Electrical defects are among the most common and serious issues that home inspectors encounter. They can pose safety hazards, reduce energy efficiency, and damage appliances and equipment. Electrical defects can also be costly to repair, especially if they involve rewiring or replacing electrical panels.
In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common electrical defects that home inspectors find, and how to prevent or fix them.
## Double Tapping of Circuit Breakers
Double tapping is when two or more “hot” wires are connected to one circuit breaker. This can overload the breaker and cause it to trip frequently or fail to trip when needed. Double tapping can also create loose connections that can overheat and spark.
Double tapping is usually a result of DIY wiring or adding circuits without upgrading the electrical panel. It is against the National Electric Code (NEC) and should be corrected by a licensed electrician.
To fix double tapping, an electrician may install additional breakers, replace existing breakers with ones that accept multiple wires, or use approved connectors such as pigtail wires.
## Reversed Polarity
Reversed polarity is when the hot and neutral wires are reversed at an outlet. This can cause shock hazards, damage appliances, and interfere with surge protectors. Reversed polarity can also affect other outlets on the same circuit.
Reversed polarity is often caused by incorrect wiring at the outlet or at the panel. It can be detected by using a small electrical tester that plugs into the outlet and indicates if there is any problem with the wiring.
To fix reversed polarity, an electrician may need to rewire the outlet or trace back the source of the problem at the panel.
## Ungrounded Outlets
Ungrounded outlets are outlets that do not have a ground wire connected to them. Ground wires provide a safe path for excess electricity to flow back to earth in case of a short circuit or power surge. Without grounding, electricity can shock people or start fires.
Ungrounded outlets are common in older homes that were built before grounding was required by code (around 1965). They are usually identified by having only two slots instead of three (although some ungrounded outlets may have been replaced with three-slot ones without proper grounding).
To fix ungrounded outlets, an electrician may need to run new ground wires from each outlet to the panel or install ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets that provide protection against shocks even without grounding.
## Outlets With Paint On Them
Outlets with paint on them may seem like a minor cosmetic issue, but they can actually pose fire risks. Paint can get into the slots of the outlet and create resistance that causes overheating. Paint can also affect the operation of tamper-resistant mechanisms that prevent children from inserting objects into the outlet.
Outlets with paint on them should be replaced with new ones that are clean and free of paint. This is an easy and inexpensive fix that can be done by anyone who knows how to turn off power at the panel and follow basic safety precautions.
## Exposed Wiring and Splices
Exposed wiring and splices are wiring connections that are
not enclosed in an electrical junction box with a cover plate. Junction boxes
protect wiring from physical damage, moisture, dust, insects, rodents, and accidental contact. They also contain any sparks or flames that may occur due to faulty wiring.
Exposed wiring and splices are often found in attics, basements, crawl spaces, garages, closets, or behind walls where they may have been installed by amateurs or left unfinished by contractors.
Exposed wiring and splices should be enclosed in junction boxes with cover plates as soon as possible. This is another relatively simple fix that requires turning off power at the panel and following basic safety precautions.
## No GFCI Protection
GFCI outlets are special outlets that detect any imbalance of current between the hot and neutral wires (such as when electricity flows through a person) and shut off power within milliseconds to prevent shocks. GFCI outlets are required by code in areas where water sources are present such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, garages, outdoors, and basements.
No GFCI protection means that there are no GFCI outlets installed in these areas, or they are not working properly. This can expose people to serious shock hazards especially if they use appliances such as hair dryers, toasters, or power tools near water sources.
Remember, it is always best to hire a licensed electrician if you require work done in your home.