More Blog Posts on Similar Subjects:

  1. How come my generator hookup got tagged as defective by the home inspector?

  2. What is the life expectancy of a circuit breaker?

  3. Is the electric panel big enough for this house?

  4. What are the most common homeowner wiring mistakes?

  5. How do the new tamper-resistant electric receptacles work?

  6. The electric panel is marked “Trilliant” and it’s all grey plastic. Is it alright?

  7. Why do you pay so much attention to electrical safety?

  8. What is a ground wire?

  9. Why does that wall plug have push-buttons in the middle?

  10. My circuit breaker won’t reset. What’s wrong?

  11. What is a split bus electric panel?

  12. Can an electric panel be mounted sideways-horizontally?

  13. Does this place have one of those “bad” electric panels I’ve heard about?

  14. I heard that aluminum wiring is bad. Do you check for it?

  15. What is a “missing twistout” at an electric panel?

  16. What is an “open junction box”?

  17. How far apart should kitchen counter receptacles be placed?

  18. How can I figure out what a mystery wall switch does?

  19. What is the switch on the wall with only two pushbuttons for?

  20. What are those strange looking wall switches in houses from the 1950s and 1960s?

  21. Why is the circuit breaker stuck in the middle?

  22. Will the electric company remove branches rubbing against the overhead service lines to my home?

  23. Can multiple neutral or ground wires be secured under the same terminal in an electric panel?

  24. Why are Zinsco and Sylvania-Zinsco electric panels a problem?

  25. What is the life expectancy of electrical wiring in a house?

  26. How can adding wood paneling or a wainscot create an electrical safety hazard?

  27. What is a false ground, bootleg ground, or cheated ground receptacle?

  28. What are the most common electrical defects found in a home inspection?

  29. What is an open electrical splice?

  30. Why is an old fuse panel dangerous?

  31. What does it mean when a wire is “overstripped” at a circuit breaker?

  32. What is the difference between “grounded” and “grounding” electrical conductors?

  33. What is the difference between a Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFCI) and an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit breaker?

  34. How can I tell if a receptacle/outlet is tamper resistant?

  35. Will a GFCI receptacle that is not grounded still function properly?

  36. Does a home inspector remove the electric panel cover plate and examine the inside of the panel?

  37. Can an electric panel be located over stairs?

  38. Is a house required to have outdoor electric receptacles?

  39. What are the code requirements for NM-cable (nonmetallic-sheathed cable or Romex®) in an attic?

  40. How can I change a 240V circuit to a 120V circuit?

  41. Can old electrical wiring go bad inside a wall?

  42. How do I trace and identify each circuit breaker in my electric panel to make a circuit directory?

  43. What problems does having too many electrical outlets on a single circuit cause?

  44. How can I find out the size of the electric service to a house?

  45. Why are old electric components not always “grandfathered” as acceptable by home inspectors?

  46. When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

  47. What causes flickering or blinking lights in a house?

  48. Why is bundled wiring in an electric panel a defect?

  49. Why are some electric receptacles/outlets upside down (ground slot up) in a house?

  50. Why is undersize electric wiring in a house dangerous?

  51. Why is a fuse box an insurance problem for homebuyers?

  52. What is a “backstab” receptacle outlet?

  53. What are the right words for talking about a house electrical system?

  54. What does “listed” and “labeled” mean for an electrical component?

  55. What does it mean when I find buried yellow "CAUTION" tape when digging a hole in the yard?

  56. How far away should a sink be from an electric panel?

  57. What are the requirements for NM-cables entering an electric panel box?

  58. How can I tell if the electrical service is 3 phase or single phase?

How to Look

at a House


A blog with answers
to your questions about
HOME INSPECTION
and HOME MAINTENANCE

Welcome to our blog!
We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

body to a wet area connected to the ground or grounded material. Most GFCI-protection in a home is provided by wall receptacles with two buttons marked “TEST” AND “RESET” on them. But for an appliance such as a jacuzzi tub, where the receptacle that it’s plugged into is deep in a compartment under the tub, placing the GFCI-protection in the panel provides an easier way to test and/or reset the GFCI-protection. Also, older pre-1980 homes often have GFCI-breakers in the panel because the wall GFCI’s were not readily available when the home was built.

   The AFCI circuit breaker is an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter. It trips the circuit when arcing, commonly called sparking, is detected anywhere in the wiring. The arcing can occur in series (between one side of a frayed/broken piece of wire and the other) or parallel (between one frayed/broken piece of wire and an adjacent one).
   Building codes began requiring an AFCI-breaker for circuits that serve wall receptacles in bedrooms in 2000, in response to research by the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission) indicating that 40,000 fires each year result from home electrical wiring, and arcing faults are one of the major causes. When arcing occurs, it generates high temperatures that can ignite nearby combustibles such as wood, paper, and carpet.

   The requirement was upgraded in 2008 to include breakers for most wall receptacles in new home construction and a new type of AFCI-breaker is now the standard. It is called a combination-AFCI or CAFCI, and recognizes both series and parallel arcing, whereas the older AFCIs only tripped for series arcs.

   Because the markings that indicate whether a breaker with a test button is GFCI or AFCI are often on a part of the breaker that is concealed by the cover plate (called a “deadfront” by electricians), sometimes it’s difficult to determine which type breaker you are looking at without removing the cover plate. But if it is serving bathroom, kitchen, garage, laundry room, or exterior receptacles—essentially any wet area—then it will be a GFCI.


While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
© McGarry and Madsen Inspection.

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