FPE Stab Lok electric panel (C) Daniel Friedman Electrical Breakers, Fuses, Circuit Inspection Safety Procedures for Electrical Inspectors & Home Inspectors

  • INSPECT CIRCUIT BREAKERS, FUSES - CONTENTS: Safety warnings and suggestions when inspecting electrical circuit breakers & fuses. Safety warnings and suggestions when inspecting branch circuit conductors. Home wiring safety inspection procedures & suggestions
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to examine electrical circuit breakers, fuses, and overcurrent devices for their safety and operating condition
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How to inspect circuit brearkers & fuses: this article discusses suggests safety procedures for the electrical inspector, home inspector, or other professionals during inspection of individual circuit breakers, fuses, or branch circuit conductors - home electrical wiring safety inspection details.

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Safety Procedures When Inspecting Branch Circuit Conductors, Breakers,Fuses, &c.

Neon Tester Receptacle and GFCI Test Procedure (C) Daniel Friedman

Fatal Shock Hazard Warning: Inspecting electrical components and systems risks death by electrocution as well as serious burns or other injuries to the inspector or to others. Do not attempt these tasks unless you are properly trained and equipped.

[Click to enlarge any image]

These electrical inspection suggestions are not a complete inventory of all electrical safety procedures nor of all electrical components that should be inspected; these notes focus on identification of conditions that may present special electrical hazards for the electrical inspector. Contact Us by email to suggest changes, corrections, and additions to this material.

ASHI Home Inspection Standards 8.1.D. [The inspector shall observe] branch circuit conductors, their overcurrent devices, and the compatibility of their ampacities and voltages

In addition to examining the electrical panel before touching it, looking for dangerous conditions like water, rust, sheet metal screws, rats, and blocking client access, the inspector should also recognize that certain brands or models of electrical equipment are known to be unsafe and may be dangerous to inspect or operate.

The simple neon-tester shown at above left is a quick easy way to check for the presence of electrical power at an electrical receptacle, lighting fixture, or switch. The receptacle tester shown at above right includes a test button and circuit for testing GFCI devices; however it works equally well testing an ordinary electrical receptacle such as the one shown here.

But beware: notice that theelectrical receptacle in our photo at above right was damaged - the plastic face of the lower connectors has been lost.

FPE Stab Lok electric panel (C) Daniel FriedmanExamples of unreliable electrical panels include Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok equipment - this product uses breakers which remain internally "on" when switched "off", as well as too often failing to trip off in response to an overcurrent, and which have been reported to result in electrical arc explosions when manually or otherwise exercised.

A careless inspector who touches this device or inserts a metal tool into it while showing it to a client is at risk of getting burned or shocked.

Proper use of test tools during an electrical inspection is critical for safety and is discussed beginning
at Guide to Electrical Test Equipment.

Opening the electrical panel to examine overcurrent devices - fuses or circuit breakers, is discussed

Inspecting overcurrent devices - visual:

and ELECTRIC PANEL INSPECTION for detailed procedures. There is a huge amount of information about the electrical system inside of the electrical panels.

Reporting unsafe electrical panels and unreliable circuit breakers:

As we mentioned
at TEST MAIN BREAKERS & FUSES, we advise against testing FPE Stab-Lok or Zinsco equipment by switching it on or off.

The inspector is not required to insert anything, finger, screwdriver, probe, into the electrical panel. The required inspection is visual. Observe. However an inspector is of course permitted to perform other tests or services which s/he chooses to provide (presuming s/he is qualified, trained, and that three are no conflicts of interest).

Inspecting Electrical Branch Circuit Wiring

Knob and tube wiring example (C) Daniel FriedmanInspecting wiring - visual: gain, a visual inspection of the wire size compared with breaker ratings is what is meant by this section. If you need them, plastic, non-conductive wire gauges are available.

Do not use metal wire gauges in or around electrical equipment.

Do not let your client touch wiring such as the knob and tube connections shown in the photograph at left.

Reporting aluminum wire: see ALUMINUM WIRING HAZARDS & REPAIRS

Reporting knob and tube wiring: see KNOB & TUBE WIRING

Safety Procedures When Inspecting Electrical Outlets, Switches, Lights

8.1.E. [The inspector shall observe] the operation of a representative number of installed lighting fixtures, switches, and receptacles located inside the house, garage, and on its exterior walls

Light that is a fire hazard (C) Daniel FriedmanBefore operating a switch or device perform a visual inspection for damage, looseness, burning or arcing, or heat.

Devices missing cover plates are unsafe and risk both shock and fire.

Metal cover plates also add shock risks.

Watch out about turning on switches found off in the service panel.

A circuit found in the off position may be that way due to an unsafe condition or a repair in progress. Leave it off and document the finding. The property owner should be consulted for permission before turning on any electrical device which has been found shut down.

The light shown in our photo is a fire hazard and needs to be moved or replaced with an enclosed florescent fixture.

Also be careful about turning off switches found on. You may damage a computer data base, turn off a heart-lung machine, reset an alarm system, or turn off a marginal switch for the heat that leaves the property with no heat in freezing weather. Be safe and avoid disputes.

An example of accidentally switching off circuits in a building occurs often during removal of an awkward electrical panel cover - it's easy to accidentally push one or more circuit breakers into their off position during cover removal or replacement.


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