Category Archives: Electrical

The history of residential wiring

residential wiringDid you know that the history of residential wiring dates back to 1879 when Thomas Edison lit up a few homes in New York. 1892 he was awarded a patent for the electrical conductor. Armored cable was first used in 1899 and BX has been around since 1903 but not widely used until the 1930’s. NM cable first came onto the market in 1926. 1962 was the beginning of having  equipment grounding for all branch circuits popularized the use of NM cable with ground. This us just a small snippet of what is contained in the article. Click here for the entire article:  History_of_Residential_Wiring_practices_in_the_USA

What is AFCI protection and when what it required

As a Home inspector it, is important to not the presence of absence of arc fault protection in homes. Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and escape ladders are all examples of emergency equipment used in homes to take action when a fire occurs. An AFCI is a product that is designed to detect a wide range of arcing electrical faults to help reduce the electrical system from being an ignition source of a fire. Conventional over-current protective devices do not detect low level hazardous arcing currents that have the potential to initiate electrical fires. It is well known that electrical fires do exist and take many lives and damage or destroy significant amounts of property. Electrical fires can be a silent killer occurring in areas of the home that are hidden from view and early detection. The objective is to protect the circuit in a manner that will reduce its chances of being a source of an electrical fire.

Unlike a standard circuit breaker detecting overloads and short circuits, an AFCI utilizes advanced electronic technology to “sense” the different arcing conditions. While there are different technologies employed to measure arcs by the various AFCI manufacturers, the end result is the same, detecting parallel arcs (line to line, line to neutral and line to ground) and/or series arcs (arcing in series with one of the conductors).

How does arc fault detection work? In essence, the detection is accomplished by the use of advanced electronic technology to monitor the circuit for the presence of “normal” and “dangerous” arcing conditions. Some equipment in the home, such as a motor driven vacuum cleaner or furnace motor, naturally creates arcs. This is considered to be a normal arcing condition. Another normal arcing condition that can sometimes be seen is when a light switch is turned off and the opening of the contacts creates an arc.

A dangerous arc, as mentioned earlier, occurs for many reasons including damage of the electrical conductor insulation. When arcing occurs, the AFCI analyzes the characteristics of the event and determines if it is a hazardous event. AFCI manufacturers test for the hundreds of possible operating conditions and then program their devices to monitor constantly for the normal and dangerous arcing conditions.

The following chart lists the years / code cycles when the requirements for AFCI protection went into effect. The chart was created by Jerry Peck and used with his permission.

PDF version: afci-chart

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Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc 305-490-2513

Miami Home inspector Miami Building inspector

 

GFCI Chart

The following is a GFCI chart that shows when GFCI protection first came into use and all of the updates until 2005. There may be a new chart available, but at the moment this one  is the latest I have: gfci-chart

GFCI Chart

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513 Miami home inspector

 

 

Fire hazard

Fire hazardDebris in an electrical panel box poses a potential fire hazard. If a wire over heats there is the potential for the debris to catch fire and quickly spread throughout the house.

A homeowner should never try to clean this themselves, Hire a licensed electrician. Electricians are trained to safely do this type of work. They may also find other deficiencies that need repair, especially if the panel is older.  In this particular box there were improperly terminated ground and neutral wires, as well as double tapped breakers.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513. Miami Home Inspector

New Construction Defects

This was a new home inspected earlier this month. All permits had been signed off on by the city.  I am sure there were other defects that were hidden, but here is a list of defects found. It’s a good thing this house did not need to have a wind mitigation report done, as it would have failed questions #1.

The front overhang was no installed properly. it was leaning to the right. It either was not tied in properly or there should have been a support post installed.

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The main water shut off valve did not function. Water flowed in both the on and off position.

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The dining room outlets were tied into the kitchen outlet, which was supposed to be GFCi protected, but was not. The plans for this were sitting on the counter. The dining room outlets were supposed to be AFCI protected.

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The AC condensate line was supposed to be terminated 12 inches from the wall. It was less than six inches.

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There were missing framing screws in some of the windows.

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Posted by Bill Siegel. Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513. Miami Home Inspector

Tankless Water Heater Installation

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The installation of tankless water heaters, at least here in Florida, require that permits be pulled if it is a new installation. A plumbing permit is needed because pipes have to be added and an Electrical permit is needed to run the wires and upgrade the breaker. Most people do not hire the proper contractors for the installation, as they think they can do it themselves. I have yet to see one installed correctly, which can lead to leak and possible injury down the road.

The most common water heater used in my area is the Titan, mainly because it is the least expensive. The picture shown in this post is common of what I see. The manufacturer installation instructions call for a minimum of 12 inches of clearance at both the top and bottom of the unit. Rarely is there proper clearance. They also call for the first 36 inches of pipe to the inlet and outlet to the unit to be copper pipe. As you can see in the picture that is not the case.

This unit was most likely wired incorrectly or the unit was defective. With the unit set on high the temperature only registered 112 degrees. It should register about 125 degrees. Improperly wiring this unit could actually energize the water causing a shock for anyone taking a shower.

I might also mention here that this was another flipper house, bought with the intention of making the least amount of repairs to sell quickly. Most people are not aware of state stature 489.103, which states that all work on a home which is for sale must be completed by licensed contractors:

4. I understand that I may build or improve a one-family or two-family residence or a farm outbuilding. I may also build or improve a commercial building if the costs do not exceed $75,000. The building or residence must be for my own use or occupancy. It may not be built or substantially improved for sale or lease. If a building or residence that I have built or substantially improved myself is sold or leased within 1 year after the construction is complete, the law will presume that I built or substantially improved it for sale or lease, which violates the exemption.

When buying a home, make sure you hire a home inspector that is well qualified and does not just meet the minimum state requirements for licensing. Many inspectors would have missed this, as they do not do the research necessary to know the state statutes and / or do not look up the installation instructions.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc.

Voltage Drop

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Most inspectors do not test for, and most people, do not understand what voltage drop is. A 15 Amp load is applied and the voltage is measured. This voltage is compared to the original voltage from test #1 to determine the amount of voltage drop. The NEC recommends no more than 5% voltage drop. If greater than 5%, higher resistance exists somewhere in the circuit, which leads to heat, which could eventually lead to “glowing connections” and then to possibly a fire. There can be multiple reasons for a high voltage drop, the most common of which is that the outlets were back-stabbed when they were installed. Re-connecting the wires to the terminal screws on the side of the outlet many times will correct this situation. Other times the wires may have to be replaced with a larger wire, or there could be loose connection at the box or somewhere down stream in a junction box.

What happens when you have a high voltage drop? Your TV, computer, or phone would not be pulling enough current to operate properly and may burn out prematurely. Most people will have no idea why their device stopped working and just go out and buy a new one.

At Florida Home Inspection Team we test every house we inspect for voltage drop. Most inspectors do not do this and use a $7.00 outlet tester to test for proper grounding only. The Sure Test 165, which tests for improper grounds, false grounds, reverse polarity, open neutrals, and voltage drop, costs about $400.00. We feel the cost is well worth it, as we are now able to go above and beyond what most inspectors do, and when it comes to electricity, we think this important.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc