Make Sure Your Home’s Electrical System is in Shape

Make Sure Your Home’s Electrical System is in Shape

When it comes to responsible homeownership, the list of areas that need regular maintenance and inspection is long. While electrical systems aren’t on many people’s semi- or even annual to-do list, it’s important to remember this crucial component of every home. Some issues are more urgent than others. For example, this blog post by a California electrician, calls attention to the fact that some electrical panels present serious dangers. If your home was built before 1990, and in Northern Virginia, the chances are pretty high that that’s the case, then you should immediately check your panel to make sure you don’t have a safety hazard hiding in plain sight. Here are some reasons to have your electrical systems inspected.

1) Older panels

The post shares that panels made by Zinsco (GTE Sylvania), Federal Pacific Electric (FPE), Challenger (Eaton/Cutler Hammer) and Pushmatic were all subject to recalls for safety issues. In addition, other electricians have pointed out that electrical panels known as “split-bus” are outdated by over 40 years, which means they are past their expected life-span and wouldn’t pass code if installed today. Another old time panel is a “fuse box” which uses fuses instead of breakers to protect from system overload. These aren’t a danger of themselves, but homeowners and contractors have been known to improperly use or replace fuses, which creates a potential problem. If you have or suspect you might have one of these problem panels, you should consider a replacement.

2) Outdated outlets

Your home’s outlets also have a lifetime expectancy of 15-25 years. Some older houses have outlts that are even older than that. There’s a reason that new outlets have three holes instead of the old-fashioned two: safety. In some older houses, the entire system of outlets only accepts two prong plugs, which means the outlet isn’t grounded. This is a fire hazard, and you should consider an upgrade. In other, older homes, an outlet may be painted, which could cause a short-circuit, and in some cases, “dead” outlets have even been painted over, leaving a dangerous mystery to be solved.

3) Periodic maintenance

Like all systems in the home, it’s important to put your electrical on a rotation for inspection and maintenance. For rental units, the recommended timing is every five years or when there is a tenant turn over. If you reside in the home, then the inspection can happen every ten years. Other triggers are an older home (40+ years), a major renovation or the addition of major new appliances.

4) Buying a previously owned home

The Electrical Safety Foundation recommends an electrical system inspection as part of the inspection of a previously owned home. More than opening the circuit box, a thorough electrical inspection will make sure that there aren’t any problems awaiting you in your new home. Among other important tasks, an electrical inspection will

  • Confirm that AFCIs (arc fault circuit interrupters) are functional
  • Test switches and outlets
  • Verify smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are present and working
  • Evaluate outdoor lighting and outlets

In a hot seller’s market, a buyer might waive the inspection contingency, but this simply makes it important to put an inspection down as a top priority once the sale has been finalized.

Electrical is the nervous system of a home – with wiring running behind most if not all walls. It is vital to be sure that your home’s electrical is safe for regular use. If you haven’t had the system inspected, you should plan to schedule a professional to come do a thorough check as soon as possible. Biller & Associates does inspections at various key moments in the life of a house, from construction, to renovation to sale among other times. Contact us today to schedule your electrical inspection.