Did You Hear a Scream....? by Steve Gladstone

By
Home Inspector with Stonehollow Fine Home Inspections & Testing

 

Mitchell Captain raised an inportant post in the Home Inspectors Q and A group...oops . You should be able to access it from here. He asked if you ever lost something when you were entering a blog or if you've tried to enter something only to find that the internet or your line is down.

A ups backup battery  uninterupted backup is often the answer with computers and electrical equipment. In fact whole house units are now available if you can afford it. A small ups for your computer generally costs less than $150 bucks and can save your butt when the power glitch hits. If you are an inspector who goes home and types up field notes, this is really important. Even if your power doesn't go down a lot. I have written many a chapter over because I've stretched my leg and kicked a wire under my desk connected to the computer, or lost power in a short but violent storm.

But it reminded of something we do on most inspections when we are about to open the panel box...

You've all been taught (I hope) not to open panel deadfronts if there is a suspicion that it could be dangerous... that is wet floors, nasty wiring, scorch marks, etc.

We teach our student inspectors and interns to touch the panel with the back of their hand lightly first to avoid grabbing the door, getting zapped and having their muscles contract and not being able to let go...

I encourage inspectors to look and make note which breakers are already off...so if the inevitable removal of the cover accidentily catches on a breaker and causes it to shut off...you would then know which ones to turn back on and which to leave off...

But I think the real sign of professionalism is the inspector who explains to the home owner (working away upstairs on Chapter 6 of " How I sold my house even though the inspector was a deal killer" ) that He is about to check the electrical panel and that the homeowner should save their work or shut down their computer.

Never do you want to hear a scream from the far end of the home...  "Who killed the power?"

 Steve Gladstone

 

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Rainer
7,161
Donald Sutherland
Marathon Constructors Inspection Services - Seward, AK
Inspector-Seward, Alaska

Steve,

I guess I've been lucky so far. I'm pretty carefull around panels and do note if any breakers are off. If it's off, I do not turn it on. If the seller is there, I will inquire why it's off. Fortunately I've never encountered a "hot" panel.

Alaska Don

May 30, 2007 07:02 PM #1
Rainer
100,572
Gregory Maley
Sold Buy the Sea Realty & R.E.N.T. - Wilmington, NC
REALTOR, GRI, CBR, SHS, e-PRO, ABR
Great tip about touching the panel with the back of your hand.  I don't encourage buyers to open electric boxes (I encourage them to let the home inspector do that), but some insist. 
May 31, 2007 01:15 AM #2
Rainmaker
92,069
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Hi Steve..Another thing to be careful with is covers that have paint sealing them to the walls.

If you go to lift off a painted over panel that is say in the kitchen,the paint could pull right off the wall along with the panel.

I always make sure I carry a B knife,(razor knife) so that I can line out the edges when necessary.

May 31, 2007 05:50 PM #3
Rainer
7,161
Donald Sutherland
Marathon Constructors Inspection Services - Seward, AK
Inspector-Seward, Alaska

Bob,

I've encountered panels that had been covered by sheetrock or wood paneling clear up to the breaker door. Then they hang a picture over it so you can't find it. I've found many panels in kitchen cabinets, with a non removal shelf across the panel door. Then, when you think you,ve seen it all, I discover a panel installed in the ceiling above the clothes washer.

Alaska Don

Jun 01, 2007 06:28 AM #4
Rainmaker
92,069
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

That last one is strange.

Can I guess it was above a floating ceiling?

By the way,I was told if we lift one panel we are responsable to lift all the others.(I am refering to the ceiling panels)

Jun 01, 2007 07:34 AM #5
Rainer
7,161
Donald Sutherland
Marathon Constructors Inspection Services - Seward, AK
Inspector-Seward, Alaska

Bob,

I do not remove ceiling panels at all, unless their is obviously a problem.

Some people can be really creative when it comes to hiding breaker panels.

Alaska Don

Jun 02, 2007 04:06 AM #6
Rainer
17,178
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS
In the ceiling...well, I must confess I've never seen that one, not even doing rewiring work back in my electrician days.  I have seen my share of combination knob and tube, two wire and three wire systems, with older two wire nm cable pigtailed out of knob and tube runs, then even more 3 wire nm added to the circuit, all "protected" by a 30 amp socket fuse in an old panel box that has a double tap leading out to....well, you guys get the idea.  If you don't have an electrical background, you can get lit up real quick by making erroneous assumptions.  Harry Homeowner will do all kinds of crazy things when making electrical "improvements."  Let's be careful out there!
Jun 02, 2007 06:27 PM #7
Rainer
61,654
Jim Watzlawick
Watz Home Inspections - Algonquin, IL
Watz Home Inspections
Never found one in the ceiling, But have found them in the kitchen behind refrigerators before.
Jun 24, 2007 05:30 AM #8
Rainer
146,882
Scott Patterson, ACI
Trace Inspections, LLC - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Steve brings up a very good point in this post.  Always check to see what is on a circuit if it might be a possibility that the power could be interrupted. 

A local home inspector (that I know), had the misfortune to turn the power off to an oxygen generator that was supplying oxygen to a homeowner that needed oxygen 24/7.  He tripped the power on a GFCI protected outlet, not knowing that the owners oxygen machine was plugged into a bathroom outlet that was on the same GFCI circuit!  A few minutes later the owners wife is frantically calling for the inspector and yelling at him to turn the power back on as her husband was not breathing very well, in fact he was just about blue from the lack of oxygen.   Everything turned out OK, as the wife knew the location of the GFCI that needed to be reset.

Jun 24, 2007 08:07 AM #9
Rainmaker
59,401
Dana Bostick
True Professionals, Inc. - North Hollywood, CA

Darwin principle at work?  Not too smart having life support equipment pluged into a GFCI.  Bet that was a scary one!

Try getting the dead front off a Federal Pacific panel without tripping some breakers.  Good luck.

Good reminder though.  I will incorporate a warning into my pre-brief about possible power loss.

Dana

Jun 25, 2007 04:14 PM #10
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