9 Questions to Ask Before an Electrical Inspection

9 Questions to Ask Before an Electrical Inspection

By Dikran Seferian July 10, 2022

Imagine you just bought your first house and you’re thrilled about moving in. It is spacious, well-laid out, and has been recently remodeled. At first glance, the impeccable furnishing, crown molding, and gorgeous landscaping give confidence that the house itself is in excellent shape. However, you may learn that surface features tend to hide what’s underneath.

Behind all the freshly painted walls and ceilings is an intricate system of electric circuitry. And sometimes, these systems may not quite be up to standards. You wake up one day and you’ll notice that the contents of your fridge are getting warm. A few days in, you realize that the breakers are tripping quite often. Next, you plug in your new blender and see that the lights are dimming.

All these issues indicate a fault in the electrical system. Having a licensed professional conduct an electrical inspection will reveal these problems early on — before they turn into something more serious. As a matter of fact, it’s always a good idea to have the home inspection done prior to closing the deal on the house. 

1. Will You Need an Electrical Inspector?

A licensed electrician will have the adequate expertise to point out any flaws in the electrical system.

A licensed electrician will have the adequate expertise to point out any flaws in the electrical system.

Choosing the right home to purchase is one of the biggest and most important decisions you'll make as an adult, and there are many factors to consider. One vital item on the checklist that up to 40% of people overlook is the state of the home's electrical system. A general home inspector will give the house a once-over, but may not have the intimate knowledge of safety and electrical code issues — not to mention local by-laws — that electricians do. 

2. Is the Kitchen’s Electrical System Set up Properly?

According to the Electrical Safety Authority, kitchens are the first places in the house that will be overloaded. Kitchen appliances are known to consume a great deal of power. And a fridge, in particular, that is not isolated can actually be a fire hazard. That being said, having dishwashers, microwaves, fridges, and additional power outlets on the same circuit is a recipe for disaster. This is something that a licensed electrician should be able to point out right away following a home electrical checkup.

3. How Old is the Electrical Panel?

The electrical panel of the house you’re buying should be relatively new.

The electrical panel of the house you’re buying should be relatively new.

The typical lifespan of an electrical panel ranges from 25 to 40 years on average. And with the advancement of technology, older panels may not be up to current safety standards. Certain brands that have been around for a while may pose some electrical problems. Just to be on the safe side, make sure to have a licensed electrician evaluate your panel to determine if it needs replacement. 

4. What Is the Capacity of the Electrical Panel?

Besides the age of the electrical panel, you may also want to know if it has adequate capacity. Older 60-amp panels tend to be undersized when compared to today’s panels. While they were huge back in the day, they can’t quite support modern-day appliances. Nowadays, the minimum size for residential breaker panels is 100 amps. If the electrical inspection reveals that the amperage is less than 100, you may want to upgrade the panel

5. Does the Electrical Panel Smell, Heat up, or Make Sounds?

Aside from the occasional clicking sound when a breaker trips, electrical panels should normally be silent. A state-licensed electrician would be able to address any sort of buzzing or hissing sounds coming from the panel. Other signs from a panel that indicates a fault in the electrical system include odd smells and burnt plastic. In addition, a breaker that doesn’t last long before tripping again needs an electrician to have a look at it. Normally, a homeowner should be able to notice these symptoms without an electrician’s inspection.

6. Are Kitchen, Bathroom, and Exterior Receptacles GFCI-Protected?

One question that many homeowners forget to ask is whether the kitchen, bathroom, and exterior power outlets are GFCI-protected. Electrical safety is not something a homeowner can overlook. As such, it is absolutely critical to be clear about this question. You’ll be surprised to learn that many accidents are a result of faulty receptacles. This only goes to show how important it is for electrical outlets to have GFCI protection. GFCI is short for ground fault circuit interrupter, and the device is responsible for controlling the circuit’s electric flow.

Ensuring that your new home’s electrical system features GFCI protection can give you the peace of mind you need. The device essentially cuts the electric flow as soon as it detects a disturbance in the circuit, and is extremely quick in doing so. This is a crucial feature as it can actually protect you from electrocution — which can often be fatal.

Besides GFCI, a house should also have AFCI devices. While the former prevents electrocution, the latter helps in eliminating the risk of fires that may result from faulty wiring and connections. An electrical inspection will determine whether the house features these devices or not.  

7. What Type of Wiring Does the Home Have?

The incompatibility of aluminum wires with modern households may pose safety concerns.

The incompatibility of aluminum wires with modern households may pose safety concerns.

Another issue of particular concern can be aluminum wiring, which is typical of houses built in the 1960s and 1970s. Aluminum can pose problems because of its tendency to oxidize, and the fact that it is incompatible with devices designed intended for copper wiring. Aluminum wiring in itself is usually not dangerous. Sometimes, however, homeowners decide to go in and replace plugs and switches (which are not rated for aluminum conductors) with a newer style — and without consulting a licensed electrician. 

According to the ESA, this situation is a safety hazard. In some cases, wiring that has been tampered with improperly could be a real deal-breaker, a matter of an electrician recommending potential buyers might consider going out and finding another house. Because aluminum wiring does not have to be declared, it can only be discovered and assessed for safety during an electrical wiring inspection

8. Do the Previous Owners Have Certificates of Inspection?

Make sure to ask the homeowners about certificates of inspection for any modifications they may have done.

Make sure to ask the homeowners about certificates of inspection for any modifications they may have done.

Because over 50% of homes that are over 15 years old have been re-wired or have had modifications, it is also strongly recommended that you ask the previous owner for copies of certificates of inspection for any electrical installations or modifications that have been conducted since the original construction of the home.

An electrical check-up — with wiring inspection and all —will take approximately two to four hours, depending on the complexity of the residence. When renovating or building a new house you can avoid having to call an electrical inspector by hiring out a good electrical sub-contractor.

9. What Should You Do if the Electrical Inspection Reveals Issues?

Once the licensed professional has completed the electrical inspection, they will fill out a report mentioning any problem they may have revealed. The report will also include their recommendations regarding the repairs you should expect. Ideally, the electrician will list the issue according to priority. And as a potential buyer, it will be up to you to decide what to do with the information.

You can either ask the homeowner to take care of the problems before selling you the house, or you can simply cancel the deal — depending on the contract. You can also ask your real estate agent to negotiate a lower price so that you can deal with the repairs yourself.


Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian