If you’ve ever bought or sold a home, you’re likely familiar with the traditional home inspection. But have you ever thought about a home electrical inspection? And why should you care?
Did you know that electrical problems are the largest cause of property damage in home structure fires in the United States? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that electrical failure was responsible for more than 47,000 house fires per year between 2007 and 2011. These fires claimed more than 400 lives and 1,500 injuries annually, and resulted in yearly property damage of over $1.5 billion.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure all of your home’s electrical components are up-to-date, properly installed, and working correctly. An electrical home inspection, performed by a qualified, licensed electrician, can uncover safety hazards including fire and shock hazards, overheating, physical deterioration, and signs of abuse. In addition to making your home safer, an electrical inspection can reveal ways to achieve greater energy efficiency, lower utility bills, decreased environmental impact, and greater insurability of your property.
Residential Electrical Inspection Checklist
So what happens during a home electrical inspection? Your inspector should examine your home’s outlets and wiring; lighting, fixtures, and safety features; electrical service panel; and outdoor electrical components. There are also special issues that should be addressed if your home is over 40 years old. Following the inspection, the electrician should give you a detailed report of his or her findings, and recommendations for what, if any, improvements are needed.
Outlets and Wiring
All outlets must be wired and grounded properly. Outlets must not be too tight or too loose, and cords should fit correctly. The inspector should look for warning signs of overload or overheating – including outlets that are warm to the touch, a smoky residue near outlet openings, and humming or switching noises.
Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which can prevent electrocution in wet or damp areas – such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms – must be tested to make sure they will automatically trip the outlet off if the current flowing through the wire exceeds the correct threshold.
Lighting, Fixtures, and Safety Features
Lighting fixtures, switches, and wiring must be properly installed and in good condition, and bulbs should not exceed the intended wattage of fixtures or lamps. Safety and security lighting, as well as smoke detectors, should also be working correctly.
Main Electrical Panel
Your home’s electrical service panel consists of either fuses in older homes, or circuit breakers in more recently built properties. The inspector should check for deterioration and smoky residue, improper grounding, rust, and corrosion. Loose or incompatible wiring should be corrected, and all circuits should be properly labeled.
Exterior of the Home
All of your home’s outdoor electrical systems must be examined. The service cable coming into your home should be properly anchored, and your electrical service box grounded correctly. Your electrical inspector should check for missing or broken outlet covers, or covers that have been corroded shut.
Special Issues for Older Homes
Most older homes were simply not built with today’s level of energy usage in mind. Many times, the wiring, outlets, and other electrical components struggle to handle the demands of computers, home entertainment systems, and modern heating and cooling requirements. Because of this, many insurers will refuse to insure an older home unless the electrical system is updated.
- Outdated Wiring: If your home was built before 1950, it likely has what is called “knob-and-tube” (or “K&T”) wiring. Homes built between 1965 and 1973 often contain aluminum wiring. Both K&T and aluminum wiring present safety and performance problems that can jeopardize the insurability of your home. Your electrician may recommend appropriate replacements or upgrades to correct the problem.
- Outdated Outlets and Switches: The electrical outlets found in older homes are typically ungrounded and can easily become overloaded. Only a licensed electrician should install new outlets along with the correct wiring for connecting them to the service panel.
- Outdated Service Panel: If your home’s electrical service panel is over 30 years old, it’s time to have a licensed electrician check to make sure it is working properly. Components can deteriorate with age and must be replaced. When possible, outdated fuse boxes should be replaced with more up-to-date circuit breakers or adapted to accommodate the electrical requirements of your home.
The Electrical Safety Foundation recommends an electrical home inspection if you’re buying or selling a home, if you recently completed renovations or added major appliances, or if your house is more than 40 years old. If your home falls into one of these categories, you can contact Complete Electrical Solutions for a thorough electrical home inspection that will improve the safety, efficiency, and insurability of your home.