bopen

 What to look for in a main electrical panel:

Must 60 amp services are too small for today’s appliances and we recommend to upgrade to a minimum of a 100 amp panel.

  1. We recommend that all main panels have a main disconnect.

  2. If the meter on the outside of the home is round, it represents a 60 amp service and if the inside of the home has a new 100 amp panel, we recommend to having a licensed contractor replace the meter base with a new 100 amp meter. (VERY COMMON)

  3. In several older homes the main electrical panel is smaller so when installing central air, a main disconnect switch will be added on the outside of the panel.  This is OK expect for that the majority of the time it will be double tapped into the main lugs.  This is incorrect and is a safety hazard.

  4. No breakers in the main panel should be double tapped.  We recommend installing a two-pull breaker.

  5. Federal Pacific electrical panels are legal, however there is a possibility that the circuit breakers may not trip when shorted.  If this is the case, this is an electrical hazard.  Opinions from licensed electricians on this panel vary between safe and unsafe.  We recommend you consult a licensed electrician for an analysis and correction if necessary.

  6. Make sure all electrical panels are grounded.  A ground rod should be found inside or outside the home, you should also be able to trace the ground wire going into the electrical pack to a water supply line.

Commonly Found Electrical Panels

i177

60 amp Electrical Service: Generally has a round meter base.

100amp_electrical_meter

100 amp Electrical Service: Generally has a square meter base.

i154 

200 amp Electrical Service: Generally the shape of a rectangle.

Electrical Panel Issues

Double tapping off the main electrical feed wires is a safety hazard and a very common find:

Electrical_Meter

This is a photo of a main electrical service inside the home that has been wired properly. The other 6 photos represent incorrect wiring set-ups.

electric main panel

The main lug that supplies all of the power to the home should only have one wire leading to each lug, this one has 3 leading to each. (safety hazard)

main electrical panel

Double tapping off the main lug.(safety hazard)

main electrical

Double tapping off the main lug.(safety hazard)

main_electrcal_panel

We have several different photos of double tapping off the main lug because of how serious it is. (Safety Hazard)

i197

This photo is of a GFCI electrical breaker. These breakers generally operate kitchen, bathroom, garage, exterior or Jacuzzi tubs.

electric 1 main pan 2

The main lug that supplies all of the power to the homes should only have one wire leading to each lug. This one has2 leading to each. (safety hazard)

electric 1 main pan 6

The main lug that supplies all of the power to the home should only have one wire leading to each lug. This one has 2 leading to each and it also has2 dissimilar metals being used:copper and aluminum. These are two most found problems found in an electrical main panel. (Safety Hazard)

Electric_main_panel

When ever you see an AC electrical box like this one, it is a good chance that the power brought over to supply the AC has not been installed properly. It has most likely been double tapped off the main lugs. (safety hazard)

 

Click here to get full member access to Your Home Inspection Checklist

Ground Rods and Ground Wires

Every home should have a ground rod either installed under the basement floor or the outside below the electrical meter.  The electrical panel should also be grounded to a water pipe.  We recommend checking with your local building inspector to find out the requirements in your area.

ground_wire_hooked_up_properly

Properly installed ground wire hooked up to a water line. 

grounded_wire

The main water supply has a properly installed ground wire connected to it on the bottom left side. 

Water_Supply

The ground wire that is suppose to be attached to this water line is missing.  Always check to see if a different one was installed.

i152

This is a photo of a ground rod that is located directly below the electrical panel in the interior of the home below the basement floor.

ground_rod_in_basement_floor

This is another photo of a ground rod located below the main electrical panel in the basement floor.

 

 

GFCI Outlets

GFCI outlets should be located in kitchens within 6′ of the sink, wet-bar sinks, in bathrooms, roof outlets, garages, unfinished basements or crawl spaces, outdoors, near a pool, or in any other area that may come in contact with moisture.  There are exceptions for inaccessible outlets.  Those dedicated to appliances (occupying fixed spaces), typically refrigerators in kitchens and garages, freezers in garages, sump pumps and laundry appliances do not need a GFCI outlet.

