Green & Grounded

Green & Grounded

The “Green Movement” dates back further than we think. Environmental philosophy was an intrinsic element of intellectual thought dating back to the 1830’s. Zoom forward to 1970, and you may recall the legislative fervor, made obvious by the media, that earned nature increased visibility in the midst of all our modern concerns.

This is especially evident in the housing and Real Estate industry, which is not only concerned with ownership and stewardship of land, but also the impact of materials used to build our dwellings. These materials have an impact on the environment as well as on the structure itself. Consider wiring, for instance. Energy efficiency and safety go hand in hand.

You may be dreaming of a new, more energy-efficient home. On the other hand, you are attracted to the charm of old Vermont farmhouses. First, consider the things that are right under your nose. Old wiring is like old plumbing, it can lead to a mess. This does not mean you should cross that perfect farmhouse on the hill with the huge lawn for the kids and dogs off your list. It simply means you have an opportunity to increase its value and the well-being of your family.

Scott Gibson, a carpenter and former editor of Fine Woodworking magazine (Maine) favors common sense. He says, “My own first and foremost rule of thumb with wiring is to err on the side of caution. Be proactive – that is, fix problems when you find them, even if they seem minor. Buy a good circuit tester and learn to use it.” Most importantly, he concludes, “Unless you know what you’re doing, call a licensed electrician.”

Remember this: age catches up with wire. If you have any old tabletop lamp in your home, you can witness this first hand. Examine the wire on that antique lamp you bought in a giant flea market during your summer vacation. It is likely dry and brittle, has scorch marks or the wire is beginning to show in some places. Though a home is a fairly stable structure, old wire does not require manipulation or movement in order to age.

“The right time to replace old wiring,” adds Gibson, “is when there are obvious signs of a problem, such as scorch marks on terminals in switches and outlets, missing or damaged insulation and any other condition that might expose you or your house to a live wire.” Of course, an old-fashioned fuse box would need an upgrade as well.

Assessing the integrity of the electrical system, from wires to outlets and breaker boxes, can be a daunting task if you are not familiar with this sort of thing. As with many other aspects of acquiring a new home, this is one instance when securing the expertise of a good home inspector will provide peace of mind and a clear road map of what lies ahead.

It is likely that if you are purchasing an old house, you have already envisioned tender loving care upgrades you wish to do over time. This is a long-awaited dream and you want to savor every moment. It is your project, one that certainly represents a labor of love that, once completed, brings electrifying satisfaction.

Check back for an upcoming article on the origins of the Green Movement.

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Source: Old House Web