Home inspections are now more common than ever with guidelines becoming stringent on the sale of homes as well as well as the criteria that determines the rates on your home owner’s insurance. In an area like Connecticut where older homes are the norm, chances are highly likely that the home inspector found some things about your wiring that he didn’t like. However, don’t worry. These situations are common and here are some likely scenarios that our qualified, licensed electricians can deal with for you.
-Ungrounded outlets: This is very common in houses built before 1960. The best option of course is to have the ungrounded portions of your wiring updated by a licensed electrician. If that’s not in the cards right now, there are a few other options that can get you through the inspection and still keep you code-compliant.
-Sump pump outlets: This is a big one for the insurance companies. Your sump pump absolutely NEEDS to be on its own designated circuit. If your basement floods because of a sump pump failure and the insurance company determines that the circuit was overloaded with other unrelated electrical equipment then they very well may not pay your claim.
-Fuse boxes: This is big for sales and for insurance audits. There is a common misconception that fuses are less safe than breakers. That is not true at all. When properly installed, fuses can be just as safe as circuit breakers. However, the problem with fuses lies in the fact that they can be easily manipulated by unqualified people. Let’s say you have a large air conditioning unit that tends to blow fuses when it’s been running for an extended period of time. Instead of calling a licensed electrician to run a designated 20 amp circuit, Uncle Frank comes over and screws a 30 amp fuse into the old slot that used to contain a 15 amp fuse. The air conditioner kicks right back on and never trips again. Problem solved, right? Absolutely not. The wiring within that circuit was designed and installed to handle a maximum load of 15 amps before the fuse blows. You are now allowing that same wiring to consistently draw double the proper amount of current which will break down the insulation, destroy the metal wiring, and ultimately result in an electrical fire. Thanks a lot Uncle Frank.
-GFCI outlets: These are the outlets with the TEST and RESET buttons that are commonly installed in bathrooms, kitchens, and unfinished/outdoor areas. When unsure of whether or not a certain area is required to have GFCI protection, just think about water. Where an electrical appliance and a wet location are likely tomeet, you should have a GFCI. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter and it offers an additional layer of protection compared to a traditional outlet or circuit breaker. The GFCI is actually sensing the amount of current flowing through that portion of the circuit. If a person were to get an electrical shock on that circuit, the GFCI would sense the rapid change in current (as the return path is now flowing through you with an added level of resistance) and suddenly trip, potentially saving you from a fatal shock.
Double-tapped circuit breakers: This is a favorite of the home inspectors and it is also one of the least understood parts of your home inspection report. Circuit breakers are designed to protect their associated branch circuits. The point of termination where the start of the electrical circuit is attached to the actual circuit breaker is a crucial connection point. This terminal should never have more than one wire on it. Having multiple wires will jeopardize the integrity of that termination and can cause power disruptions, breaker failure, and even worse: arcing that will produce an immense amount of heat on your wiring. Although the installation of a properly rated and UL listed “twin” or “tandem” style circuit breaker is usually an appropriate fix, it must be done by a qualified and licensed electrician. During the installation of these breakers, extra attention must be paid to any multiwire branch circuits. These are cables that feed multiple circuits, yet share a common return path or “neutral” wire. If this repair is done by an unqualified person, the neutral wire can be easily overloaded depending on where in the electrical panel the new breaker is installed. This will result in overheating of the neutral conductor which is an even worse fire hazard than the double tap the inspector originally called out!
There are probably hundreds of other unsafe situations that may be spotted during a home inspection. However, with a little background in commonly flagged items and a relationship with a good local electrical contractor, the repairs can be completed efficiently and you can be quickly on your way to making the sale or lowering that insurance premium.