At Mister Sparky, we’re very big on yearly home electrical inspections. We know all too well that small issues can turn into big problems, especially when dealing with something as delicate as your electrical system.
Most homeowners are familiar with electrical inspections as part of the larger home inspection process when buying or selling a home. For buyers, this inspection is essential to get a complete picture of a home’s safety and functionality, and it can help make sure important repairs are made before the deed changes hands.
However, there are other times in life when an electrical inspection makes sense, even if you’re not making a move.
Here’s a rundown of when you should consider an inspection:
Before Major Home Upgrades
If you’re planning significant renovations to your home, especially building additions, you should conduct an electrical inspection before work begins because:
1. You need to make sure your electrical system can support all those new outlets and fixtures
2. If there is any need for repairs or upgrades, you can often save time and money by doing that work simultaneously with the remodeling.
After DIY Electrical Work
Nothing beats the trained eye of an experienced, licensed electrician. If an amateur electrician has performed any work on your home, even if it was a long time ago, the work may not have been done safely or in accordance with building codes. An electrical inspection can help identify anything that went unnoticed or undiagnosed.
If You Live in an Older Home
Homes that are over 25 years old should be inspected every few years because while most electrical components are built to stand up to time, nothing lasts forever. This is especially important in historic homes where there may still be old-fashioned knob and tube wiring, or where some wiring sheathing may be crumbling. An inspection may just be the first step toward major electrical upgrades, but for safety’s sake, it’s worth taking the plunge.
If You Didn’t Get a Proper Inspection Before Buying
Just because you can’t go back in time and get a pre-purchase inspection doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it at all. If there are safety issues, you need to know about them.
After Storm Damage
Severe weather events can cause permanent damage to your electrical system that might not be readily apparent. The most important post-storm reasons to schedule an inspection are if there’s been water damage to a wired portion of your home, if tree limbs or other debris brought down power lines on your property, or if part of your home was struck by lightning.
If You Have Sudden or Reoccurring Problems
If a component of your electrical system fails, you might start experiencing problems out of the blue. And if you keep experiencing the same problem over and over, even if it’s something minor like light bulbs burning out too quickly, it could be a sign of a dangerous underlying issue. In either case, an electrical inspection is the proper way to find out what’s going on.
Fighting the stigma: Why Electrical Inspections Should Not Be Intimidating to Homeowners
The idea of needing an inspection may be a scary prospect. After all, an inspection might uncover a big, expensive problem. You might find that you need a major repair and that your electrical system is on its last leg.
But the real point of an inspection is the make sure everything is working safely and correctly – not to dig up huge electrical problems. An inspection is meant to catch those problems before they get out of hand.
After the Electrical Home Inspection: Upgrades to Consider
Do you need upgraded outlets?
If you own an older home, consider replacing 2-prong outlets with 3-prong outlets. Two-prong outlets have only two wires: a hot wire and a neutral wire. But a three-prong outlet also has a ground wire, which is a safe place for unexpected bursts of current to go when they occur.
Without that connection between the ground wire and the plug, wild current can go anywhere: into your electrical device, where sensitive components can be destroyed, or worse, into your body. Shock and electrocution are more likely to occur when no ground wire is present.
Do You Have GFCIs Installed?
Electrical shock or electrocution are real dangers in your home. Issues like power surges or exposed wiring could shock someone inadvertently, leading to serious injury and even death. Fortunately, by installing a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), you can help limit the exposure to shock and minimize the danger.
GFCIs work by constantly monitoring the amount of current running through a circuit. The instant that the current level returning from the circuit drops below the level going out – which could indicate that the electricity is escaping to the ground, possibly through a human – the GFCI trips and cuts off the power. The device should kick in in as little as 1/40 of a second, potentially saving you, your family member, or your electrician from electrocution.
Adding more outlets.
The more electronic devices, the more outlets are needed. With every new gadget, we increase our reliance on power strips and extension cords, which can be an electrical hazard. When you overload an extension cord or power strip, you run the risk of overheating, which can cause fires. Three ways you can tell you’ve overloaded your electrical circuit are:
1) Dimming or flickering lights
2) Humming or Buzzing outlets and switches
3) Outlets are warm to touch, or smell burnt
It’s important to have enough outlets to handle the power that you’re using in your home. An extension cord or power strip simply won’t do the job.
You may also want to think about installing USB outlets, which allows you to charge one or two USB-powered devices at each USB wall outlet, decreasing the risk of electrical hazards and the clutter that comes with multiple wires.
Duplex or combination GFCI/USB (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter/Universal Serial Bus) charging outlets offer traditional plug-in capabilities as well as USB portals for your many devices. As a bonus, you can use these outlets without using more power or raising your utility bill.
Does your electrical panel need a facelift?
Instead of a full replacement, your electrical system may need a boost. A panel rejuvenation is like an “oil change” for your electrical panel. Basically, an electrician takes an older panel and refreshes and refuels it to extend its life.
Your electrical panel is your home’s lifeline, but it doesn’t last forever. Over time, connections can come loose, or breakers may run hotter than they should. Perhaps you have more than one wire attached to a breaker (otherwise known as a double-tapped breaker), which is illegal in most cases and dangerous under certain circumstances.
And while your system isn’t quite ready to be replaced, it could benefit from a tune-up, which will ultimately increase efficiency and help prevent power surges and hazards, like fires or electrocution.
Make sure your system is up to code.
A licensed professional is up to date on the most recent National Electrical Code® (NEC®). As a homeowner, you may not be aware of all the changes to the code.
For example, are your Smoke and CO2 detectors installed in all the appropriate places? The NEC® takes its guidelines for smoke detectors from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In single-family or multifamily homes, smoke alarms shall be placed inside each sleeping area, outside each sleeping area, and on each level of the dwelling.
Among major changes to code in 2020:
- Surge protection is required for dwelling units.
- Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection is required in all 125-150-volt supplied by single-phase branch circuits.
- Outdoor emergency disconnects are now required for new construction, home renovation, and home service replacement. This is especially important because it helps first responders to respond to emergencies without the threat of electrical harm.
What you need to look for.
The most important part of getting an electrical upgrade is the workmanship and quality of materials used in the process. The experience and know-how of the technicians matched with the best products can ensure that whatever maintenance or repairs you’re having done to your electrical system will be safe and last longer.
Committing to a yearly inspection can save you from costly repairs down the road and provide you with peace of mind. To schedule an electrical inspection or for questions on upgrading your system, contact your local Mister Sparky today.