Last month we began discussing common electrical defects in electrical services and distribution wiring, this month we’ll jump in right where we left off.
Outlets, Switches, and Fixtures- The most common things we find on home inspections in this regard are missing or damaged cover plates, outlets wired improperly and burned out light bulbs. All easy fixes, and some of these you can do yourself as a homeowner. Replacing cover plates is an easy fix, one small screw holds on the cover plate, and they cost about anywhere from .25 cents up to a few dollars depending on how fancy you want to get. Outlets that are wired improperly is a fix usually best left to a professional, although an easy fix once they get started. Cost shouldn’t be much more than an hour of labor even if you have a few that need addressed.
Electric Panels- This is where the fun begins. The heart of the entire electric system resides inside the panel. To start, there are a few panels out there that are known fire hazards due to bad design. As home inspectors we identify these and recommend their replacement due to the known problems. These include Federal Pacific “Stab-Lok” panels, Zinsco, Challenger, and Sylvania. Other problems we encounter with panels include, improper wiring, double tapped breakers, overheated wiring, and openings from the exterior to the interior of the panel. Most of these are simple fixes but should always be performed by a licensed electrician. Improper wiring inside a panel can lead to loose connections which can be a fire hazard. Double tapped breakers indicates that more than once circuit is being powered by one breaker, each circuit should be served by its own breaker unless the manufacturer of the breaker says otherwise. Double taps can lead to additional resistance in the wiring which creates heat and could again cause a fire. In some cases a large number of double taps indicate a capacity issue and it may be time to upgrade to a larger panel.
As you can see from our mini series on electrical defects, most are easy fixes, but definitely should be addressed as small problems can turn in to big problems, and with electricity its usually hot!! See you next month!!