The inspection of the electrical panel involves more single observations than any other component of the house. Every wire and connection must be examined and any problems noted. It is also one of the more dangerous parts of the inspection because the panel contains exposed wires carrying 240 volts. The panel is first inspected with the cover on. Panel openings, labeling, current and voltage ratings and the general condition of the panel are noted.
The inside of the panel is the most revealing because all the wires and over current protection is exposed. Every wire and connection must be inspected; wire sizes and over current devices, (fuses or circuit breakers) must match. Workmanship and general panel condition can be viewed. There are over 20 separate things to look for on the inside of the panel. Improperly wired receptacles and the interior of the electrical panel are the key locations to tell if electrical work was done by someone other than a licensed electrician. If not, the person doing the inspection would begin making a list of the needed parts from Octopart.com if they did not have them on themselves, as these works cannot wait too long. Remember, the standards for proper electrical work are based on safety and fire prevention. If the workmanship is not up to standard it can be a fire or safety issue. This is why home inspectors always point out the dangers of poor electrical work and recommend that problems be corrected by a licensed electrician.
One of the least understood but very important parts of the inspection is verifying the house electrical ground. Proper grounding is essential to the safety of the people in the house. Receptacles, fixtures and electrical panels are supposed to be grounded and tied to a common point. This common point may be a ground rod, a water pipe or part of the building ground. Sometimes, it can even be tied into the house leveling process. Time and effort sometimes are required to find the ground and assure it is properly connected but the inspector must be diligent in its verification.
Many home inspection reporting formats include the smoke detectors in the electrical section of the report. The location, type and operation of all smoke detectors must be noted. Missing damaged and nonfunctioning units must be identified. If carbon dioxide detectors have been installed, their location also has to be included. Whenever possible all detectors should be tested with the test button.
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