How to Look

at a House


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


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 is a split bus electric panel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  20. What is an “open junction box”?

  21. Is an ungrounded receptacle/outlet dangerous?

  22. Where are smoke alarms required to be located?

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

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

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

  26. What is the lock device on a circuit breaker for?

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

  28. Can wiremold be used at an exterior location?

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

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

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

  32. What is an open electrical splice?

  33. Why is an old fuse panel dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  45. What could cause an extremely high electric bill?

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

  47. Why are extension cords dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

  53. When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

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

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

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

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

  58. What is a “backstab” receptacle outlet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  67. When should I replace electric receptacle outlets?

  68. What is a “while-in-use” weatherproof electrical receptacle outlet cover?

  69. What causes copper wires to turn green or black in an electric panel?

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 only exception to the “one wire per terminal” rule is that up to three ground wires can be secured at one terminal. This is likely because ground wires are intended for only temporary use and, if a ground wire becomes energized, a breaker should trip shortly afterwards.

    Also, neutral and ground wires can be terminated along the same bus bar in a main service panel (the first panel after the meter), but they must be on separate bus bars in any subpanels, with neutral bus bar isolated (not bonded).

   To learn how to recognize other wiring defects, see our blog “What are the most common homeowner wiring mistakes?”


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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