 

Exposed Wiring

Exposed wire is generally found in the basement or garage areas.  Often when home owners install their own outlets they install them without running them through a metal or plastic conduit.  This conduit protects the wires from being damaged.  This is not always a major safety concern but it is something that is incorrect.

 

Electrical_light_fixture

Properly Installed light fixture that is wired to and connected to a junction box.

electrical_conduit

Properly Installed electrical wire running down a concrete wall being run in conduit or in a metal or plastic safety covering.

electric wire mess

These electrical wires that are hanging all over are a mess and should be cleaned up by a licensed electrician. (safety hazard) 

 electrical lights

Always check to see if light fixtures are properly wired

romex_2

When ever you have electrical wire running down a basement or concrete wall it should be run in metal conduit. 

miss_romex

When ever you have a electrical wire running down a basement or concrete wall it should be run in a metal conduit.

 

Electrical Outlets and Light Switches:

electrical_tester

 Electrical outlet tester, this is a important and inexpensive tool that is needed to test outlets in a home.

grounded_electrical_outlet

Properly installed grounded electrical outlet with a face plate. 

 i172

This photo is of a non grounded electrical outlet, these are very common to find in older homes. 

GFCI_outlet_6

GFCI outlets are very important, we recommend that all exterior, garage, bathroom and kitchen outlets within 6 ft of water be GFCI protected.  When buying or selling a home we recommend you check with the city you plan on buying in what the local standards are.

exterior_outlet

This is a photo of a exterior outlet that does not have a GFCI outlet with a re set button on it, that does NOT mean it is not GFCI protected, it may be wired to another GFCI outlet.  You should always check these outlets with your outlet tool.  (Remember, if you trip a outlet never to forget find where the re-set button is and re-set it)

missing_outlet_faceplate

Missing electrical face plate, very in expensive fix but also a safety hazard.

 

Reverse Polarity:

Reverse polarity is when you have the positive (black) wire hooked up to the negative side and the negative (white) wire hooked up to the positive side.  This is not a safety concern and it is easily fixed by switching the wires. 

 

Non Grounded Outlets

Non grounded outlets are generally found in older homes.  Older homes were wired with a two wire system that did not have a ground wire.  Newer wiring all has ground wires.  Most home owners installing their own outlets will normally always install a three prong outlet whether the outlet is grounded or not.  The correct way to do it is only install a new two prong outlet or have an electrician install a proper grounded outlet. 

 

Spliced Wires:

Spliced wires are generally found in several different areas such as basements, garages, attics and above ceiling tiles in basements near basement lights.  Once again spliced wires normally happen because home owners have done the work themselves.  What you should be looking for is a wire that has been cut in half and then re-connected to another sometimes just using wire nuts.  There is no safety hazard in splicing into a wire but it should be placed into a junction box for safety.

 

Electrical Spliced Wires That Should Be Placed Into a Junction Box:

Click here to get full member access to Your Home Inspection Checklist

Missing Junction Box Covers and Face Plates

electrical_face_plate

Properly Installed Junction Box with a cover.

electric 4 junction box 2

Electrical junction box cover missing. Safety hazard. 

electri junction box

Electrical junction box cover missing. Safety hazard

 

 

Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors are very important in homes today, yet many homes don’t have an operational smoke detector in them.   We recommend having a smoke detector installed in all rooms, including the basement.  All batteries should be replaced in smoke detectors and smoke detectors tested when moving into a  home. All smoke detectors should be replaced that are over 10 years old.

i102

This type of smoke detector is found when homes have alarm systems and is heard throughout the entire home.

i103

This type of smoke detector is hard wired throughout the entire home and has a battery back up in it.  To test you should push down the test button and hold it down until you hear all the alarms in the home going off, this takes only a few seconds.

i104

Battery operated smoke detector only.

 

 

Laundry Outlets:

The following are different problems we find with laundry outlets in homes:

  1. Un-grounded laundry outlets (very common in older homes).
  2. Extension cords ran to the washer and dryer to service power.  We recommend having dedicated outlets run from the electrical panel to service the washer and dryer.

 

Water Softener Outlets:

Water softeners are generally installed after the home is built, so many times there is no outlet installed for them and the homeowner used an extension cord.  We recommend running a dedicated outlet from the main panel.