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Buying a Home? Common Electrical Defects Found in Home Inspections

electrical hazards during home inspections

Looking for that dream home in New Jersey? Hire a professional to do an electrical inspection first. Although your future home may look perfect, there may be many hidden defects in the foundation, plumbing, HVAC, and most important of all, the electrical system.

Your home’s electrical system can cause the biggest safety problems, including fire and shock hazards, especially if it wasn’t installed properly to begin with. And even if there was professional installation with no mistakes, electrical components can deteriorate and fail with age and use. Any additional electrical repairs or additions by homeowners and handyman can introduce a whole new set of problems.

It is extremely important that you schedule an independent electrical inspection before signing the papers. And always do you homework first so you know you are hiring a licensed and insured electrical contractor.

In addition to verifying that the electrician is licensed, you’ll also want to ask these questions.

And although we hope you find this list of common electrical defects useful, it should NEVER be used as an alternative to a professional home inspection by a licensed electrician.

Common Electrical Defects Found in Home Inspections

1. Failed Electrical Safety Code and Standards

The National Electrical Code (NEC) is a safety protocol adopted by all 50 states. It frequently gets updated to provide better safety standards for homeowners. Although the NEC addresses many common electrical problems, the most common NEC violations are:

  • Overfilled electrical boxes
  • Missing or broken AFCIs and GFCIs
  • Nongrounded switches, plugs, and outlets
  • Old, frayed, and damaged wiring
  • Mismatched or misused fuse and circuit breakers
  • Permanent use of extension cords
  • Not enough branch circuits and outlets

Make sure the home is up-to-date according to your state and city codes. This is especially important if you are looking at purchasing an older home or a fixer-upper.

2. Electrical Panels

The electrical panel should be easily accessible and wired correctly. In addition to having the proper amount of circuits for the electrical demand of the home, the electrical panel should be wired and labeled correctly.

Loose wires can indicate a loose connection that can spark. It’s required that all wires be secured where they enter the panel.

Old, obsolete panels should be duly noted. Certain electrical panels, such as Federal Pacific and Zinsco, are notorious for their safety hazards. Screw-in fuse panels and knob-and-tube wiring also presents a safety concern. Although these dangerous panels are no longer in circulation, they may be in use in the home you are trying to purchase.

Click here to find out more about Federal Pacific and Zinsco panels.

3. Grounded and Correct Wiring

All wiring should be grounded and in proper working order. One particular case of bad wiring found during many home inspections are ungrounded receptacles. While this isn’t really a mistake, the NEC mandated in 1960 that all receptacles have a third hole for grounding.

Sometimes, receptacles will have the third hole for grounding, but it’s not actually connected to anything. You can test your own receptacles for proper grounding by purchasing a receptacle tester at your local hardware store.

Also, check for aluminum wiring and any electrical damage caused by animals. Frayed wiring and aluminum wiring is a fire waiting to happen. Completely replacing the system or replacing every outlet connection are your best options.

4. Working Switches and Outlets

All switches and outlets should be inspected for proper wiring. Many homeowners decide to install electrical outlets and switches by themselves, not knowing all of the potential pitfalls. There are three wires connected to an outlet: hot, neutral, and ground. If they get confused, you can end up with an open neutral, open ground, false ground, excessive voltage, and much worse.

Make sure your electrical home inspection includes testing of all outlets and switches.

5. Circuit Interrupters – GFCIs and AFCIs 

GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. They are essential safety shut-off devices for outlets that have the risk of getting wet.

AFCI stands for arc fault circuit interrupter. These devices detect any unusual arcing or sparking situations and “interrupts” the electricity before it can cause a fire.

GFCIs protect against electrocution and AFCIs protect against fire. You want to make sure they are installed in all of the required areas. Make sure GFCIs are installed in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garages and outdoor outlets. Any area that could be damp or wet should have working GFCIs.

The NEC recently expanded its code to basically require AFCIs in all rooms of the home. Click here to read about the AFCI requirements in the new 2014 NEC.

Hiring a certified electrical professional to inspect your future home’s electrical wiring will save you from future headaches and unexpected expenses.

If you’re considering having your home’s electrical wiring inspected, make sure you choose a qualified and licensed electrician.

Working with electricity requires training, and a lot of it. Not only do electrical inspectors need initial training and licensing, they also need continuing education to maintain their license. Staying “current” is essential when working in such a dynamic and sometimes dangerous field.

More Electrical Safety Tips


Call the expert electricians at Gold Medal Service for more information on electrical safety and how to protect your family and new home from electrical hazards.

To help keep you safe and save you money, sign up for Gold Medal’s Total Care Club to ensure your electrical system is completely safe and up-to-date.

We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist you with any problem you may have (electrical, plumbingwaterproofingHVAC, and more)

Give us a call today at 1-877-803-0511 or schedule an appointment online!

Our trusted technicians are available to answer any questions you may have.

Stay connected with us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ for more useful electrical, plumbing, and HVAC information and advice for your home.

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