Tag Archives: Electrical inspections

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

 

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

4 Point Versus a Full Home Inspection

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There has been much talk lately that Realtors, mortgage brokers and insurance agents are advising home buyers to only get a 4-point inspection rather than a full home inspection. I am here to try to explain the difference and tell you why this is a big mistake.

A 4-point inspection is, as we know it in Florida, an insurance inspection that looks at the roof, electrical system, plumbing system, and the AC / heating system. They are generally required on homes that are 30 years (sometimes newer – it depends on the insurance company) or older by the insurance company to determine what has been upgraded in the home and if those systems are in good working order. The inspectors that focus on these inspections usually charge anywhere from $75.00 to $150.00 per inspection, and this inspection can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the inspector. Most insurance agents will only refer inspectors that charge the lowest price and write inspections that allow them to write insurance policies.

Realtors like them because they do not cover the entire house, take little time, and usually find little or no deficiencies. This makes their job easier and puts all of the liability on the insurance company and inspector.  There are no written standards for these reports. Licensed home inspectors should be following their standards of practice, but this argument is for another post. Right now most home inspectors do not believe that their state standards apply to insurance inspections.

So what is the difference between a 4-point and a full home inspection. The first is the cost. A full home inspection should cost four to five time more than a 4-point inspection and should take a minimum of 2.5 to 3 hours to complete on site. A full inspection covers much more than a 4-point. It covers the structure of the home, which includes foundation cracks and settling. These can add up to tremendous costs if not detected. The last house I did that had excessive settlement was on the low-end with $8500.00 worth of repairs needed. On houses with crawl spaces underneath, we have found damaged joists, improper repairs, and damaged flooring. We have had repairs ranging from $5000.00 all the way up to $70,000.00. Structure is not covered under a 4-point inspection.

On a 4 point inspection the roof is only looked at for leaks, damage to the roof surface, and life expectancy. Most insurance companies want a life expectancy of 3 years, some want 5 years. Most inspectors only inspect the roof form on top. They  might go in the attic to look for stains ont he roof sheathing. But what about truss / rafter damage. Numerous times we have found that the truss / rafter has been cut to install the AC system, or for some other reason. This weakens the overall stability of the roof system, but will never be reported on a 4-point, but will be on a full home inspection. Or perhaps the house had a fire, which can be detected from looking in the attic. If you were buying a house, wouldn’t you want to know that?

Doors, windows, stairs, walls are all not included in a 4-point inspection. On a home inspection, we operate all doors and windows. Stairs, handrails, and guard rails are all inspected for installation and safety. And what about that leak stain under the window. That will not be reported on a 4-point but will be brought to your attention on a full home inspection.

Appliance are not part of a 4-point, but are included in a full home inspection. They are included in standard of practice and are inspected.

And what it you have a swimming pool. That will not be inspected on a 4 point inspection. Bonding of the pool grid and child safety are two important issue that could go undetected. How many child deaths do we hear of every year here in Florida due to someone getting shocked or having access to the pool with improper safety features.

Its your money, its your investment, and its your safety. Do not let anyone talk you into less than you need for your purchase. A good home inspection will alert you to deficiencies in all areas of the home and can save you money in the long run. It can also help you negotiate a better price when repairs are needed.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 

 

Foreclosed Homes

What happens when you want to purchase a foreclosed home. The banks, or investors, today are fixing them up. But are they really fixing the important issues? Most investor banks that are selling homes usually only fix up the eye appealing issues: they remodel the kitchens and bathrooms, paint the interior and exterior, and install the least expensive flooring on the market. They also do whatever is the least expensive landscaping for curb appeal.

From the outside, and to most buyers, the house looks nice, but what is lurking on the inside that you need to be aware of. The four biggest and most expensive items in the house usually get not attention or upgrades. What about the roof. How old is it and what is its condition? Do you really want to buy a house where you will need to replace the roof next year, or the roof may have leaks? And what about the air conditioner. How old is it and is it working properly. Air conditioners can cost over $4000.00 to replace. Also don’t forget the plumbing. Many times the ‘contractors’ use improper materials for drain pipes or install fixtures wrong. And my favorite is the electrical. And this might be the most important, because faulty wiring can cause fires. Usually nothing is looked at in the electrical system as long as it is working. To re-wire a house can cost upwards of $8000.00.

There is a statute in Florida that states that all work on a home that is for sale must be completed by licensed contractors. This means in many instances that permits are required for much of the work. I cannot tell you how many times in my 14 years of doing these inspections proper permits were not pulled and the contractors are not licensed.

One way to help in buying a foreclosed home is to get a home inspection.  I have helped many a client reduce the cost by providing them with concrete evidence on those issues.The banks will negotiate if the correct evidence is presented. Do not substitute a 4 point insurance inspection for a full home inspection. If you do, you will be greatly disappointed in the long run and it will cost you more money to fix things that were not reported. The average 4 point in my area costs about $85.00 and they might spend 30 minutes doing the inspection. Hire someone who will spend the time to look at every issue. You might spend $400.00 to $600.00, but you might be able to save or negotiate to save over $10,000.00. That would be money well spent.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc.

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.

Painted Shingle Roof

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhy do people paint shingle roofs. I have been given all kinds of answers. One guy old me he painted the roof so it would match the color of the house. Another told me to prolong the life of the roof. And those are the usual answers. What they really did was try to cover up damage to the shingles and stop leaks to get through an inspection.

What they really did was kill the life expectancy of the roof and now will have to replace the roof. Painting shingles does a couple of things. It dries out the shingles, makes them brittle., the shingles will curl, and now the manufacturers warranty will be voided. . Painted roofs will usually leak within 1-3 years. The roof pictures you see in this post were of an eight year old roof that now needs to be replaced at a cost of about $5000.00.

When you are purchasing a home, be sure to hire a home inspector that knows what he is looking for. This seller got upset and told me the last inspector said the roof was in good condition and had 10 years of life left. He obviously missed the fact that it was painted or did not know any better. The picture below clearly shows the old shingles in the valley.

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