Buying a New Home – Electrical Inspection Tips
- Jun 04, 2017
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Buying a new home is a truly exciting experience. However, the life-changing prospect of moving into a new home makes it easier to overlook important elements that could affect your quality of life later on. Of these, electrical inspection may be one of the most critical.
Hire a Third-Party Contractor
Depending on the area in which you are purchasing a home, the seller may be obliged to provide you with an electrical inspection report. This report is important, as it will become the focus of any potential future disagreements that you and your seller may have if the electrical grid turns out to not function as advertised.
However, even if a seller is obliged to provide you with an electrical inspection report, a third-party contractor offers you a better chance to protect your best interests. For this reason, we encourage you to hire a professional contractor for the inspection. This eliminates the chance for conflicts of interest.
Important Electrical Elements for New Homes
Beyond verifying that the electrical system adheres to the National Electrical Code, your contractor should also verify a few important elements of the new home.
Your home's electrical panel should be clean, well-organized, and outfitted with new-looking circuit breakers. If the home's electrical system is outfitted with fuses or old knob-style breakers, there is a good chance that the panel – and the home grid itself – are too old to be relied upon for very long.
Make sure that the power outlets inside the home are all grounded three-prong outlets. Two-prong outlets are safe when used in conjunction with two-prong power cables, but modern electrical systems use the three-prong outlet as a standard.
All outdoor power outlets should be of the Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter (GFCI) variety. These power outlets have a built-in safety mechanism that shuts off power when short circuits occur, such as due to exposure to water. Exterior outlets need to have this feature in order to remain safe during heavy rains.
Kitchen and Bathroom Outlets
For the same reason as exterior outlets, all kitchen and bathroom power outlets should be GFCI outlets. The presence of water in these environments makes them riskier than most other rooms in the house.
Make sure that the home is wired with reliable materials. Copper is a popular option that generally lasts long enough to represent value to new homeowners, but aluminum should be replaced. Aluminum has a higher rate of thermal expansion, which means that heat can make it expand, come loose, and create unsafe electrical conditions.
Inside your home's electrical panel, the breaker amperage should always match the amperage of the wire. You may find that previous owners (or unlicensed electricians) have connected 20-gauge circuit breakers to 14-gauge wires without knowing it. In this case, the breaker should be replaced with a 15-gauge model.
Electrical Issues are Deal Breakers
If your third-party contractor uncovers issues with your home's electrical system, you should consider them deal breakers. Unsafe electrical conditions can cause electrical fires, which will put your home, your possessions, and the safety of your family in jeopardy. Hold off on any further negotiations purchase until your electrical contractor certifies the home adheres to local and national electrical standards.