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Home Electrical Inspection and other Electrical Tips

After 25 years in the electrical industry I have seen many electrical problems overlooked by
home inspections. Today most mortgage companies require you to hire a home inspector before
a loan will be approved. This doesn't mean you cannot do some inspecting yourself as well as
hire a professional in a specific trade.
On the following pages I will outline certain problems that are frequently missed or overlooked
during a home inspection. I will also give you an approximate cost to repair the problem. Please
keep in mind that prices vary a great deal in different parts of the country, so they may not be
accurate.

Lets look outside the house first –

The first item we want to look at is the electrical service. Look for frayed or damaged wires.
Frayed insulation could mean there is water damage in the main panel in the house. If you see
some rust on the pipe or meter pan don’t be overly concerned as this does occur with
weathering. Walk around the outside of the house and make sure there are no exposed open
wires. If there are any outside receptacles they should be GFI protected.
Cost for new service and frayed entrance cable approx     $1800.00
Cost to replace existing receptacles with GFI receptacles $75.00 each

Lets look inside the house –

Inside there are quite a few things we want to look at.
Check for:
1. 3 prong grounded receptacles  --------------------------------------------- Approx. $25
each
2. GFI receptacles in the kitchen and bathrooms --------------------------- Approx.  $45 each
3. Burn marks on receptacle or switch plates                                              
4. Rust on the main service panel ----------------------- Possible new service Approx $1800
5. Condition of visible wires, look in attic and basement
6. Uncovered junction boxes
7. Aluminum wiring by removing a few receptacle and switch plates. Possible large expense
8. Look for water main and see that service ground is in good condition.
9. Try all switches and receptacles to confirm they work.
10. Smoke detectors and check that they work.                                     
Turn on as many lights in the house as you can. Now turn on an air conditioner or large
appliance like an electric stove. Do the lights dim or brighten. If so you may have a loose neutral
or ground connection.

Check for the size of the main breaker. The electrical service should be a minimum of 100
Amps. With today’s electrical needs a 200 Amp service is the norm. If the service needs to be
replaced or upgraded it makes little sense to put anything less than 200 Amps in. The difference
between a 100 Amp service and a 200 Amp is a matter of a few hundred dollars.

This may sound silly but I have found numerous problems this way. With all the lights on walk
around and with a fist bang on the wall firmly near outlets and switches. I usually give it 2 sharp
thumps. Firmly but gently, remember we don’t want to make holes in the walls. If there is a loose
connection in a device this will usually reveal it. Finding a problem like this could prevent an
electrical fire. Loose connections equal heat in an electrical circuit.

Invest in a plug in circuit tester. This is a device (see picture below) can test for receptacle
polarity as well as check to see if GFI receptacles work. I believe radio shack even carries a
low cost version of this or you can purchase one at any electrical supply house.




                                             

Another thing to check for when plugging the tester in is the tightness of the plug. If you plug this
in and it wants to droop out or feels very loose the receptacle needs to be replaced.

Check light bulbs in fixtures and be sure they are not a higher wattage than specified for the
fixture. If they are chances are the wiring in the fixture is damaged from the excessive heat and
should be replaced.

Look for overall quality of the electrical work. If a licensed electrician installed the work, things
will be done neatly and properly. A homeowner or handyman installation generally will be
evident in the way the finished product looks.                                                    
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Home Electrical Inspection Tips