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Knob and Tube The earliest residential wiring system has a cloth-covered hot wire and a neutral wire, which run parallel about a foot apart.

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What it means: A light fixture has a bulb with a higher wattage than the fixture is designed for. Solution: Stay within the wattage limit listed on all light fixtures made since 1985.

The damage to socket and wires remains even after the bulb has been removed.

But the vintage copper wiring in many older houses works just as well as the new stuff, as long as it's in good condition and hasn't been altered in a way that violates code.

Here are some wiring systems you'll find in older homes.

Two-Wire Plastic-Sheathed Cable An early PVC-insulated (Romex) wire. Grounded receptacles cannot be retrofitted to this wire.

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Make sure any replacement switches and receptacles are labeled AL-compatible. The practice is allowed, even for new construction. At a minimum, loose wires can cause a receptacle or switch to stop working. Solution: Check for backstabbed connections by removing a switch or receptacle from its outlet box.

What it means: On newer switches and receptacles, wires pushed in the back are more likely to come loose than those anchored around screw terminals. If one is backstabbed, there are likely to be more.

This is a simple job that many homeowners do themselves. (There will likely be a minimum job charge.) Note: As an alternative, GFCI breakers () can be installed on the main panel.

But then every time one trips, you have to go down to the basement to reset it. It may become an issue when the house is being sold and an inspector looks inside the panel. Aluminum corrodes when in contact with copper, so connections loosen, which can lead to arcing and fires.

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