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Electrical Check-Up Can Payoff
Almost 90 percent of prospective homebuyers contract with a home inspection service to give their new homes a once-over. Having a disinterested third party examine the roof, foundation, plumbing, heating and electrical systems can help you avoid unpleasant surprises in the future. Most home shoppers may not think of conducting a separate and comprehensive electrical inspection, but the nonprofit Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) says it’s an idea well worth considering.

When to Get an Electrical Inspection

According to the ESFI, an electrical inspection before purchase is especially important when a home was built 40 or more years ago, if there has been a major renovation in the last ten years, or if you are planning a remodel or an upgrade to your electrical service. In addition to normal wear and tear, older homes may be equipped with outdated knob-and-tube wiring systems that can’t support the multitude of electrical appliances and devices common today. A shortage of copper during the Vietnam era lead to a proliferation of aluminum wiring in new home construction that is substandard and should be replaced. Homeowner remodels or handyman improvements are often done with inferior materials and aren’t up to code. An electrical inspection can save you money in the long run and give you peace of mind.

Why an Electrical Inspection Makes Sense

Safety - Once considered a miracle of modern technology, electrical service is now so commonplace that most of us rarely give it a second thought. Electricity is a powerful force that provides great benefits when properly harnessed, but faulty wiring, overloaded circuits and other electrical problems can have devastating effects. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) states that there are approximately 26,100 residential electrical fires causing one billion dollars in damage in any given year. Fully one-half of all home fires are caused by electrical service malfunction, faulty or inadequate wiring, or improperly used extension cords or appliances. Perhaps the most tragic of all disasters, fire consumes everything in its path and results in total destruction.

Insurance - Especially if you own or are planning to purchase an older home, you may be surprised to find your insurance company requesting an electrical inspection before they agree to carry your policy. Even if your insurance carrier doesn’t specifically require an inspection, the inspector’s report will give you bargaining power when negotiating your rate and may help you lower your insurance premiums.

Electrical Inspection Basics

During your electrical inspection, you can expect the electrician to examine the following for defects, necessary upgrades, faulty equipment or wear and tear:
  • Wiring from the utility service to the home and outbuildings.
  • All interior and exterior wiring.
  • All outlets, sockets and switches.
  • Circuit breakers and breaker and fuse boxes.
  • Hard-wired appliances, lighting and upgrades such as fans, pools and spas.
  • Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in bathrooms, kitchens and outdoor outlets and applications.
  • Federal and state required labeling and notices.

In addition, the inspector will also look for loose or improperly wired connections, frayed wires and missing grounds.

Electricity makes life better, but it can also be dangerous. The USFA recommends that you immediately unplug, dispose of and replace any tool or appliance that overheats, smokes or throws sparks, even if it does so only occasionally. Call a certified electrician in the event of the following:
  • Loose, sparking or dead outlets.
  • Switch plates that are hot to the touch.
  • Flickering or intermittent light after bulbs are changed.
Other recommendations include:
  • Limit the use of and lightly load extension cords.
  • Keep space heaters away from curtains and bedding.
  • Test the batteries in your smoke detectors monthly and replace if necessary.