As a Seattle Home Inspector I get to look in LOTS of electrical panels.
In these panels there is no shortage of blog fodder, and while it is fun to share a lot of the defects I find, I came across a panel a while back that was so pristine that it sort of a “rose” among the “weeds” I get to see so often. I found this panel in a brand new home and I am sure that when someone opens it in 30 years they will be as impressed as I was—unless Bubba gets his hands on it first. It was a work of art—-showing that there are indeed still trade-persons that care about what they are doing. This electrician was more of a “Buddha” than a “Bubba”. While I find that most electricians do a pretty good job with the initial installation(as a profession they seem to be a fairly anal bunch). It is subsequent additions to the panel that usually violate the original electricians work—including spraying the interior of panel with paint.
Before I show you a picture of the really nice electrical panel, I want to show you one that had been changed very little since it was installed and yet does not show the level of care and professionalism that the newer one does. Inspectors can scratch their heads for quite a while trying to sort out a mess like this. We will be expecting to find lots of other issues besides the visual “chaos”—-whether there are any defects or not. I once had a Jurisdictional Electrical Inspector tell me that “neatness” counts for a lot—they know they don’t have to check very hard if the work is neat/orderly.
The following list represents some of the things home inspectors are commonly interested in while inspecting the electrical panel:
1. Incoming wire size
2. Panel amperage rating (size)
3. Size of Main Breaker
4. Split-Bus type panel
5. Type of wires—aluminum or copper
6. Multi-wire circuits improperly wired
7. Anti-oxidant paste on aluminum wire connections
8. Wire size/breaker size not proper
9. Panel Bonding
10. Re-identified conductors
11. Missing handle ties
12. Damaged wires
13. Bare wires (ones that shouldn’t be)
14. Double taps on breakers
15. Double taped neutrals
16. Double taped neutrals and grounds
17. Breaker types that don’t match panel type
18. Missing knock-outs
19. Rusting/Corroding components/connections
20. Loose connections
21. Missing connectors where wires enter box
22. Arcing conditions
23. Over-fused wires
24. Breakers turned off
25. Breakers “tripped” off
26. Low voltage transformers inside panel
27. Missing lock-out devices
28. Debris in panel
29. Inside of panel painted
30. Vermin entry
31. Water intrusion
I think you get the picture of why when the panel is a mess, it makes our job very difficult—-sometimes impossible. Then we have to defer the whole mess to a licensed electrical contractor.
Here is a picture of the “Buddha Award” winner:
Now while both panels had defects—-which would you rather have to inspect. Which would you rather bow down in front of?
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