I was unable to test a bathroom outlet at a recent home inspection in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island because it was placed directly against the vanity cabinet, rendering plugging any appliances into it very difficult. I certainly couldn’t insert my plug tester. This is a reportable issue because, (1) I couldn’t test the outlet or verify it was GFCI protected and (2) future homeowners need to know they likely need to make repairs to have a functional MBA outlet.
AFCI breakers, or Arc-Fault-Circuit-Interrupter breakers, are commonly installed in newer homes. This video, taken at a recent home inspection in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, explains how to test these breakers for proper operation. The 2005 NEC stated that AFCIs must be placed on bedroom power and lighting circuits; new codes require AFCI breakers be installed for all rooms within the home supplying outlets. As with all property protection and life saving devices, the ultimate use, beyond the Code, rests with the homeowner. Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and escape ladders are all examples of emergency equipment used in homes to take action when a fire occurs. An AFCI is a product that is designed to detect a wide range of arcing electrical faults to help reduce the electrical system from being an ignition source of a fire. Conventional overcurrent protective devices do not detect low level hazardous arcing currents that have the potential to initiate electrical fires. It is well known that electrical fires do exist and take many lives and damage or destroy significant amounts of property. Electrical fires can be a silent killer occurring in areas of the home that are hidden from view and early detection. The objective is to protect the circuit in a manner that will reduce its chances of being a source of an electrical fire. Below is a great link to some additional information about AFCI breakers.
Dangling, loose exterior outlets were discovered at a recent home inspection on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. When new siding is installed on a home, sometimes over existing (original) siding, it’s important to properly re-secure exterior outlets and fixtures to the (thicker) new siding and perimeter envelope. Securing loose electrical fixtures and appliances is important for safety reasons because (1) it’s important to keep rain out of electrical connections and (2) as wires move back and forth with use, because they’re not secured, they can become mechanically damaged and wiring connections can be compromised.
Old, active knob-and-tube electrical wiring was discovered in this attic that had been unprofessionally spliced with modern electrical wiring and was in direct contact with framing elements in the attic, clear safety issues. My client was under the impression that all wiring in this home had been updated; truth be told, it simply was not. I recommended further evaluation and repair by a qualified electrician. If you have knob-and-tube wiring, consider upgrading to modern wiring. At a minimum, don’t splice into it and keep it clear and free from contacting anything as it can overheat. Do not insulate attics or crawl spaces that have knob-and-tube wiring. This was discovered at a recent home inspection in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.
Why do we home inspectors call out missing cover plates at electrical junction boxes? Well, it’s really quite simple. A cover plate protects people from inadvertently touching live electrical wires and components in the junction box. Additionally, cover plates help encapsulate an electrical event if it ever happens. Yes, it’s a simple fix, but highly recommended. This was discovered at a home inspection in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island, but is called out on almost every home inspection.
Sylvania Zinsco electrical panels are known in the home inspection industry to be safety issues and replacement is typically advised by home inspectors. This particular Zinsco panel was discovered at a recent home inspection in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island. The issue concerns the connection between the breakers themselves and the aluminum fin bus bar which can become compromised and lead to arcs, faults and fires. Home Inspection 101 covers this for all licensed home inspectors to be called out as a safety issue for clients. Were this my home, the very first thing I’d do is replace the Zinsco electrical panel entirely.
AFCI, or arc-fault-circuit-interruptor breakers are common in newer construction homes. Manufacturers recommend testing breakers on a monthly basis. How to test these breakers is advised in this video taken at a recent home inspection in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island. If the breakers don’t “trip” when tested, replacement by an electrician is advised. Continue reading
At a recent home inspection in Mount Vernon, Washington, I noted dangerous double-tapping or electrical wires in the old electrical panel. Double-tapping the main service entrance conductors (wires) at an older fuse panel is a definite safety issue that can lead to overheating of the undersized wires and at the lugs themselves. Double-tapping is where two (2) electrical wires are connected under one screw or terminal in an electrical panel. Further evaluation and repair by a qualified electrician was advised. It would also be prudent to update the old fuse panel for improved safety.
At a recent home inspection this week in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island I discovered, to my complete and utter dismay, original (old) knob-and-tube electrical wiring in an attic BURIED underneath fiberglass insulation and in direct contact with framing members, clear and well known safety issues. It’s imperative to maintain proper clearances around this old wiring as it can overheat causing a possible fire. Please don’t insulate your attic if you have old knob-and-tube wiring! The insulation looked professionally installed, which is why I was completely baffled to see such an egregious, irresponsible apparent contractor oversight. The insulation will need to be removed and proper clearance around all old, original knob-and-tube wiring provided for safety reasons. Better yet, upgrade the old wiring and be done with it!
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