Home Electrical Inspection Guide

Are home inspections worth it?

loosen connection can cause fire
loosen connection can cause fire

Home inspection for electrical equipment is totally worth it. Home inspections are very important before buying a new house, renovating your current house or before buying an old home, to ensure it’s safe and has no potential electrical hazard.

Before buying an old home, you must demand the latest electrical inspection report from the current owners.

As we know that the electrical wiring and components are very costly. And if you have to get a new wiring job and have to change components after buying the house, it will add a huge amount to the first cost of the house.

But if the house has a new wiring system, the latest components, and the right number of required circuits in every room, then the electrical inspectors will mark it as the right choice.

If the inspection date is about five years ago or the latest inspection report was not good then you’ll either have to look for another house or buy the house and change the equipment that caused problems during the inspection.

Even when buying a new home, an electrical inspection is important. Because the new houses could also have been wired by unauthorized electricians.

The selection of wires, number of circuits, panel location, safety measurements, circuit breakers, and isolation circuits must be checked.

If any kind of problem is there like the number of receptacles is not enough, the wiring is not done in a way that adding new circuits is possible, the number of circuits in a room is not enough, the location of the electric panel is not chosen wisely then it means you have to solve these problems and that too will take some extra money to pay for.

Then come the renovation of your current house. If you are renovating your house and you have a plan to build a new room with an air conditioner, lights, and fans. It will have an attached bathroom that too will have some electrical equipment in it such as a hair dryer.

This means you are adding a reasonable amount of load to your existing electrical system. An inspection before wiring is important because electrical inspectors will tell you whether your existing power supply cables can work even after adding a new load or not.

If not then he will advise what gauge of the new power supply must be installed.

Why you may need electrical inspection?

There are certain indications that should not be happening in the wiring of your house or office. If these signs occur in your building, you need to get it inspected.

Buzzing, dimming, and flickering of lights

If the lights of your house or office flicker or gets dim or there is a buzzing sound from the lights, then you need to get your wiring checked.

If the wiring is alright then the next thing you need to check is the light bulbs or tubes. Incandescent bulbs have a lifespan of 1000 hours.

The other option is fluorescent bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs can serve you for 15,000 to 20,000 hours. So, based on these facts, you might want to replace your bulbs. The wire may last up to 50 to 70 years. If your building hasn’t had a new wiring job for the past 50 years, then now is the time to get new wiring.

Breaker keeps tripping

Breakers trip whenever there is some faulty condition in the wiring or the equipment connected with the wiring.

Remember that the wiring in our houses and offices is still a circuit, a big and complex circuit but still it behaves like a circuit.

Circuit breakers are for the safety of the circuit. If the circuit gets faulty frequently, the breaker will trip frequently. The reasons could be the problems with the wires or the load.

I’ve written a detailed article about Why a Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping. Check it out for more information. 

Discoloration of wires

Wire loses its color if they get hot frequently. If there is not a good ventilation system or the load has increased over time due to installing of more and more devices on the same connection, the wire will get hot. Getting hot leads to discoloration and then melting of the insulation.

If such kind of sign has occurred in any part of your wiring, especially in the electrical outlets, you need to get your building inspected electrically.

Smell for burning:

If there is an odor of burning plastic or smoke, then you need to immediately get your building inspected by professional electrical staff.

Noise in the electrical outlets

The faults in electrical equipment often led to buzzing sounds. If there is a buzzing sound from the electrical outlets, get your wiring checked.

Outlets getting hot

If you think that the electrical outlet in your building is heating up due to ambient temperature then you may be wrong.

During the designing of outlets, engineers keep this factor in view. So,heating up of electrical outlet is also an indication that you need to get your electrical systems checked.

Aluminum wiring

Normally, the wiring is done using wires made out of copper conductors. But some old methods used aluminum for wiring purposes. Get your building inspected for whether the wiring is done using aluminum or not. If yes, then get a new wiring job in your building.

If any of these signs or indications are appearing in your building then you have to be very cautious and call for an electrical inspection immediately. Otherwise, some arrangements of dealing with fire must be done. for old houses, it is better if you get your house inspected every 3 to 4 years periodically.

What do electrical inspectors look for?

There is a list of things for which the electrical inspector looks for. Such as:

  • Electrical boxes
  • Height of boxes
  • Cables and wires
  • Cable anchoring
  • Surge protection
  • Wire labeling
  • Circuits
  • GFCI and AFCI Isolation circuit protections

Electrical Boxes

An electrical box should be large enough to contain the devices it has to accommodate along with the wires it will contain.

