I live in an old NYC apartment built in the 50s. I currently use a 1500-2000 watt portable AC unit and I feel the power cables are very hot during use. I'm afraid of the wires catching on fire in between the walls due to the old wiring.

  1. I know the new cabling these days have the metal casing around the wires when you run it through the walls, but did they have this type of protection back then in the 50s also?

  2. What is the rated max wattage for 110v wall outlet?

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    By "power cables" do you mean the power cord for the air conditioner, or the cables in/on the wall? Jul 19, 2016 at 4:13
  • What is the nameplate wattage and BTU rating of the air conditioner? How old is the unit? What kind of plug is on the end of the air conditioner cord? Has anything been done to compromise the circuit protection already in the building (pennies behind fuses, circuit breakers up-sized inappropriately, etc.) Jul 19, 2016 at 21:12

1 Answer 1

  1. Conduit may serve to contain heat in the event of extreme overload, but that's not its primary purpose (which is to protect the wires). Not all multi-family dwellings have wiring run in conduit even today. If your wiring overheats it's probably not protected with suitable breakers or fuses.

  2. Wiring and associate devices aren't rated for wattage, but voltage and current (amperage). Capacity depends mostly on the wire gauge and the circuit breaker rating. 110v * 20A = 2200 watts, but you can't always max out a circuit due to other usage on the same breaker. You may also have a 15A circuit, which would be overloaded (or nearly so) by your unit.

You should have a conversation with the building superintendent. Your concern goes beyond just this question. If wiring ever gets that hot, something's wrong.

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