Did you know that in 2011 the U.S. Fire Administration reported an estimated 47,000 structure fires involved some type of failure to the homes electric system. Obviously many homes that we inspect are older and simply would not meet any of today's National Electrical Codes. In fact no older home unless totally re-wired would meet code compliance. That is why we disclose that a standard home inspection is in no way an inspection for code compliance.
There are however ways that a homeowner or buyer can improve the electrical safety within the home. In addition to having a full compliment of properly working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installing AFCI receptacles in each room is a great improvement. What are AFCI receptacles. AFCI stands for - Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter. Not long ago, AFCI's were available only through the homes circuit breaker panel. Today AFCI's are a safe and inexpensive alternative for added home protection. Over time wiring can break down as a result of over-stapling, screws, crushing, and even rodent damage. As a result arcing faults can happen potentially causing a structure fire. This often occurs inside concealed walls, attic, and areas not readily visible during a typical home inspection.
So where can AFCI's be installed. Pretty much anywhere. In our opinion you cannot have to many AFCI's especially in an older home with various older wiring aspects. New code requires them in family rooms, dining rooms, dens, bedrooms, closets, and hallways. If you install an AFCI receptacle at the first outlet on a circuit all other outlets on that circuit will be protected, thus providing the homeowner with a nice piece of mind. Talk to your electrician about adding these great safety devices.
At Hancock Home Inspections we also recommend a full compliment of GFCI receptacles in all kitchen, bath, and laundry areas. These should be installed in accordance with the current ( NEC) National Electrical Code. Many types of loans require these type of receptacles to be installed as a condition of the loan compliance.
Lastly, take time to walk around your home and review various electrical items for ways to ensure your safety. Make sure all switches, receptacles, and junction boxes have properly affixed covers. Replace any damaged fixtures, or items with scorching evidence. Hancock Home Inspections recommends upgrading any old fuse panels, or Federal Pacific Stab-Lok panel boxes. And of course any old wiring such as knob and tube wiring should be replaced. Look for any damaged or exposed wiring. Any damaged or exposed wiring should be immediately replaced. Never overload circuits. Using multi-strips or multi-plug in receptacles and lead to overloading and if the circuit is not properly protected a fire hazard will exist.
There are some things that a homeowner can do themselves but Hancock Home Inspections highly recommends that all electrical work be performed only by a certified and licensed electrician.