What Questions Should I Ask My Electrician Before I Buy a House?

When you’re buying a new house, there are a lot of questions to ask before making a final decision. The electrical work is incredibly important and can make or break the living experience in your new home. It’s a good idea to request an inspection of the house before you close the deal to make sure there aren’t any outstanding electrical problems.

The age of the home is crucial to creating the list of questions you will need to ask your electrician. A newer home is less likely to have electrical issues as it is compliant with the updated National Electric Code (NEC). If the house is over 40 years old, it is imperative to have the electrical system inspected.

There are several resources you can use to inspect the home before making your purchase. A city or county inspector can look for potential issues, or you can call an electrician to do a check-up as well. Even though these inspections are thorough and comprehensive, there are a few electrical questions you will want to ask before closing the deal on your home.

  • Is the house up to NEC standards? Asking about the electrical code may seem obvious, but it is the first question you need to ask. If the house is not up to date or grandfathered in, you or the seller will have to make the necessary changes before you can move in.
  • What is the wiring method? Even if the house is at NEC standards, older wiring setups can be grandfathered into updated codes, depending on if they are deemed safe or not. Make sure to ask your electrician about potential issues with older wiring and what you can do to prevent them. Modern non-metallic wiring with copper grounding is the gold standard of residential electrical.
    • Many homes built in the late 60s and early 70s used aluminum because of a spike in copper prices. Aluminum is an excellent conductor but transfers more heat than copper, which is why it is prone to causing electric fires.
  • How does the service panel look? The service panel is the hub of electrical flow through the home. It serves as the distributor of power from the utility company to different parts of your home. It’s crucial that the service panel is in good condition and allows for an adequate flow of electricity. Older service panels may not have sufficient amperage, so you may need to replace it to keep up with modern electronic needs.
    • Ask the electrician if the circuit breaker has an arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI). Arc faults are caused by corroded or exposed wire that allows electricity to flow towards the ground that can cause intense heat, which can result in a fire. An AFCI can detect this leak of energy and shut off the circuit.
  • Are the outlets up-to-date, and are they in proper condition? Newer homes won’t have issues with their receptacles due to new codes for home construction, but older homes may have outdated or damaged outlets. Outlets must be in good shape as they are the final contact point that delivers electricity to your appliances.

If outlets need replacing, here are two types you should discuss with your electrician: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) and Tamper Resistant Receptacles (TRRs).

    • GFCIs are designed to shut off the flow of electricity if there is an unintentional flow of energy outside of the circuit conductors to a grounded surface. This flow can be directly harmful to you or can start a fire in your home. A GFCI is installed in areas that can get wet such as kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms.
    • According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 2,400 children suffer from severe shock and burns every year. Most electricity experts suggest tamper-resistant receptacles. These outlets require equal pressure on both sides, which prevent children from inserting small metallic objects such as hairpins, paper clips or keys into one side of the socket.

Hopefully, you won’t encounter any of these issues while you are going through the home buying process, but it is essential to check before closing the deal. A little bit of time and money up front can save you from a lot of headaches and can help you enjoy your home for years to come. Before purchasing your dream home, contact a skilled electrician from Complete Electrical to perform a full inspection.