There’s also a third way that a home’s wiring can start a fire: arcing of wires running inside the walls, through the attic, or in the cords from receptacles to appliances or lamps, when they have become frayed or punctured, or the insulation has deteriorated or worn away. This potential fire-starter is prevented in newer homes by AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) circuit breakers in the electric panel. They have been required for circuits to bedroom receptacles since 2002 and, more recently, for virtually all home receptacle circuits. To learn more about AFCI-breakers, go to our blog “Why do some breakers in my electric panel have a ‘TEST’ button on them?”


  1. More Blog Posts About Electric Panels and Distribution:

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

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

  4. What are the most common homeowner wiring mistakes?

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

  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 the right electric wire size for a home?

  9. What is a double tap at a circuit breaker?

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

  11. How dangerous is old electrical wiring?

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

  13. What is a three-way switch?

  14. Is an ungrounded receptacle/outlet dangerous?

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

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

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

  18. How far apart should the electrical receptacles be placed?

  19. What is a split bus electric panel?

  20. What is reversed polarity at an outlet/receptacle? Why is it dangerous?

  21. Why does the bedroom have a light switch but there is no light in the ceiling?

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

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

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

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

  26. How far apart should electric receptacle outlets be placed in a garage?

  27. What is a lock device on a circuit breaker for?

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

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

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

  31. Can wiremold be used at an exterior location?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  40. What is a Dual Function Circuit Interrupter (DFCI)?

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

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

  43. Can an electric panel be located over stairs?

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

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

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

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

  48. What could cause an extremely high electric bill?

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

  50. Why are extension cords dangerous?

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

  52. What happens when you press the “TEST” button on a circuit breaker in an electric panel?

  53. How many electric receptacles (outlets) are required in a hallway?

  54. Why are electrical outlets and plugs polarized?

  55. Why does painting an electric receptacle (outlet) make it unsafe?

  56. When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

  57. What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers?

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

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

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

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

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

  63. What is a “backstab” receptacle outlet?

  64. What electrical hazards does a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) not protect against?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  71. What is the building code requirement for receptacle outlets at stairs and stair landings?

  72. Can a home surge protector be installed loose in the bottom of an electric panel box?

  73. Can a bare bulb “lampholder” light fixture be installed outdoors?

  74. When did arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers first become required?

  75. What is the difference between an electrical receptacle, an outlet, and a plug?

  76. Should I buy a house near a high-voltage power line?

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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.

   The repair is usually as simple as putting a cover on the box. However, sometimes the cover plate is missing because there are too many wire connections sticking out the box and they cannot be safely pushed inside and a cover plate secured in place. In this case a larger box may be necessary. Also, each size box is rated for a certain number of connections of specific sizes of wiring, and the box may require replacement because the wire connections exceed the rating for the box.

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.
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