Blog 2 Why GetOne of the most important areas of which homeowners should be aware is the electrical system. If there is bad plumbing, there might be a little leak. But if there is bad wiring, there might be a little fire or shock, and they may not be just little ones.

I opened an electrical panel once and found that the conductors connected to four separate breakers were melted. The insulation was burnt right off. What caused that? How much will it cost to repair? The Standards of Practice of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI – BC) state that we must recommend further evaluation on any conditions which we cannot fully evaluate in the course of a professional home inspection.

This is similar to the medical practice. If you go to a doctor for a checkup and he finds something wrong with your heart, what does he do? He sends you to a cardiologist for further tests and evaluation, to determine the corrective options. In the case of that electrical panel, I had to do the same thing. The solution may cost as little as $100.00 to replace four breakers. However it could cost as much as $20,000.00 to re-wire the whole house. This is something you definitely would want to know BEFORE purchasing a house. You would not know about this problem without a home inspection.

Another potential electrical hazard besides a fire is the potential to get a shock. In fact this deficiency could even lead to a fatality if the conditions are serious enough. I once found a home where someone (likely a home owner) wanted to install a garburator on the sink. The conductor going to it was non-metallic sheathed cable (NMS). Current standards require the wire to be protected from possible physical damage. This means that armoured cable (Bx) should have been used. If a child innocently uses a pair of scissors to try to cut that wire, there could be a severe shock could occur.

The installer of this garburator then ran the wiring on the outside of the house all the way to the electrical panel. This wiring was also exposed. The proper service for exterior use is either rubber-sheathed armoured cable (Tech cable) or wire placed inside conduit. When the installer reached the electrical panel, he found that it was full. There were no more breaker slots remaining which he could use for the wire. So the installer inserted (tapped) the wire into the MAIN DISCONNECT breaker.

In this case, as is usual, there was a 100 ampere breaker in the house. That means there were 100 amps of power going to a fixture which was attached to the kitchen sink! Most people know that water and electricity are a bad combination. Any kind of short circuit would have energized the sink and faucets with 100 amps of power. I did not even touch the sink or fixtures in my inspection. I notified the seller of this potentially fatal situation for his safety. He did not even know about it. He had purchased the house nine months previously, without having a home inspection performed. He stated in the Disclosure Statement that, to his knowledge, there was nothing wrong with the electrical system.

Of course, he had all the wiring corrected immediately for his own safety. So this major problem was not present when the purchasers moved in. As in buying a car (e.g. transmission), the most important items are not readily seen.   An inspection of the electrical system in a house can prevent a serious injury or even death.

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