Also, the electrical boxes should not affect the aesthetics of the house or building. It should be placed right inside the wall.

It should be secure enough that it cannot be opened easily by children. It should be at a place that is accessible easily.

Heights of boxes

The height of the receptacles, boards, boxes, and switches must be consistent. Say, if a box is 4 feet above the ground, then all the other boxes should be at the same height. Receptacles can deal with wet situations so they can be placed at even lower heights.

Cables and Wires

Cables should be clamped properly. Rather than just connecting the wires, they should be attached in a proper manner to the devices in the electrical outlets.

At the point of entrance, the cables should be sticking to the box for at least a half centimeter. This makes the holding of clamps efficient.

The wire gauge will be checked by the inspector. Every load has certain requirements. The loads that require more power need to have a greater gauge wiring installed for themselves. Otherwise, the tripping of the circuit breaker will occur more frequently than normal.

Inspectors can simply check that the right gauge size is used during the wiring by referring to the following free android Cables Tables app.

Cable anchoring

Cables must be securely anchored to the wall studs. Cables should run through the wall studs to prevent any damage from the surface of the wall. There should be an 8-inches distance between the first staple and the box for better anchoring.

Normally the distance between adjacent studs is 4 feet that is just okay for the cable anchoring too.

But the holes/penetrations through which the wires/cable run should have a metal protective plate on them. The purpose of these plates is also to protect the cables from outer damage such as nails or screws.

Surge Protection

Appliances such as televisions, sound systems, big screens, and stereos are sensitive/delicate devices. These devices cannot tolerate surges in the electrical supply.

To protect these devices, isolated receptacles must be installed. These receptacles have a limited life. Electrical inspectors make sure that these receptacles are working or have gone out of order.

Wire labeling

Wire labeling is not customary. Some people get their wires labeled by the amperage rates or by whatever they want it to be. So, electrical inspectors could check whether the loads connected to the wires are just as same or less than the rated labeled values.

Circuits

All the appliances have different load values. So, to facilitate multiple loads in a single room, the electrical inspector will have to make sure that the number of circuits in that particular room is able to facilitate those loads.

Such as if there is an air conditioner, an LED TV, and a personal computer in a single room. All these have different load values.

Inspector will make sure that the TV and personal computer are connected to the power supply through a protective circuit such as a GFCI. The number of lights and fans must be enough to facilitate the residents effectively.

GFCI and AFCI Isolation circuit protections

GFCI and AFCI are protective circuits. These circuits isolate the load from the supply by isolating the ground of input from the output. Electrical inspectors make sure that there is the right number of isolation circuits in every room.

Like normally in kitchens, a microwave oven, fridge, and dishwasher can be found. And the kitchen is a wet location, so there are risks of shocks.

GFCIs and AFCIs reduce the shock chances. Inspectors must check these protective circuits.

For more details read my other article GFCI working principle and testing.

For the preparation, the electrical inspector should have insulated tools. Some other equipment needed for electrical inspection is:

  • Non-contact voltage testers
  • Multimeter
  • Clamp-meter
  • Fluorescent light tester
  • Insulation tester
  • Earth ground tester

What should I look for when inspecting an electric panel?

The electrical inspector should look for the

Clearance of panel:

An electrical panel, no matter how perfectly designed, is a hazardous item. Distance must be maintained from these panels. That is why electrical inspectors look for the clearance of panels. It should have a headroom clearance of 6 feet, working space in front of it to be 3 feet, and width to be 30 inches.

Aluminum branch wiring:

Aluminum branch wiring is illegal. Aluminum wires expand and contract with the change in temperature. That is why it is dangerous to wire an electric panel with aluminum. Electrical inspectors can place charges against you in the courts for this kind of negligence.

Circuit breakers

Circuit breakers should have a uniform size throughout the panel. Not all the circuit breakers have the same sizes. But the effort, to place same-size circuit breakers adjacent to each other, must be done.

Oxidized or Corrosion in wires:

With the passage of time, wires corrode. Due to different reasons, oxidation and reduction reactions may cause the wire to be faulty.

Corrosion and oxidation increase the resistance and also the chances of arcs. So, the items, that have gone through a Redox reaction or have corroded, must be changed immediately.

Signs indicating Electrical failures:

Burned and overheated components are the signs that indicate an electric failure. The reason behind such failure must be found out and dealt with to avoid such happenings in the panel in the future.

Moisture inside the panel:

In damp areas, moisture is a real problem. Moisture leads to corrosion that jams the circuit breakers. This is not good for the safety of the circuit and the building.

Sound of arcing:

If the contact points are loose, arcing may occur. This may cause problems. Especially,if it is happening in a safety device such as a circuit breaker or an overcurrent protection device.

