Tag 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

<img class=“alignleft size-full wp-image- 113381” src=“https://i2.wp.com/floridahomeinspectionteam.com/wp- content/uploads/2012/08/images.jpg?resize=249%2C202” alt=“Specific parts of home inspections in Miami, FL” width=“249” height=“202”>


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

Miami Home inspector Miami Building inspector


Tankless Water Heater Installation


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.

What’s in your attic

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I inspected a 2006 second story condominium this morning. How many inspectors actually look in the attic of a condominium. Well, I do. And boy, did I find a surprise in this one.

When I first walked into the unit everything seemed OK. The master bathroom door was shut, but I did not think anything of it. When I opened the door there was a rancid smell. It went away a few minutes after the door was left open. At the end of the inspection I went down and got my ladder to look in the attic. And now I knew where that smell was coming form. A good portion of the attic was filled with mice or rat poop. These critters had been living in this attic for a couple of years. The stench was awful. While some inspectors may overlook this, it is considered a health and safety issue, and something that all inspectors should be looking for.

While this is a fixable situation, my client decided to pass on this unit. I explained to her that the association should take care of the clean up, which would cost about $3000.00. All of the insulation in the attic would need to be removed, the attic sanitized, and  then new insulation re-installed. This done, of course, after the rodent access is found and sealed.

Who is doing your inspections?

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida home Inspection Team Inc


The hidden costs of buying a home

The following are a list of items that most homeowners do not think about when they buy a house.

Home inspection costs. Before you close on a house, your mortgage insurer may require a home inspection, which can run several hundred dollars. But even if an inspection is not required, it’s worth paying a professional to evaluate the house so you can avoid spending hundreds of thousands on a train wreck disguised as a house.

Survey costs. Your lender may want you to have a professional survey of the property, so everyone knows exactly where your land’s boundaries are. That’s another several hundred bucks.

Taxes. You probably know you’re going to be paying taxes, but it can be easy to forget that you’ll likely need to prepay those taxes at closing.

Escrow account. The lender uses this to pay the homeowner’s nonmortgage-related property ownership expenses. If your down payment is less than 20 percent, you’ll be required to use one. An escrow account allows your mortgage company to pay the taxes for you — without it, you’ll be hit with property tax bills twice a year.

At the beginning of your mortgage, it can be a shock when you’re saddled with paying a couple months’ worth of property taxes, maybe a year’s worth of homeowner’s insurance and possibly homeowner’s association dues as well.

Fees. — Government recording charges: The cost for state and local governments to record your deed, mortgage and loan documents.

— Appraisal fee: The cost for an appraiser to decide how much your house is worth.

— Credit report fee: Your lender had to pay to get your credit report; you cover the cost.

— Title services and lender’s title insurance: Fees related to your home’s title.

— Flood life of the loan fee: The government tracks changes in your property’s flood zone status; you’ll pay a small fee.

— Tax service fee: Another pretty minor fee; This service ensures the taxes previously paid on the house are up to date.

— Lender’s origination fee: This charge for processing your loan application can be pretty pricey. On a $97,000 mortgage loan with an interest rate of 3.5 percent and no points — the money you pony up if you want to lower your interest rate —  would be $795.

It’s worth noting that these costs aren’t exactly hidden. They’re routine and legal, and these days, they’re more visible than in the past.

How to replace an AFCI Breaker

Click on the link to see a video on how to replace an AFCI breaker



Step 1: Turn off the Main Circuit Breaker

1. Locate the breaker or breakers you plan to replace with AFCI breakers. 

2. Turn off the main circuit breaker, which will cut power to your entire house.

Step 2: Remove the Panel Cover

1. Unscrew the panel cover. 

2. Carefully remove it from the panel.


3. Use your circuit tester to be sure the power is off in the panel.

Step 3: Remove the Old Circuit Breaker

1. Pull the circuit breaker you want to replace out of its slot. 

2. Remove the black wire from the breaker.

Step 4: Disconnect the White Wire

1. Follow the black wire you just disconnected up to where the cable enters the box. 

2. Follow the white wire from the same cable, which means it is part of the same     circuit, back to the neutral bus bar, and disconnect it.

Step 5: Connect the AFCI Breaker

1. Turn the AFCI breaker handle to the off position. 

2. Loosen the two breaker terminal screws.


3. Connect the white circuit wire (not the coiled white wire) to the breaker terminal     labeled “Panel Neutral” or “white.”


4. Connect the black circuit wire to the breaker terminal labeled “Load Power” or     “black.”

Step 6: Connect the Coiled White Wire

Connect the arc fault breaker’s coiled white wire to the neutral bus bar in the same position as the white neutral wire you removed in step four.

Step 7: Install the AFCI Breaker

1. Snap the new breaker into the breaker panel. 

2. Make sure all connections are tight.

Step 8: Put the Panel Cover On

Screw the breaker panel cover back into place.

Step 9: Turn on and Test the AFCI Breaker

1. Turn on the main breaker. 

2. Turn on the AFCI breaker.


3. Test the arc fault breaker by pressing the test button on the front or per your     breaker manufacturer’s instructions. If the breaker is wired correctly, the     breaker will trip open.


Panel box must be replaced

This panel box must be replaced. This was an old fuse panel box. The guts of the box were replaced with a newer bus bar and breakers. This box is no longer UL listed, and therefore no longer is compliant under the National Electric Code. The seller of this house bought the home a little over a year ago. Unfortunately her inspector never informed her of this fact. This box will most likely render this house uninsurable until it is replaced.

The easiest way to tell that this box was wrong is to look at the screws. They were wood screws set into anchors. This immediately told me that this cover panel was not made for this box. Replacement of this box will cost $1400.00+.


Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc