Whether you are about to buy a home or have been living in you home for many years, it is always a good idea to get a licensed residential electrician to stop by, visit the property and provide you with a complete and thorough electrical safety inspection. Even if the house looks in good shape or you have lived in it and have never noticed any problems, there may be some issues lying just out of site that if left in that condition could cause major problems in the future.
Most residential electrical contractors will provide you with a home inspection with a cost from 125 to about 200 dollars but this price can often be applied to the corrections needed, so in that case the inspection would be free. Here is a quick breakdown of how it works and what we look for.
Electrical service equipment consists of the meter can that holds you FPL meter, you main disconnect which interrupts the electricity going into you home, the grounding system which is the system that provides the path of least resistance to ground in case of over current, the electrical panel or panels depending on the size of you home you might have one or more of these, and last but not least you branch and dedicated circuits which basically are every electrical appliance and device in you home like light switches, outlets, and light fixtures.
Above is a picture of a meter main combo and automatic transfer switch for a stand by generator, the wiring on these units is correct, we installed these for the customer because when we were out there giving an electrical inspection we noticed his service equipment was not up to code. His house was built in the 70s and still had the original meter can that is only rated for 100 amps, current codes require a home to have a minimum of 150 amps, and according to residential service load calculations it could be of a higher rating, also his home had a Manuel transfer switch which would require him to go outside in the rain to turn an electrical device in generator mode, then when the FPL power was restored he would come back out and but it back on the normal setting, That is alot of work that this new automatic transfer switch does all by itself.
Now the Grounding system, this system is the most underrated part of you electrical system, it consists of 2 ground rods driven 8 to 10 feet in the ground, cold water pipe bonding terminal, inter systems bonding terminal, foundation boding, and gas pipe bonding, and all these items listed get bonded together by a wire sized according to you service size. The grounding system provides a clear path to ground just in case of over current, which mean in case electricity needs to go to ground in will travel through this system and not through you. So yes this system has saved countless lives and not to mention how many electrical shocks have been avoided by this system. If you ever feel a slight electrical shock while using an electrical appliance it might be due to a bad path to ground so be careful and call a residential electrician to come and correct this problem for you.
Not until about 20 years ago did the National Electrical Code or NEC require a Main service disconnect to be installed in you residential electrical system, whenever you have a breaker panel with 6 breakers or more it must be protected by a main disconnect. Older homes do not have this disconnect, and older homes that do have one are often over or underrated, not grounded correctly or absolite, this unit is very important as it protects the wires feeding you panel form overloading and also protects the individual branch circuits in the panel, only a licensed electrician can inspect these and verify that all the required components are up to code.
Sometimes the Main is located outside in it is own enclosure or it can also be located inside the electrical panel, but the benefit of having one outside is that in case of a fire the fire fighters can turn the main off and enter you home to fight the fire, if you do not have one they will not enter you home because of the risk of electrocution.
Your electrical panel is the big box with all the electrical breakers that control the power distribution to you entire house. This panel plays a crucial role in the safety of you home, the breakers in you panel may all look the same but the have subtle differences that are tailor made for you needs. The most common problems we run into is that the breakers are not sized correctly or the breaker might have a :double tap” .
What determines the size of the breaker? Well the wire will determine what’s the maximum amperage breaker you can install on any particular circuit but one must also take into consideration the appliance that it is feeding because you want to size the breaker just above the maximum amperage of the appliance. For example, you have a # 6 wire THHN copper it can handle 75 amps but it is feeding a cook top that will only use 37 amps, so knowing this you would install a 40 amp circuit breaker, even though the wire can handle more but the appliance can’t so it is good to limit this according to the units specifications.
A double tap breaker means 2 wires on a single breaker, 95 percent of breakers are rated for only 1 wire per terminal, but some un licensed electricians will double tap the breakers because they don’t know any better or just do not care, the problem with double tapping breakers is that if the breakers are not intended to hold more than 1 wire it can lead to a loose connection on 1 or both of the wires and a loose connection when something is connected and trying to use the power will cause the loose connection to heat up and possibly cause a fire, that’s the main reason you should never have breaker double tapped, or sized incorrectly because if the wire can only handle 20 amps and you install a 30 amp breaker then the wire can get over loaded and burn and the breaker will never trip, causing a fire.
Branch circuits are the circuit that come out of you panel and feed the common devices and appliances like light switches light fixtures, outlets, and electrical appliances, The main issues we find on these braches circuits is the lack of proper grounding, like we mentioned before grounding saves lives. Also, now a days any new receptacle you install needs to be ” tamper resistant” this basically means that a small kid cannot stick something into the receptacle and get shocked, before home-owners would install the little caps for child safety, but it was later determined that they were a choking hazard for the same kids they were intended to protect.
So if you do work on you home please assure that the new receptacles are equipped with this tamper resistant option, also if you would like to give you home a quick and easy update you can also install these new Decora style tamper resistant receptacle les and Decora switches, combine these with screw less cover plates by Lutron and the new-look will be amazing.
Hey we are licensed and we do residential electrical work so call us, Power Pro Electrical, but if you don’t call us make sure whoever you call is licensed and insured. If they are you can trust them to give you an expert report on the electrical system of you home, also take into consideration what they report and please correct the problems as soon as possible.
One last thing, hundreds of people die every year from nighttime fires or smolders, please if you do not have wired smoke detectors installed in you home get them asap, the little devices have saved many lives and could save yours, also if you have an attached garage or gas appliances please also get a carbon monoxide detector as well.
Thank you for joining us on this discussion of electrical safety inspections, if you have any questions or comments please reply below and we will answer you post in a timely manner. Best Regards.