Home inspectors love to argue about deferring things for “further evaluation” in their reports.
I don’t have much of a problem calling for further evaluation on issues when it is done in the context of getting some defect repaired—where in the report I have described the defect, described the implications of that defect and then recommended who should evaluate and repair the defect—-including when.
This is considerably different than the type of reporting where it merely states: “Electrical panel appears to be wired improperly—recommend further evaluation by electrician.
I had an interesting electrical panel at an inspection the other day that adds an interesting layer to this discussion. When inspecting the panel—a sub-panel in a Condo building—I noted that the data plate stated a rating of “125 amps.” I made a mental note earlier, when inspecting the meter location that the main disconnect was rated at “150 amps” and was expecting to find a panel in the unit rated for at least 150 amps. For them to be different is actually quite unusual for commercial level wiring.
I started to notice other inconsistencies within the electrical panel.
According to the data plate there should only be “mini-breakers” at the bottom four slots in the panel. This is not unusual—I see the rules for the locations of these half-height breakers violated all the time.
Also the cover had a label between the upper breakers that said, “SERVICE DISCONNECT.”
This labeling is consistent with the panel being a “split bus” type panel—where one of the upper breakers is going to be the disconnect for a block of lower breakers. Now while there would be no inherent issue with having a service disconnect in the unit as well as at the meters, in this panel there was actually no such breaker controlling a lower block of breakers and even if there was, there would be more than 6 throws to disconnect all the power in the panel. (For more information on split bus panels see: SPLIT BUS PANELS)
So in the end, we have a panel that likely no inspector would be able to provide all the information necessary. Even determining the “implications” of the installation is complicated by the various possibilities. Further evaluation and repairs will be necessary by the licensed electrical contractor. Since the size of the wire run to the panel is adequate for the breaker in the Meter panel, it is entirely possible that this panel is properly wired, that mini-breakers are allowed where they are presently installed, that the panel is rated for the wire size and main disconnect size and that we merely have the wrong cover installed.
Whatever the “truth” is, the cost of repairs could be very different—hence the need for further evaluation and repairs by the licensed electrical contractor. Telling whatever parts of the story that can be told is important in educating the buyer and enables them to have an intelligent conversation with the seller, the agents and the electrician.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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