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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.

How to Look

at a House


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

  1. 2)Although a GFCI is required to trip within 25 milliseconds, it does not reduce the magnitude of the current. You will still receive a shock for the brief time that it takes for it to shut off the circuit.

  2. 3)A GFCI receptacle does not provide protection against too much current flowing through the wires. This is called over-current protection and is provided by a circuit breaker in the electric panel. But GFCI circuit breakers in the electric panel provide both ground fault and over-current protection for the circuits they serve.

  3. 4)It does not protect against what is called a “solid short,” where all the current is diverted from its intended route. This could occur between a hot and neutral wire or between two hot wires in a 240-volt circuit. Protection for this problem is provided by circuit breakers.

  4. 5)A GFCI does not recognize arc faults, that are typically caused by frayed appliance and extension cords. The hot sparks created by an arc fault have caused numerous house fires. Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) have been required as part of circuit breakers serving bedrooms for many years, and the requirement has been expanded to most household circuits recently.

    None of this is intended to take away from the value of GFCIs for home electrical safety. It’s just that there’s some things they do, and some things they don’t.


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


More blogs about electrical service and distribution:

  1. What is the best emergency back-up generator for the power outage after a storm?

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

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

  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 the life expectancy of a circuit breaker?

  9. How dangerous is old electrical wiring?

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

  11. Why does the electric company want my house electric system inspected before turning the power back on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  22. Can wiremold be used at an exterior location?

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

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

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

  26. Why is an old fuse panel dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  34. Can an electric panel be located over stairs?

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

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

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

  38. Why are extension cords dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

  44. Why are old electrical systems not always “grandfathered” as acceptable by home inspectors?

  45. Why do the lights dim when the air conditioner turns on?

  46. Where are GFCI receptacle outlets required?

  47. When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

  48. What is the height requirement for an electric receptacle outlet?

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

  50. Why is undersize wiring in a house dangerous?

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

  52. What is a “backstab” receptacle outlet?

  53. Why do some wires in an electric pane have tape wrapped around them near their connections?

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

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

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

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

  58. Can a washer or dryer be located in front of an electric panel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  67. What are “self-contained” electrical receptacles and switches?

  68. When should I replace electric receptacle outlets?

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

  70. Why is it unsafe to bond neutral and ground wiring at subpanels?

  71. Are wall light switches required to be “up” for “on” and “down” for “off”?

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

  73. Is it alright to just put wire nuts on the end of unused or abandoned NM-cable or wiring?

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