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The How, When, and Why of Your Next Electrical Inspection

If an electrical inspection isn’t on your list, you might want to find out why it should be. The reasons for an electrical inspection can be when buying a new-to-you home or on an annual basis.

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:

  1. Surge protection is required for dwelling units.
  2. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection is required in all 125-150-volt supplied by single-phase branch circuits.
  3. 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.

The When of Home Electrical Inspections

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is good advice… sometimes. And when it comes to your home’s electrical system, you can leave well enough alone more often than not. But there are also certain circumstances in which it makes sense to schedule a thorough electrical inspection.

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 getting 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.

New-to-You Home Buyers

When you're in the market for a new house, every little detail counts. If you overlook an important flaw, you could be in for major repair or overhaul bills in your would-be dream home. Fortunately, you can avoid unexpected costs with some savvy when it comes to choosing your home inspector. Your house is likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make, so it's worth paying for a quality inspector to ensure that a home's systems are in good shape before committing to buy.

An Expensive Proposition

Even when a house's interior and exterior look great, there could be problems lurking within the walls. The HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems are invisible to the average consumer, but they play an essential role in your quality of living – not to mention your pocketbook.

There could be problems with sewer lines, decaying ducts or outdated electrical products like knob-and-tube wiring – issues that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to remedy. A home inspector is your best friend when it comes to rooting out these hidden costs.

Insist on the Best

You don't want to rely on just anyone when it comes to something this important, so follow these tips to make sure you get the most from your home inspector:

  • Most real estate agents will recommend an inspector, but it's worth your while to do your own research. The agent has a financial interest in the sale going through, so your own inspector might be more forthright with you about major problems.
  • Check out online reviews like Angie's List to verify that the inspector you choose has a good reputation. Membership in the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors is also a good sign.
  • Ask how long your inspector has been in the business. Experience in other contracting areas is helpful, but home inspection requires specific skills and knowledge.
  • If the inspector points out a red flag in one of your home's systems, don't hesitate to hire a specialist -- like a plumber or electrician -- to confirm the findings and give a more precise estimate of what it would cost to address the problem.
  • Check the insurance. A good inspector has coverage for “errors and omissions” so you aren't left hanging if they make a mistake.
  • Have the inspector lead you on a tour to show you what he or she found and explain any trouble areas.
  • Get everything in writing. Make sure your inspector documents each step of the process, and get a copy of the paperwork so you have a record in case any issues come up down the road. Photographs of the home's condition are important as well.

To Buy or Not to Buy

When an inspection turns up major problems, you can bring them to the seller and ask them to do the repair work, or at least cover part of the cost. Or, if an issue is serious enough, you could walk away from the sale altogether.

Once you take the plunge and make the purchase, don't forget to call an expert home services professional to make follow-up inspections every few years so you can spot any future problems before they develop. For more information, call Mister Sparky today or request an appointment herehttps://www.mistersparky.com/request-appointment/.

When Your Homeowners Insurance Company Requires It

Depending on your insurance company and policy, you may need to submit to periodic inspections of your electrical system and other home systems. If this is the case, you will probably also be required to promptly fix any problems that are discovered or risk having your policy canceled.

Scheduling an electrical inspection isn’t a big deal, but the repairs and upgrades that can come out of it could save your home. If any of these circumstances apply to your home, call your local Mister Sparky today and schedule an inspection right away.

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