiring without antioxidant paste, which can cause fires
- Lacking requirements for arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) and ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)
If an electrical system in a home was installed to an older code, it is now outdated and potentially unsafe. Many homeowners are unaware their electrical systems are dated if upgrades have not been made.
Why Outdated Electrical Codes are Dangerous
Outdated electrical codes often lack important safety requirements that help prevent fires, electrocutions, and other hazards. As risks have been identified over time, codes have adapted to address them.
Ignoring new safety codes leaves electrical systems vulnerable to:
- Electrical fires – from undersized wiring, lack of AFCIs, etc. Electrical fires cause over 40,000 home fires per year.
- Shock hazards – missing or substandard grounding and GFCIs leave risk of shock.
- Arc faults – outdated wiring lacks protection against dangerous electrical arcing.
Additionally, outdated codes lead to inefficient energy use, lighting problems, and inability to handle load from modern devices.
When an electrical system does not meet current codes, dangers often lurk unnoticed until an incident occurs. I have seen fires and injuries result from outdated electrical installations. It is essential to identify and correct these hazards.
Why You Should Ignore Outdated Codes
Given the risks, it is always advisable to ignore outdated electrical codes and bring systems up to current standards. Here are some key reasons why:
- Meeting modern codes improves safety by addressing risks from arcing, overloads, shocks, and fires.
- Upgrading electrical systems could prevent injuries or even save lives in the event of an incident.
- Peace of mind comes from knowing your electrical systems are not a hazard.
- New codes allow for proper voltage, circuits, and wiring to support modern electric loads.
- Prevent blown fuses, tripped breakers, dimming lights, and other performance issues.
- Improve energy efficiency with up-to-date materials and design standards.
- Updating to current code is often required during renovations or home sales.
- Keeping electrical current avoids costs to retroactively upgrade later.
- In worst case incidents, insurance claims could be denied if not to code.
Increase Home Value
- Electrical upgrades are an attractive selling point for home buyers.
- A recent NAHB study found electrical updates have a strong ROI, recouping up to 85% of costs.
- Modern, safe electricals can command higher home prices.
Outdated electrical codes lack vital safety advances that can put homes and lives at risk. Always ignore old codes in favor of new versions, which reflect the latest warnings and technologies.
While upgrades take investment, the benefits for safety, efficiency, compliance, and home value outweigh the costs. As an electrical contractor, I always advise customers to discard outdated electrical practices.
Follow modern electrical codes, and have systems periodically inspected. This ensures your home’s electrical system is not a hazard waiting to happen. The safety of your family is worth the cost.