How to Look

at a House

A blog with answers
to your questions about

More blog posts about electric service and distribution:

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

  2. How can I tell if the electric outlets are grounded?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  9. How dangerous is old electrical wiring?

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

  11. What is knob-and-tube wiring?

  12. What are the most common homeowner wiring mistakes?

  13. What is a split bus electric panel?

  14. What is the right electric wire size for a home?

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

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

  17. Is a bare bulb light in a closet alright?

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

  19. My bathroom electric receptacle/outlet is dead, and there is no tripped breaker in the electric panel. What’s wrong?

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

  21. What is an “open junction box”?

  22. Is an ungrounded receptacle/outlet dangerous?

  23. Where are smoke alarms required to be located?

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

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

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

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

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

  29. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s home?

  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 is an open electrical splice?

  37. Why is an old fuse panel dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  49. What is the color code for NM cable (Romex®) sheathing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  57. Can you add circuit breakers by different manufacturers to an electric panel if they fit?

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

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.

   Replacement low voltage switches are still made and you can visit the Kyle Switch Plates website at for more information. They will also help you identify which manufacturer’s product you have. At some point, as components of a 50+ year-old low voltage switch system begin failing more often, a homeowner has to decide whether to keep buying pricey replacement parts or write a one-time much bigger check to rewire with standard modern switches. You cannot simply change out the switches and run 120-volts through the old #22 wires.

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.
©2015 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection.

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