Is your home experiencing electrical issues? Do you know what to look for? Most people are aware that things like frayed wires and flickering lights are a clear warning sign that the electrical system needs attention from a professional. But what are some of the other, less obvious symptoms of potential problems? Here are four situations that every homeowner should be on the lookout for.
If you see exposed wire on a connection, it’s possible to fix it as long as you first turn off the power to the device. After that, simply disconnect the exposed part of the wire after removing the main wire from the terminal. It’s usually easy to spot exposed wiring because a certain amount of bare wire will be protruding from the connector.
If these exposed wires come into contact with anything, they can cause a short or an electrical arc flash. Electrical arc flashes can be 30,000 degrees or hotter and have the potential to start a house fire. Remember, if you’re unsure whether a specific piece of wiring is exposed, or if you aren’t comfortable fixing it, call a professional home inspector. That way, you will know whether the problem is major or minor, and you can hire an electrician if necessary.
Any unusual odors coming from walls or floors, unless clearly caused by standing water or other impurities, can indicate a serious electrical problem. Sometimes short circuits can cause wire coverings to burn slowly and emit odd smells. Call a home inspector or electrician if you notice telltale odors like these.
In many cases, if you get shocked when you turn a lamp or other device on or off, the problem is the device itself. It can also be a sign of bad wiring. If you ever get shocked by a device, have an electrician or home inspector take a look at the situation.
Some homeowners notice wiring that has been joined together with electrical tape. This is a common problem in older homes in which previous owners performed unauthorized and dangerous work instead of calling an electrician. Do the smart thing and have an electrician look at any “tape-joined” wiring you discover in your home.
If you spot any signs of potential electrical problems in your home, don’t hesitate to contact a professional home inspector. Licensed, experienced inspectors know what to look for and can often notice things that are virtually invisible to the untrained eye. There’s no reason to take chances with a home’s electrical safety. When in doubt, check it out. After you check to gather more information, leave the final diagnostic work to a home inspection team. It’s the smart way to take care of your biggest investment.
Are you concerned about the electrical system in your home? Make an appointment with Chicagoland Home Inspectors for a home inspection to set your mind at ease!
If you decorate with wood in your home, you probably love how natural it is. Wood is long-lasting, classic, and beautiful, whether it’s a shiplap wall in your living room or a reclaimed wood table in your dining room. This versatile material is a common and popular choice for many purposes in the home. However, as wonderful as wood is, it needs some special care if it is going to last a long time. If you want your wood to last as long as possible, here are some things that you have to keep in mind.
There are a lot of insects that crave wood. This means that they can deteriorate the wood over time. Carpenter ants will often set up nests in between the walls of a building. Termites like to form colonies within the wood, with some examples of established colonies actually being in the wood of abandoned buildings for generations and having thousands of members. Bark beetles will usually take up residence in a dead tree, but they normally will not damage residential wood. Finally, powderpost beetles will bore into the wood and will destroy it by turning it into dust.
Although there are ways to keep insects at bay, there is no perfect protection for wood that will fix the problem completely. Wood rot will eventually occur to all types of wood. Even fences require regular treatment, despite the fact fences are designed to be outside at all times. There are definitely ways to slow down the decay. Regular maintenance will definitely help the wood to last longer.
The first thing that will happen to your wood would be a deteriorating finish. One of the ways you can prevent this would be through maintaining the finish regularly. There is one main misconception you should be aware of: just because wood is new doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be maintaining it. Once the signs of wear are there, it is going to be much more difficult to restore the wood. This is because wood is often worn down by exposure to human skin. Body oils can break down the wood and turn it dark. Regular staining of even new wood can prevent this from happening.
The gist of this is that you should always maintain your wood and it will be good to you and last much longer. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional inspector who can examine your wood for insect activity or other signs of deterioration.
Inspect the service drop; service entrance conductors, cables and raceways; service equipment and main disconnects; service grounding; interior components of service panels and subpanels; conductors; overcurrent protection devices; a representative number of installed lighting fixtures, switches and receptacles; and ground fault circuit interrupters
The section bolded above means to me that I will remove the dead front of all electrical panels and sub-panels so I can visibly inspect the interior components, conductors, and overcorrect protection devices. When I run into Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) panels I do not remove the dead front of these panels. There are provisions in the Illinois law that allow home inspectors to not comply with the standards if they feel the actions are dangerous. I will say it. I am afraid of these panels. I think they are dangerous. I believe that they should be removed and upgraded to new panels as soon as possible. I believe that if I disturb the panel in any way, I can make something that I already consider bad, worse. I don’t want to damage anyone’s home, or even worse, cause injury or death to someone.
We have all heard stories about breakers falling out and just hanging by the wires when the cover panel is removed. Some inspectors say that this is an old wives tale. Well if it is an old wives tale, then I am the old wife. I am the guy who had these breakers fall out as soon as I took that panel off. My heart stopped, my jaw dropped, and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just leave the breakers hanging like this. I tried to put the breakers back in their proper position and they just kept falling out because they were loose and hardly made contact with the panel. It got to the point where I got the breakers back into position, held them there with my hand, took the panel cover with my other hand, covered the panel with my hand under the cover and then I did a magician’s trick and slid my hand out from under the cover so I can jamb the panel back on to hold the breakers in place with the cover panel. The layout of this panel did not make it easy to accomplish this in one try. I decided that that was one of the dumbest things that I have ever done in my life, and I will never do it again.
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) panels were one of the most common, if not the most common electrical panel sold in the United States from the 50’s through the 80’s. They were inexpensive, UL approved, and many electricians installed them in homes across the country. House fires happen. When they do, it is the job of the fire department to determine the cause and origin of the fire. It started becoming a common occurrence that the point of origin was the electric panel and that electric panel was manufactured by FPE. UL and electrical experts found the flaws in the panels (more specifically the breakers) and removed the UL listing. There was no mandated order to remove any existing FPE panel. I still run into these stab-loc panels today. I firmly believe that even though these have been working for at least 40 years without any signs of any damage to the panel or the home, they are still dangerous and should be removed.
A New Jersey Court found that FPE violated the Consumer Fraud Act because FPE knowingly and purposefully distributed circuit breakers which were not tested to meet UL standards. Kudos are given to Dan Friedman, a home inspector in New York, for the amount of research he has done on this subject and many other subjects (To see the Class Action Settlement Notice issued for New Jersey Residents, click here).
So yes I (and everyone from our company) will recommend that these panels be removed and replaced by a professional electrician. There is no need to go into a panel when I already feel the panel is unsafe because this company committed consumer fraud and did not test their breakers to meet the minimum safety standards of Underwriters Laboratories.
Charles is a home inspector and a home inspector trainer. He started as a professional home inspector in 1993. He works for Chicagoland Home Inspectors, Inc. and Bellman Group, Inc. He has earned the title of Certified Master Inspector (CMI) from the Master Inspector Certification Board. He earned the title Certified Property Inspector (CPI) from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. He earned the title ASHI Certified Inspector (ACI) from the American Society of Home Inspectors. He served as a Director and Officer of the American Society of Home Inspectors. He hs a tremendous passion about the home inspection profession and prides himself on helping his clients with the biggest purchase of their lives.