Home Inspection: Serious Electrocution Hazard...HOMEOWNERS and HOME INSPECTORS MUST READ!!!

Home Inspector with Foundation-2-Rooftop, Inc.

HUGE SAFETY WARNING FOR HOMEOWNERS!!!  While performing a home inspection in Glenwood, Iowa, I was checking the A/C sub-box's wiring.  I went to put the metal cover back on and the cover hit the lugs, sending sparks flying.  Luckily, I had my hands in the reflex position to contract away from the wiring and not extend towards it.  (Note: If you ever check electrical boxes, backhand the panel before attempting to open it.  If the metal cover is energized, your muscles will reflex away from the box.  If you have your palm side of your hand touching it, your muscles will extend your arm forward and you'll continue to get eletrocuted until the main breaker trips or until you fall to the ground.)

After looking closely at the A/C sub-panel, I noticed the lugs the cover touched were sticking out past the plastic protection.  The whole point of the plastic is to ensure that the metal cover can't physically touch the energized lugs.  Whoever installed the sub-box didn't install it properly! 

For my fellow home inspectors out there reading this, I've never come across this in over 9 years of performing home inspections.  I came REALLY close to getting 220 through my body.  Take caution!

Dear God, Thank you for keeping me safe!!!

Serious electrical hazard on A/C sub-box


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Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

It's always good to be reminded that safety is not just an expression, it's a way of being. Safety IS first.

Mar 21, 2011 09:08 AM #3
Bob Zorechak - ABR, GRI, e-PRO
Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan - Morristown, NJ
Sells Homes in Morris/Somerset/Hunterdon Cos., NJ

Great reminder to stay on your toes when dealing with electric.

Mar 21, 2011 09:26 AM #4
Ann Allen Hoover
RE/MAX Advantage South - Hoover, AL
CDPE SRES ASP e-PRO Realtor - Homes for Sale - AL

Greg, what a scary thing and thankfully you were knew what you were doing.  I've always been scared around those units!

Mar 21, 2011 09:32 AM #5
Stephen Robert Sliwka
Goden Key Realty - Franklin Township, NJ
Realtor, Somerset County New Jersey

Greg, I'm glad that you avoided a major shock. Back-handing an electric panel is always good idea. Wearing protective eye wear is another good idea, as per Douglas Hanson, remember him? I too am an ASHI Certified Member and have been doing home inspections for 14 years. I've gone into areas that other inspectors would have avoided.  I've seen panels that were rusted and crumbling inside. Two things that you need in life are luck and love. Thanks to the higher power, luck was on your side that day!

Mar 21, 2011 09:35 AM #6
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Wow! Great advice, thanks.

Mar 21, 2011 09:56 AM #7
Chris and Berna Sloan
Group 1 Real Estate - Tooele, UT
Tooele UT

Great catch! Heading out to check mine now! Thanks!

Mar 21, 2011 10:01 AM #8
Glenn Roberts
Retired - Seattle, WA

Not checking mine today, thanks. I'll leave that up to the electrician and/or home inspector.

Mar 21, 2011 10:12 AM #9
Brenda Whitman
CENTURY 21 Real Estate Center, Inc., Laramie, Wyoming - Laramie, WY
Associate Broker, Laramie, Wyoming

Wow!  Just when you thought you'd seen it all.... glad you practiced "defensive inspecting" and that all is okay. 

Mar 21, 2011 10:46 AM #10
Rob Ernst
Certified Structure Inspector - Reno, NV
Reno, NV-775-342-4767- Inspector & Energy Auditor

Thanks for the info. This is why I put it in my report when I see these behind the A/C condenser. You need the room to be able to get down and see what's going on and if something happens lets you get out of the way.  Do you have the make of that box?

Mar 21, 2011 11:07 AM #11
Raiza Schwartz
West USA Realty - Ahwatukee, AZ

Thanks for the tip, I never knew about that. 

Mar 21, 2011 11:21 AM #12
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Greg -- I'm glad you are okay.  Beyond serious.  Is there any kind of electrical device checker (probe or something) that could be used to see if the box is dangerous before actually touching it with your hand?

Mar 21, 2011 11:43 AM #13
John Martino
lookSmart Home Inspections, LLC - Rockaway, NJ

Hi Geg Im a home inspector in New Jersey. Thank you for the information. I have come across many a/c disconnects that were missing the inner cover. I think that that may have been the issue there. If the required inner cover were in place you would not be able to contact the lugs. Just a guess really. Again that you and stay safe.

Mar 21, 2011 12:13 PM #14
Mike Jones
SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) - Tucson, AZ
Mike Jones NMLS 223495


We're glad that you're okay!  I've built 350 homes in a previous life, and have never come across this.  Sounds like a lawsuit is in order.

Mike in Tucson

Mar 21, 2011 12:16 PM #15
David Stokes

Glad to know your OK Greg, Your right God had you on His mind for sure! 

I'm a licensed Home Inspector in Florida and I have been a licensed electrician for over 26 years, you'll see all kinds of faulty electrical work, whether a side job or a home-owner fix me up. This happens to be one of the reasons I elected to go to school, to be educated, to being a certified and licensed Home Inspector. You should also note, for future refrence, if outside for an air conditioner or pool pump, etc..., that that disconnect is readily accessible for proper inspection and service, (national electrical code).

Best advice though is that; next time locate the breaker in the main electrical panel that goes to any sub panel and turn that breaker off first. Then being sure to have those protective gloves and safety glasses on and if outside standing on a piece of plywood for extra measures. Good thought backhanding it first though, guess those A/C sub panel boxes need a good whoopin from time to time.

Again, glad you're OK and please keep safe out there.

Mar 21, 2011 02:18 PM #16
Trang Beuschlein
Homes for Sale in Campbell CA- Broker-BKR Realty - Campbell, CA
Campbell CA Real Estate - Campbell CA Homes for Sa

Greg: wow, pretty scary!  Glad you are okay.  That's why I leave that to the pros.

Mar 21, 2011 02:56 PM #17
Irene Lai-Chan
Rando Real Estate - Modesto, CA

Good to know you're ok.  I've emailed the short URL to my husband, who is the only one in the house that has any opportunity to get near one of these electrical boxes.  We have a newer home but it's always good to know how to approach electrical panels.  Thanks and have a safe and productive Monday!


Mar 21, 2011 03:04 PM #18
Melody Russell
Keller Williams Realty, Santa Cruz, CA. - Scotts Valley, CA
#1 in Sold Listing Dollar Volume in SC County-2015

Thank you for the info. I will be passing this on to my inspectors.

Mar 21, 2011 03:20 PM #19
Lydia Lucas
Prudential CT Realty - Milford, CT

Thanks for the heads-up, Greg! Thank God you're okay.

Mar 21, 2011 03:58 PM #20
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

Glad that you are okay. I'm with David Stokes on this one, turn off the power leading to that disconnect first. I'm a coward cautious person.

Thanks for the advice Greg.

Mar 22, 2011 01:50 AM #21
Los Angeles certified home inspector

Buying a home involves a lot of steps and Proper home inspection is a very important thing, before the investment for home buyers.

<a href="http://www.equityinspection.com/">Los Angeles certified home inspector</a>


Jun 21, 2012 11:31 PM #22
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Greg Wayman

ASHI Certified Inspector - 402-330-1701
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