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How to Look

at a House

A blog with answers
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More blog posts about electric service and distribution:

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

  2. How can I tell if the electric outlets are grounded?

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

  4. Why do you pay so much attention to electrical safety?

  5. How do the new tamper-resistant electric receptacles work?

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

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

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

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

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

  11. Where are smoke alarms required to be located?

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

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

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

  15. Can wiremold be used at an exterior location?

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

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

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

  19. What is an open electrical splice?

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

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

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

  23. What is a Dual Function Circuit Interrupter (DFCI)?

  24. Where are the funny home inspection pictures?

  25. Should I follow the home inspector around during the inspection?

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

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

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

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

  30. What could cause an extremely high electric bill?

  31. How do I trace and identify each circuit breaker in my electric panel to make a circuit directory?

  32. Why are extension cords dangerous?

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

  34. How can I find out the size of the electric service to a house?

  35. Why are electrical outlets and plugs polarized?

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

  37. Why are old electric components not always “grandfathered” as acceptable by home inspectors?

  38. Why do the lights dim when the air conditioner turns on?

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

  40. Why is bundled wiring in an electric panel a defect?

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

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

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

  44. What is a “backstab” receptacle outlet?

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

  46. What is the color code for NM cable (Romex®) sheathing?

  47. What does “listed” and “labeled” mean for an electrical component?

  48. What does it mean when I find buried yellow "CAUTION" tape when digging a hole in the yard?

  49. How far away should a sink be from an electric panel?

  50. What are the requirements for NM-cables entering an electric panel box?

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

  52. What is the minimum clearance of overhead electric service drop wires above a house roof?

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

  54. Can you add circuit breakers by different manufacturers to an electric panel if they fit?

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

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

  57. Should I buy a house near a high-voltage power line?

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.

   Other locations where an electric panel cannot be located are closets and bathrooms; and, obviously, there cannot be anything installed in front of the panel, such as a water heater. The panel shown below has a double no-no, located behind a toilet in a bathroom. These unsafe locations are usually the result of the remodeling of an older house. In this case, the kitchen was moved to a new addition to the home, and the room was reconfigured as a bathroom.

To learn more about residential electric panels, we suggest reading a few of our other blog posts on the subject:

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

  2. Does this place have one of those “bad” electric panels I’ve heard about?

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

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

  5. What is a split bus electric panel?

  6. My circuit breaker won’t reset. What’s wrong?

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

  8. Why is an old fuse panel dangerous?

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

  10. What is the lock device on a circuit breaker for?

  11. Can multiple neutral or ground wires be secured under the same terminal in an electric panel?

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.
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