Common Electrical Problems found during an inspection – October 27, 2014
Common electrical problems called out in an inspection report should always be repaired. However, not all electrical items called out in an inspection require a qualified electrician.
Many Electrical problems can easily be addressed by a handyman or a proficient do-it-yourselfer. Other problems such as a double-tapped main should only be addressed by a well-qualified electrician.
We find most of our infractions in older homes or homes that have had DIY projects completed without a code inspection. The National Electrical Code (NEC) is updated every three years. However many municipalities do not implement the new changes for as many as 10 years. We use nationally accepted standards for our inspections because local enforcement varies so widely.
Some of the more common electrical problems we find are;
- missing cover plates: exposes you to the risk of contact with energized wires
- reverse polarity (hot and neutral wires installed backward): actually turns the power off after the appliance instead of before it
- open grounds (usually 3 prong receptacles on two-wire circuits): this gives a false sense of security believing the receptacle is grounded when it is not. for more information: https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/open-grounds-how-to-fix-june-23-2016/
- false grounds or bootleg grounds: are even worse than the open ground because someone has placed a jumper from the ground screw to the neutral screw on the receptacle making it appear the receptacle is grounded but it isn’t, for more information: https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/false-ground-or-bootleg-ground-september-11-2015/
- missing or inoperable GFCI receptacles: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are there to prevent electrical shock and should always be operational. for more information: https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/a-20-ground-fault-circuit-interrupter-gfci-gfi-could-save-your-life-dont-put-it-off-any-longer-october-27-2014/
- electrical splices make outside of junctions boxes: exposes wires and connections to possible damage by unintentional contact
- openings in breaker boxes: may allow rodents and insects to enter the panel and build nests. In addition, panels are designed to contain electrical sparks or fires, open slots and knockouts defeat this built-in safety
- double lugged breakers and neutrals (more than one wire): each current-carrying wire should be under its own lug to ensure proper connections. for more information: https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/shared-neutral-new-rules-april-7-2015/
More serious electrical problems that may require the use of a licensed electrician include;
- Undersized wiring: wire size is determined by the expected current to be applied. Undersized wires may overheat and cause fires
- Knob and tube wiring: knob and tube wiring is considered obsolete and presents serious problems when covered with insulation and is often spliced by inexperienced workers causing the risk of fire, In addition, many insurance companies will not insure a house that has knob and tube wiring present. for more information: https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/knob-and-tube-wiring-problems-january-15-2015/
- Stab-Lok breakers and load centers: FPE Stab-Lok breaker panels have been responsible for many electrical fires and are considered unsafe and should be replaced for more information https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/fpe-stab-lok/
- Pushmatic and Zinsco breaker panels: these panels are outdated and have had serious safety issues identified with them. see our post for more information: https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/pushmatic-zinsco-stab-lok/
- Double lugged main breakers: are probably the most dangerous we find because the main breaker will be 100 to 200 amps and we have found wires as small as #14 lugged into a 200 amp main. The problem; the #14 wire will overheat and may even melt before it trips a 200 amp breaker. for more information: https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/double-lugged-or-tapped-connections-july-17-2015/
- improperly grounded service entry; an earth ground is required for proper protection to your home and its occupants. for more information:
- Lack of CSST bonding: both yellow and black Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing requires proper bonding the same as metallic water lines and gas lines. for more information: https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/bonding-is-required-for-water-gas-csst-december-16-2015/
As we move through the inspection process we will note these electrical problems;
- any of the items listed above
- lights and receptacles that are not operating properly
- noisy vent fans and ceiling fans
- any three-prong receptacles with open grounds or false grounds
- suggest areas where GFCI receptacles should be installed
- any other normal and customary deficiencies
Electrical codes are constantly changing as new electrical problems and solutions are identified. Generally speaking, most changes are not required unless changes are made to the electrical system. One exception to this general rule is GFCI protection. GFCI protection is relatively easy and inexpensive to implement. Therefore most municipalities are requiring this upgrade when properties change hands.
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