We offer complimentary safety inspections with every service call. They are done after your service is complete, taking approximately 15 minutes, and for no additional charge. The points on the inspection are based on the current guidelines in the National Electrical Code, as well as common-sense pointers from our master electricians (with close to 70 years combined experience).
Safety is our top concern when servicing your home. As codes and local ordinances change, we will help you keep updated on what the requirements are to ensure you are up-to-date.
We look at 11 different items during the inspection based on a checklist. If an item fails our check, we will note it and let you know what can be done to bring that item to code. In some cases, we can even give you a ballpark figure on what it will cost to fix it. You will receive a copy of your inspection once it is done. If something is particularly hazardous and requires immediate attention, we will advise you. (We have a much more advanced inspection we could perform, but it is an all-day undertaking. Ask us if you’d like us to quote you an inspection like this. Please remember that we cannot see through walls, as much as we try.)
You can also use this checklist in conjunction with a home inspection report to give you a more thorough look at your electrical situation. Keep in mind that some home inspections may mention items not on our list. Certain points may be “grandfathered rules,” meaning that even though the code is changed now, the installation at-the-time was to-code, is still technically safe, and repair/replacement may not be necessary under certain conditions. Feel free to check with us, as each situation is unique.
The Points Covered:
TEST ALL GFCIs.
A GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) is a special type of outlet used in areas that can come in contact with moisture. They are very sensitive to changes in current, tripping in approximately 5 milliseconds, up to 5 milliamps, and are there for protection against electric shock. They look like a regular 3-prong outlet, with the exception of 2 buttons on the outlet, TEST and RESET.
GFCIs IN PROPER LOCATIONS (click image to see larger version)
GFCIs are installed in any area that can come in contact with water or moisture. The places they are required are: kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages, and exterior outlets (exterior requires an in-use cover).
TEST SMOKE ALARMS.
Smoke alarms are essential to safety, and if they are not working properly they can blink continually, chirp, go off on a false positive, or not work at all. Most of the older smoke detectors are battery-powered, so you may simply need to change out a battery if it isn’t working. However if battery changes don’t solve the problem, or you have to change them more than once per year, you may need to replace them with newer ones. We recommend hard-wired smoke detectors and CO (carbon monoxide) detectors with battery backups; if the power in your home fails for any reason, your detectors will still work.
SMOKE ALARMS IN PROPER LOCATIONS. (click image to see larger version)
Per code, smoke alarms are required in each hallway connected to bedroom areas, and in each bedroom. This goes for each floor of your home. They must also be hardwired into your electrical system and interconnected with each other. This means that having a few battery-powered units throughout the house is not sufficient. When smoke alarms are interconnected, if one alarm trips, the others will trip with it. As mentioned above, we suggest hardwired smoke detectors with battery backups; during fires, the electricity will often be knocked out before any sign of a fire is detected, especially if the fire begins on the outside of the home. When they have the battery backup, they will still go off when they detect the smoke, even if the power is off – the hardwired connection will ensure that they all go off as designed.
MAIN ELECTRICAL PANEL.
When we look inside your main service panel (the one located outside next to your electrical utility meter), we will be checking several things – signs of overheating (like warped or melted insulation), double-lugging (multiple circuits wired into one breaker), loose connections at terminals, proper grounding, and the general overall condition of the panel. We will also note the brand of panel you have, as some panel brands are discontinued for safety reasons and should be replaced.
(DID YOU KNOW? Often when a new house is painted, the panel is not properly sealed off, allowing paint to get into the inner workings of the panel. The paint acts as an insulator, and can lead to overheating. Learn more about your service panel here.)
If there are additional breaker boxes in your home, like in the garage or hall, those are called “subpanels.” We will check for the same types of issues as the main panel, and we will also make sure they are in the correct location. For example, NEC code states that subpanels cannot be placed inside closets due to accessibility issues. We will let you know if something like this needs to be addressed.
IS THERE A SURGE PROTECTOR INSTALLED?
We highly recommend installing a whole-house surge protector on your main panel. This blog explains what they do and why they’re important. They are not required by code, but we believe they are an important investment in your home’s electrical safety. (NOTE: We CAN install them on subpanels, and the manufacturer will still honor the material warranty, but only those circuits on the subpanel will be protected. It will not protect the whole house unless it is installed on the main panel. We can also install specialty surge protectors on cable, Ethernet and phone lines.)
ELECTRIC WATER HEATER DISCONNECT.
A “disconnect” is a device that turns off the power at a major service location or heavy appliance unit as a safety measure, separate from the circuit breaker at the panel. It’s meant as protection for someone that may need to work on the unit itself. If there is no disconnect, the circuit breaker will have to be turned off at the panel, which puts them at risk of the breaker being flipped back on by an out-of-sight third party. (NOTE: If your water heater is gas-powered, there will not be an electrical disconnect.)
A/C CONDENSER WIRING, AIR HANDLER AND DISCONNECT.
The wiring for the A/C unit must (1) have a disconnect as described above, (2) must be properly strapped or secured so it will not be disturbed by the elements or left hanging mid-air for an extended distance, and (3) wires must be in the proper casing. On older A/C units, the wires are encased in Greenfield, otherwise known as “flex.” This aluminum tubing is prone to breakage and corrosion, leading to exposed wires and potential shorts. According to recent code, Greenfield flex is no longer approved for external use (interior is OK). It is now recommended to be changed to a material called flexible non-metallic conduit (FNMC), which is much more flexible, sturdy and weatherproof.
Many of the same requirements apply to pool equipment as A/C units and panels – proper wiring/casing, proper grounding, disconnect, etc.
MISCELLANEOUS WIRING CHECK.
We will look in other areas there may be common wiring problems, such as attics, basements, garages and side/back houses. Things to be aware of are: corrosion, exposure, rodent damage, properly set junction boxes, proper terminations where needed and overheating risks.