Many people do not know what to look for when touring a new home when it comes to the electrical wiring and systems in the house. However, faulty wiring and other electrical issues can be a fire or electric shock risk. It is very important to have the electrical systems of a home you are considering thoroughly inspected before you sign on the dotted line. You do not want to yourself and your family in danger. Below are some issues I come across frequently during my home inspections.
1. Romex Wire Exposed in Kitchen Cabinets
Romex wire that is unprotected can be cut or damaged leaving wires open for electric shock.
2. No GFCI Outlets Near Water Source
A GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) should be located 6 feet from open water source. Kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc. are examples of common locations for a GFCI.
3. 3-Prong Receptacles Without a Ground Wire
Many times, when a homeowner has a 2 wired electrical system they find themselves needing a 3-prong plug. Many large appliances require a 3-pronged outlet. However, the problem with this is that without a ground wire, your appliances are not being protected due to electrical surges.
4. Ceiling Fans That Wobble When Tested
Many times, a homeowner will replace an old ceiling light with a fan. The problem is that the mounting box may not be designed to hold a fan. It is important to make sure that the box in the ceiling is not only secured but designed to hold the fan in place. Fans that are not secured properly could have exposed wires or wires that have not been connected correctly because the fan is not designed to be there.
5. Unprotected Lights to Close to Combustible Materials
Many times, closet lights will be just a bulb in an open light socket. If a person stacks their storage too close or against the bulb, it could get hot enough to start a fire. It is recommended to have a globe cover the light to prevent this problem.
6. Improperly Wired Electric Subpanel
Most people think installing an extra panel out in the garage or shed should be a piece of cake. They will just copy what the main electric panel looks like and that should be good. What many people don’t realize is a “subpanel” (any panel made after the main panel) has a few minor differences. The white and ground wires can no longer be tied together in the panel like they are in the main panel. They must be separated and cannot be in contact with one another. If a 4-wire feed was not brought in for the supply, then a ground rod must be driven to properly ground the subpanel.
7. Bushing Missing Around Branch Wire Circuits or Snap in Caps Missing
Bushings are small plastic or metal rings that go around the metal electric panel so when a wire is pulled through it will not become damaged. Any damaged or cut insulation will leave an exposed wire in a metal panel that could arc and start a fire. Snap in caps are where a breaker is missing and leaving the bus bar exposed that could possibly be touched.
As I mentioned at the beginning, any electrical components in your home need to be installed correctly to prevent the risk of fire or getting shocked. Issues may not be obvious to the naked eye, which is why it’s important to have a home inspection done if you are preparing to sell your home or buy a new one. If you think there may be an electrical problem in your home, please call a licensed electrician or home inspector to investigate. Do not try to fix it yourself!
This blog post is part of a series on Common Home Inspection Issues. Please see our other posts for more information about other areas of your home.