07:01AM | 08/09/08
Member Since: 08/08/08
2 lifetime posts
My husband and I own a home that was built in the 1920's. Lately we have been having some trouble with our electric.

For a while when the weather would get nice we would turn off our air conditioning unit at the thermostat but it wouldn't shut off. We would end up having to shut if off at the main breaker in the basement to make it quit running. That wasn't too big of a problem because we don't run it very often so we kind of forgot about it.

Two days ago in the evening the air conditioner turned on by itself even though it was shut off at the thermostat. This happened twice in one night and caused the lights in our upstairs bathroom to flicker on and off. About the same time the tv that is on the same wall as the thermostat in the living room started losing power and flickering on and off. Also the refrigerator that is on the other side of the wall in the kitchen was turning off and coming on.

We were hoping that these problems were caused by the air conditioner or the thermostat going bad, so we left it off at the breaker; but last night it did it again. TV receiver flicked on and off in rapid speed and the fridge kept losing power.

We are worried something is bad in our wiring as it is the old knob and tube through most of the house. Have lived here for four years with no problems to speak of. My brother in law is an electrician and is coming over to look to see if he can figure anything out; but any extra help would be appreciated.

Sorry for the long post!


11:18AM | 08/12/08
Member Since: 01/09/07
198 lifetime posts
The lights upstairs flickering when the air conditioning comes on, and the TV & refrigerator acting up too, indicate a temporary overload caused when the air conditioner motor starts up. It just pulls too much electricity at startup.

While this is not an "emergency -- pull the breaker now!" situation, it is not a good thing, and should be looked into by your electrician. But the solution may require increasing the total electrical feed into your house from the electric company, including replacing the wiring from the power pole, replacing the main breaker panel with a bigger one, and reconnecting all the breakers. That's not a cheap job. (But it's a good improvement in your house, and adds value if you ever intend to sell the house.)

I don't know what to say about the 'turning on by itself' problem. Maybe something with the thermostat controls. Consult a heating/AC specialist. That's probably not related to the electrical power.

And knob and tube wiring is not necessarily unsafe. It's lasted for many years. But wiring that old was done when there were many fewer electrical appliances in use. You probably have a limited number of outlets in the house, and you need to be careful not to overload the circuits (though your breakers should protect against that). If you're doing a remodeling job where you have easy access to the knob & tube wiring, go ahead and replace them. But otherwise, there is no need to replace them if you aren't having problems.


07:55PM | 08/12/08
Member Since: 08/08/08
2 lifetime posts

Thanks for the information!

Thankfully we figured out the problem.

Someone in the past used sheathed electrical cable connectors on the main wires coming in from the pole outside. The wires corroded over time and oxidized and were melting! Looks like someone tried to do a quick fix and never got around to fixing it correctly!

The power company came out and fixed it and now so far we have had no problems. I am glad it wasn't anything in the house. I love an old house, but I don't love old wiring.

Thanks again!
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