More Blog Posts on Similar Subjects:

  1. How come my generator hookup got tagged as defective by the home inspector?

  2. Is the electric panel big enough for this house?

  3. Why does the electric company want my house electric system inspected before turning the power back on?

  4. What is the right electric wire size for a home?

  5. My GFCI reset button is hard to push and won’t reset. What’s wrong?

  6. The electric panel is marked “Trilliant” and it’s all grey plastic. Is it alright?

  7. Is this old home a Sears Catalog house?

  8. What is the life expectancy of a circuit breaker?

  9. We looked at the house carefully, and it seems alright. Do we really need a home inspection?

  10. What is a three-way switch?

  11. When should I replace my smoke alarms?

  12. Why does that wall plug have push-buttons in the middle?

  13. Is a bare bulb light in a closet alright?

  14. Do you check the wall plugs?

  15. I heard that aluminum wiring is bad. Do you check for it?

  16. What is a split bus electric panel?

  17. My bathroom electric receptacle/outlet is dead, and there is no tripped breaker in the electric panel. What’s wrong?

  18. What is a “missing twistout” at an electric panel?

  19. What is an “open junction box”?

  20. Is an ungrounded receptacle/outlet dangerous?

  21. What is reversed polarity at an outlet/receptacle? Why is it dangerous?

  22. Why does the bedroom have a light switch but there is no light in the ceiling?

  23. How far apart should kitchen counter receptacles be placed?

  24. How can I figure out what a mystery wall switch does?

  25. What is the switch on the wall with only two pushbuttons for?

  26. What are those strange looking wall switches in houses from the 1950s and 1960s?

  27. How far apart should electric receptacle outlets be placed in a garage?

  28. What is a lock device on a circuit breaker for?

  29. Will the electric company remove branches rubbing against the overhead service lines to my home?

  30. Why are Zinsco and Sylvania-Zinsco electric panels a problem?

  31. Can wiremold be used at an exterior location?

  32. What is the life expectancy of electrical wiring in a house?

  33. How can adding wood paneling or a wainscot create an electrical safety hazard?

  34. What is a false ground, bootleg ground, or cheated ground receptacle?

  35. What are the most common electrical defects found in a home inspection?

  36. What is an open electrical splice?

  37. What does it mean when a wire is “overstripped” at a circuit breaker?

  38. What is the difference between “grounded” and “grounding” electrical conductors?

  39. What is the difference between a Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFCI) and an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit breaker?

  40. How can I tell if a receptacle/outlet is tamper resistant?

  41. Will a GFCI receptacle that is not grounded still function properly?

  42. Does a home inspector remove the electric panel cover plate and examine the inside of the panel?

  43. Can an electric panel be located over stairs?

  44. Is a house required to have outdoor electric receptacles?

  45. What are the code requirements for NM-cable (nonmetallic-sheathed cable or Romex®) in an attic?

  46. How can I change a 240V circuit to a 120V circuit?

  47. Can old electrical wiring go bad inside a wall?

  48. What could cause an extremely high electric bill?

  49. Why are extension cords dangerous?

  50. What problems does having too many electrical outlets on a single circuit cause?

  51. What happens when you press the “TEST” button on a circuit breaker in an electric panel?

  52. How many electric receptacles (outlets) are required in a hallway?

  53. Why does painting an electric receptacle (outlet) make it unsafe?

  54. What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers?

  55. What causes flickering or blinking lights in a house?

  56. Why are some electric receptacles/outlets upside down (ground slot up) in a house?

  57. Why is undersize electric wiring in a house dangerous?

  58. Why is a fuse box an insurance problem for homebuyers?

  59. What is a “backstab” receptacle outlet?

  60. What electrical hazards does a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) not protect against?

  61. How can I tell if the electrical service is 3 phase or single phase?

  62. Can a bare bulb “lampholder” light fixture be installed outdoors?

  63. When did arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers first become required?

  64. What is the difference between an electrical receptacle, an outlet, and a plug?

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Welcome to our blog!
We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

  1. 2)Reversed polarity receptacle - The black (hot) wire goes to the brass-color connection and the white (neutral) wire goes to the silver color connection. Getting it backwards to called reversed polarity and pros never get it wrong.

  2. 3)Ceiling fan in a light box - Most bedroom ceilings 50-years ago had a simple light fixture at the center. But today a ceiling fan with a light kit under it is a popular bedroom enhancement. Unfortunately the electrical box that was originally installed in the ceiling was not designed to hold a 25 to 50-pound fan with light assembly below it. A stronger box with a cross-brace is necessary and an electrician can install one for you. Yes, fans do occasionally just drop out of the ceiling when installed in a lightweight box, but usually the assembly starts to come loose and slip down, giving a warning of the impending doom.

  3. 4)Open splice - The primary purpose of the first electrical codes created at the beginning of the 20th century was fire protection. Fire was, and still is, the number one concern for electrical wiring. Because electrical fires most often start due to arcing or sparking at a loose wire connection, the code specifies than any wire connections be made in a fireproof box, such as an electric panel or smaller, receptacle box. Leaving the splice in the open, adjacent to flammable material is a hazard.

  4. 5)Unprotected electrical cable - Electrical cables in an occupied area of the home—where they could potentially be damaged—are required to be protected inside a wall or electrical conduit below eight feet from the floor. Securing the cable snugly to the wall is not acceptable alternative.

  5. 6)Extension cord as permanent wiring - A permanent installation, such as a garage door opener, requires permanent wiring; which means an outlet within reach of the cord that came with the installed appliance. An extension cord is meant for temporary use and is not acceptable for delivering electricity to a garage door opener or wall air conditioner.

  6. 7)Wrong wire match at circuit breaker - Minimum wire sizes are specified for each circuit breaker amperage rating in an electric panel. If the wire size is too small, it will overheat and can start a fire before the breaker trips. Wire sizes get fatter as the numbers get lower. In copper wiring, a #14 wire is for a 15-amp breaker, #12 for 20-amp, #10 for 30-amp and so forth. So a #12 wire connected to a 30-amp breaker is a problem.
       While using a large wire than is specified for the breaker rating is not a defect in itself, sometimes it becomes one when a much larger wire is used and some of the strands have to be snipped to fit into the breaker connection. It’s called a “haircut” in the electrical trade, and is another safety no-no.

  7. 8)Double tapped circuit breaker - A few electric panels, mostly the ones manufactured by Square D and Cutler Hammer, are rated to accept two wires at their smaller amperage breakers. But most are not, and a double-tap is a common defect.

  8. 9)Missing NM-connector - An electric cable passing through a panel box needs a securing clamp, so that the connection at the breaker cannot be pulled loose inadvertently by a tug anywhere along the run of the cable. A homeowner will usually pop the largest knockout stamping in the panel box and run a couple of unsecured wires through it, like in the photo below.

  9. 10) Overpacked panel - Electric wiring generates heat and a crowded box is dangerous. If you have to push the wires in to close the deadfront cover, like we had to for the panel in the photo below, there will shortly be an overheating problem.

   The easy way to avoid all these common—and dangerous—defects in your home is to hire a licensed, professional electrician for the electrical part of your next home improvement project.

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
©2015 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection.


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