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How To Please The Home Inspector With A Flawless Electrical System

Electrical_SystemElectricity-related fires cause substantial damages to life and property every year. Incidents of electrocutions too are pretty common. These, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), are largely due to faulty electrical systems, improper electrical wiring and defective appliances.

The above detail should suffice to emphasize the importance of electrical inspection of a property before closing the purchase deal. If you are still wondering if a standard home inspection will not be enough, then be informed that general home inspection basically checks the house for structural defects and flaws. Other problems such as electrical, mechanical and plumbing problems are only assessed superficially. Hence, you must have the electrical system of the house inspected thoroughly by a licensed electrician before concluding the purchase.

In fact, the Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends a comprehensive electrical inspection of each house that is more than 40-years old, has undergone major restructuring, has had electrical gadgets introduced over a period of 10 years. Having an inspection done beforehand is perhaps the best way that homebuyers can ensure safety and save unnecessary expenses later.

Electrical inspectors guided by the National Electrical Code (NEC) check electrical systems and appliances to ensure that they keep with the basic safety standards and do not lead to accidental fires or electrocution. The inspector starts with checking the wiring of the house. Thereafter, he examines the system,  fuse boxes, circuit breakers and everything for any loose connections, overloaded circuits and faulty outlets. The inspector examines all electrical equipments like air-conditioners and heating systems in turns.

Major flaws that electrical inspectors come across during property inspections are as follows:

-  Improper wiring continues to be a major drawback for the safety of houses and its inhabitants.

Ground Wire Fault: Many old houses do not have properly grounded electrical systems. In most of these houses, however, 2-socket ungrounded receptacles have been replaced by 3-socket receptacles that continue to be ungrounded. The absence of the ground wire causes the stray current to pass through the body instead of traveling to the ground. With no Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCIs), it often leads to life-threatening accidents (electrocutions).

Other Wiring Faults: Often electrical inspectors find loosely hanging wires, oversized fuses, reverse connected switches and fixtures, open junction boxes and other problems during inspection of a house. Actually, many homeowners, unable to comprehend the danger they are inviting by playing with electricity, take upon themselves to fix electrical problems. Maximum number of electricity-related accidents stem from this casual attitude of homeowners and other inexperienced people, making a pre-purchase inspection a must.

- Worn out service lines and electrical fittings are often singled out by electricians as leading to electrocutions and short circuits. Service lines, whether running underground or hanging overhead tend to crack. When water seeps into the service box through these cracks and holes they lead to short circuits and fire breaks out. Damaged and worn out electrical fittings and outlets too can be the cause of electrical fires.

- Many home fires, according to electrical inspectors, are a direct consequence of the use of high capacity or oversized fuses and circuit breakers. The fuse or breaker should ideally be the weakest link in the circuit of the electrical system should cause the fuse to blow or the breaker to trip. If instead the capacity of the fuse / breaker is increased, it makes the wiring the weakest link. As a result, the circuit breaker will remain intact even if there is any problem in the circuit, it will rather damage the appliances or even start a fire.

- Overloading is the other prime reason behind fire breaking out due to electrical faults. Houses built some 40-50 years ago have electrical systems not capable of handling today's high power requirements. With so many electricity-run gadgets and devices, right from computers to frost-free refrigerators and high-efficiency cooling/heating systems, microwaves, etc.; household power requirements have rocketed high. Unless and until you manipulate sensibly, overloaded electrical systems can prove hazardous.

Aluminum wiring (of the houses built between 1960 and 1973), is eyed by home inspectors as a potential threat for electricity-related fires. Actually, aluminum wiring contracts and expands at different rates than the copper and brass screws used on fixtures and outlets. This, together with the corrosion of aluminum (when in contact with copper) led to accidents and aluminum was dispensed with as a wiring material. Electrical inspectors, recommend the use of AFCIs (Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters) in homes having aluminum wiring as a safety measure. AFCIs stop flow of current to a circuit immediately on sensing overheating.

- Inspection of electrical systems have proved that the absence of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCIs) very often leads to major electricity-related mishaps. The GFCIs sensing a fault in the ground wiring system cuts off the power within 1/40th of a second. This prompt disconnection (which means it is off within 3 to 5 milliamps) ensures that the person is not seriously injured. Electrical inspectors and experienced electricians have opined from time to time that installation of GFCIs together with AFCIs can help avoid many household fires and life endangering accidents resulting from faults in electrical systems.

On a concluding note, we think it is necessary to warn potential homebuyers as well as present homeowners not to risk the safety of their families and themselves in counting money spent for the inspection of electrical systems of homes, lest they might have to pay with their lives.

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