How to Look

at a House

This is our legacy blog
that is now continued
and updated at

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. What is the life expectancy of a circuit breaker?

  10. What is a split bus electric panel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  17. Where are smoke alarms required to be located?

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

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

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

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

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

  23. Can wiremold be used at an exterior location?

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

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

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

  27. What is an open electrical splice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  38. What could cause an extremely high electric bill?

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

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

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

  42. Why are electrical outlets and plugs polarized?

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

  44. When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  51. What is a “backstab” receptacle outlet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

    It also started a lot of house fires. So a new “Type S” fuse was created. It comes with its own base that locks permanently into the old Edison base and, once in place, only accepts a Type S fuse of the desired amperage rating. So, after a 15-amp Type S fuse is installed, no fuses with a higher rating can replace it.

    But even that was not foolproof. If you look closely at the photo above, of a panel in a 1930s Gainesville house we inspected recently, you can see two green-ringed fuses at the center that are rated for 25-amps. They have the old style “T” base that will accept any fuse rating, and will definitely allow too much current through the wires. The red-ringed fuse at right is a Type S, so that socket will only accept a 20-amp fuse like itself in the future, but the wiring is only rated for 15-amps—so the circuit is over-fused anyway, even with the new safety base.

    Combine that issue with the fact that some older fuse panels are only rated at 60-amp total capacity and most have multiple wires clamped under the too-few fuse lugs, and you can see why insurance companies don’t want to write a policy for an older home with a fuse panel still in place.

    As an old-time country realtor, “Miss Margaret” Hiers, of Chiefland, Florida, used to tell us, “If the house has got them fuses, you’ve got a problem!”

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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