We love our historic Richmond buildings because they are reminders of our extraordinary past and unarguably promising future.

While they can be places that showcase some of the best, most eye-popping architecture, the wiring inside many buildings is also out of date, straining to supply our ever-growing collection of electricity-hungry appliances, lighting, and electronics.

The fact is the circuits in these older buildings just weren’t designed to power the electronics of the modern workforce. That may be one of the reasons why so many fires occur in older buildings.

The signs of strain may not be obvious since problems can be hidden behind drywall and plaster.

Here are 6 fire hazards that can exist in the old electrical systems of your business:

1. Knob and Tube Wiring

It’s very common for older buildings to have what is known as “knob and tube” wiring. This type of wiring isn’t normally an issue. Knob-and-tube wiring becomes dangerous when the wire insulation has worn away, when installation or alteration practices were improper, or when it’s covered with building insulation. Then it becomes one of the leading causes of electrical fires, according to national insurance companies.

2. Low Amp Wiring

Another major electrical fire risk factor is that old wiring can sometimes be rated for lower amps than is required by modern appliances and business equipment. This can result in the overloading of circuits, which can also cause electrical fires. Replacing breakers with arc faulty circuit interrupters can be one solution to wiring problems like this in older premises.

3. Poorly Modified Wiring

In older buildings, particularly those from the early twentieth century, it’s not uncommon for wiring to have been tinkered with over the years—often by people who had no electrical training. This can mean that there are loose live wires, badly executed connections and other problems lurking behind the walls of your commercial building.

4. Old Insulation On Wire

Insulation on older wiring tends to be less than perfect. Over the years, it may have been chewed by animals, damaged by screws or nails being placed in walls, or simply become brittle or disintegrated from age. This leaves the wire at the core of your wiring exposed, and that can lead to sparks and fire.

5. Faulty Breakers

It’s not only the wiring that is a fire risk in older buildings. If your commercial panel hasn’t been upgraded recently, then it’s entirely possible that the switches and breakers that make up the circuits might be faulty too. If they’re not working correctly, your electrical system won’t do what it is supposed to do, and it may be downright dangerous.

6. Poor Electrical Design

Poor design is another major problem for older electrical systems. Depending on the age of your building, your electrical system may have been designed to meet codes that were in force 50, 60 or even 80 years ago. Codes and standards have changed a lot since then, and there’s a good chance that your electrical wiring would not pass an inspection—if you had to have one.

If your business is housed in a historic building, or one that was built more than 25 years ago, chances are you may have inadequate, obsolete, damaged, modified, extended, or otherwise unsafe electrical system components. It takes an experienced professional to properly assess the condition of old wiring and its ability to handle the electrical loads of your building.

To make sure there aren’t any major fire risks, it’s worth contacting a licensed commercial electric company to inspect your electrical system.