Down to the wire: outdated electrical systems pose potential threat to Kent homes

There can be evident risks when purchasing or residing in an older home, such as outdated heating sources, structural issues or lead paint on the walls.

Inside the walls, however, could lie another potential threat: worn, exposed or faulty knob-and-tube wiring. The standard electrical system installed from the late 19th century up to the 1950s in the United States, knob-and-tube wiring is now generally considered unsafe for homes by most electricians. Its installation is prohibited in the National Electrical Code.

There is no ground wire in the knob-and-tube setup, which newer electrical systems include to neutralize the positive and negative currents. In addition, existing systems are decades old, exposing the insulation around the wires to wear and tear. Hot, bare wires inside wooden structures can cause house fires.

In Kent, some residents are replacing their outdated wiring for peace of mind. Fire officials, however, say to evaluate the severity of the threat on a case-by-case basis.




Anna Huntsman is a City of Kent reporter. Contact her at