As a home inspector, I’m rightly expected to know a lot about a lot of different things in a home. However, for a variety of reasons, I can’t address every issue I come across.
Certain home features are just beyond the scope of the home inspection, and this includes electric generator systems.
Recently, during an Anacortes home inspection, I came across one of these generators. In my report, I recommended that the prospective buyer ask the seller as to when the generator system was last serviced. Additionally, I suggested that they verify with the seller as to their routine maintenance protocol for the system. Finally, I recommended further evaluation, service and repair (as necessary) by a qualified contractor.
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I think this goes without saying, but you really need to make sure your electrical panels have fully installed cover fronts. When I say fully installed, I mean that all the appropriate fasteners are in place and the front is secure.
And when I say appropriate fasteners, I mean screws that are not sharp—which can potentially pierce underlying wiring.
And when I say potentially…I’m just kidding. No more italics.
So, what if you don’t have a panel cover front in the first place? This is a scenario I recently came across recently during an inspection in Mount Vernon.
Obviously, if the circuits, circuit breakers, conductors, and other fun stuff are exposed to the world, you are inviting trouble to the party.
And trouble is a terrible guest.
The takeaway? Get your panel a cover, pronto!
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Zinsco, Sylvania-Zinsco electrical panels are known in the home inspection industry to be problematic. In fact, Zinsco is one of two brands of electrical panels that home inspectors are warned about in home inspection training courses to be aware of and inform clients about.
To identify these panels, look for the words “Zinsco,” “Magnetrip” or the characteristic red, green, and blue toggles on circuit breakers. Issues include failure of the circuit breaker to trip on overcurrent, arcing and burn-ups at the breaker-to-panel bus bar connection and circuit breaker burn-ups.
The majority of modern electricians aren’t familiar with these panels, which were installed in the 1940s through 1980s, so it’s important to have these panels further evaluated by an electrician familiar with Zinsco panels and their history. While the wiring inside an older panel may appear perfectly fine, I believe these panels should be replaced (better safe than sorry).
In fact, were I buying a home with a Zinsco panel, it would be the first thing I’d have replaced. In 2012, the city of Napa, Calif., actually required replacement of Zinsco main service panels. Here’s a link with more information about Zinsco electrical panels you might find interesting, https://inspectapedia.com/electric/Zinsco_Electrical_Panels.php.
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Testing an electrical outlet is simple with an outlet tester. This device is economical, typically costs under $20, and every homeowner should have one. I recommend you purchase the outlet tester with the GFCI button so you can also test bathroom, kitchen, garage and exterior outlets for GFCI protection.
To test any outlet, plug the outlet tester into the outlet and note the light pattern. A legend on the outlet tester will show you what the pattern indicates (e.g., whether the outlet is wired properly or not).
You’d be surprised how many incorrectly wired outlets I discover inspecting homes, even brand-new homes! If you discover an electrical issue, you shouldn’t use that outlet until it is repaired.
To test for GFCI protection, plug in the outlet tester, see if the light pattern is correct and then push the top button. If it trips (e.g., if the power goes off), then the outlet is indeed GFCI protected and working properly (you’ll need to find the tripped GFCI breaker or outlet elsewhere in the home and reset it to restore power after tripping).
I encourage you to go out, purchase an outlet tester, test your outlets and repair any noted defective.
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