So, the connections should be tightened or devices should be replaced with new ones if the problem carries on.

Damage by natural factors:

Natural factors such as floods and rats also affect the electrical panels. If the wires have become too stiff or have been damaged by the rodents. Then they should be replaced or insulated depending upon the severity of damage done.

How do I know if my electric wiring is up to code?

The best way to find out the answer is to schedule an electrical inspection from a good authorized electrical inspecting company.

But there are signs that can tell you that your wiring is not up to the code and needs the attention of a skilled worker with a permit.

Frequently tripping circuits:

Frequently tripping circuits is one of the indications that the wiring of your house is either too old or it has been prey to an unskilled worker.

This exercise is a violation of the code and by getting your house electrically inspected, you can solve the problem.

Read my detailed article 5 reasons CB tripping for more details.

No protective circuits:

If there are no isolating receptacles installed in your building, then you need to get some of them installed. Because the code advises installing protective circuits such as isolation receptacles in the house.

Isolation receptacles are safety receptacles that prevent the hazard of shock in wet conditions and are also a good role player in the prevention of the hazards of fire.

For details about electrical safety visit my other site SAFETY FRENZY.

Old building:

If your office/house was built about 50 years ago or more then there is more than a 90% chance that your building’s electrical wiring, panels, and other devices are not up to code. An electrical inspection can help you find out.

There are some indications like the wiring is old, panels have aluminum wiring, no receptacles, etc. These indications indicate that your wiring is not up to the code.

Immature practice on electric equipment:

If the circuits and receptacles are wired or changed by a person who is not a professional worker, then there are chances that the work is not done according to the local rules. You need to hire a professional worker to solve the problem.

How do you inspect a house’s wiring?

outlet hanging out of the wall during my inspection
I found this outlet hanging out of the wall during my inspection

First of all, the electric outlets must be inspected. If the outlets are broken or loose or the plug of the device falls out of the outlets then the outlet must be changed.

If the outlet does not supply power, it must be changed. If there is a smoky smell or the outlet hangs out of the wall, that too is a reason to replace the outlet with a new one. Inspect the wiring of the house.

You may presume the old houses to be antique pieces but they really are not. Old houses come with older wiring. Old wiring systems do not support the new devices and are a potential danger to the safety of living things and infrastructure in the home.

The safety measures taken in older wiring systems are a potential danger to the new electrical devices. Even if the right safety precautions were taken at the time of wiring, the aging of wire, rodents, environmental factors, and current surges compromise the safety system.

In the old electrical system, aluminum conductor wiring was done in the electrical panels. Aluminum is a good conductor. But it responds to the temperature around itself really quick. Due to this, it is not a very good choice for wiring the electric panels. Check for the conductor used in your electric panel while wiring it.

If it is an aluminum wired panel, get a professional to replace it with the right choice. Then there is an issue of the choice of gauges of wire. Greater loads need a wire with a greater diameter. An air conditioner can not be operated on the wire that we use for a light bulb or a fan.

Make sure all bolts of power outlets, circuit breakers and switches are well tightened. Loosen connections are a potential fire hazard

How do I know if my digital electric meter is bad?

There are many indications that your digital electric meter is not working properly and costing you more than it should.

Old meter:

The age of an old meter reduces its efficiency in measuring the power. Normally, if you have an old meter and you put a complaint in your power supplying company, they change it within short notice. Because there are two consequences of a faulty meter.

It either increases the bill while the consumption is the same or it keeps the bill the same even if the consumption has increased. To make sure that the bill is alright, the power supplying companies change the old meters really quick.

Digital errors:

If you observe your digital meter and there is an indication of a warning, then your meter is faulty. Some meters have the tendency to display the proper warning on their own display screen.

But some meters have small LEDs to indicate warnings. If the warnings are displayed on the screen, then there must be a text like “Error”, “Fault”, etc.

High utility bills:

If the consumption of electricity has decreased, like in summers, people living in cold areas do not use or use the electric heaters lesser than normal then the bills should decrease.

But if that is not the case, you need to immediately contact your power supplying company to change your electric meter. Because there is no other reason than a faulty meter, for reduced consumption of electricity but high electric bills.

Power Cut:

If your building gets its power cut, then you need to check your area. If there is no power cut in any other building, and the circuit breakers of your building have not tripped, you need to check your electric meter. If the electric meter is not working, you need to get it replaced.

Display Stuck:

If the meter reading is stuck, that means the meter is faulty. Meter readings should not be jammed. If your meter is jammed contact your power providers to solve the problem.

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