Electrifying Heights, New Haven, CT

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

The wire that brings electricity into a home is referred to as the service drop conductor (blue arrow). This is connected to the service entry conductor (red arrow). The point at which they are connected (yellow arrow) is most often the demarcation between the homeowners' responsibility and the utility companies' responsibility. The minimum safe height from the ground of these components is 10 feet for the service entry conductor (yellow) and 12 feet for the service drop conductor (blue).

This particular service drop and entry was suspect on initial inspection. The lowest point of the service conductor, the drip loop, is less than 9 feet from grade. This can be determined by counting the bricks. The width of each brick is 2 ¼ inches adding a mortar joint brings it to about 3 inches. This method is better than using a metal tape measure to check the height and a lot safer! There are 33 rows from grade to the bottom of the drip loop. 33 x 3 = 99 ÷ 12 = 8.25.

This would then mean the service drop is also too low. The margin of his rough estimate (over one foot) is certainly wide enough to warrant further evaluation by an electrician. The service entry conductors' height will likely need to be extended to fall within the safety parameters previously discussed.

Taking risks with electricity is never advisable. Minimum safety requirements are in place to protect people from serious injury or death. A knowledgeable home inspector can heighten your awareness of potential problems and spare you shocking surprises after your purchase.

James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Rainer
24,420
Darren Miller
About The House - Succasunna, NJ

James,

 

I agree with everything you say except  "warrant further evaluation by an electrician".

We both know it's wrong, no evaluation needed. Just have it repaired. 

 

Darren

www.aboutthehouseinspections.com

 

 

 

Oct 03, 2007 06:51 AM #1
Rainer
29,241
Jeffrey Owen
IonHomeInspection.com - Houston Metro Home Inspection - Katy, TX

James,

 

That is good stuff.  I like the counting the bricks tip.

 

Jeffrey

IonHomeInspection.com 

Oct 03, 2007 07:32 AM #2
Rainer
9,269
Kenneth Miller
Jordan Hill Home Services, LLC - Berkley, MI

Come on, James.  You don't want to measure it with the tape measure?  How do you plan to see the pretty blue lights? LOL. 

I think the service cable is probably the most common problem I see with the electrical.  Either they're too low above grade, the insulation on the drop is shot, no drip loop or they're touching a lower roof.  The scary part is that in a lot of cases, the service has been upgraded, and the municiple inspector has approved it.  Makes you wonder sometimes.

Oct 03, 2007 08:01 AM #3
Rainmaker
686,884
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

 Darren, Agreed, but it is an estimate and as such the language used.

I just finished an inspection and wouldn't you know the service drop and conductor were a problem. The conductor was about one and a half feet from the side of a window. The electrician tried to stretch the drip loop away from the window. He also spliced in the new service wire to a portion of old frayed wire.

Same guy must have wired the sub-panel. The grounds were all twisted together and barely fastened to the enclosure. There was a main ground wire on the neutral bar which was also in contact with the other ground wires. The main service wire was only three wires, not four. No ground wire, but he used metal conduit. Questionable as to whether that is a proper ground.

 

 

Oct 03, 2007 09:35 AM #4
Rainer
17,128
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS
We see a lot of that down here, too.  It seems to be common everywhere, especially in older homes.  I remember one in particular where I could reach up from ground level and cup my hand over the weather head.  Don't get jumpy, I said I could, not that I did. LOL!  In the old days, it seems that services were dropped wherever and however was most convenient.  An old electrician once told me that it was once considered advantageous to mount weather heads under eaves, for extra protection against the elements, and it was just assumed that folks had the good sense not to mess with them.  Yep, and pennies in lieu of fuses saved the farmer the trouble of having to always replace blown ones!  Love that last pic of the dist. panel, too.  Whenever I see that, it always makes me take a little harder look at the rest of the wiring, which is usually as haphazard as the panel.  No pride at the panel, no pride anywhere else.
Oct 06, 2007 03:16 PM #5
Rainer
25,201
Bill Duncan
Home Status Inspection Company, LLC - Haymarket, VA

James,

With your main ground to the neutral in a system with mixed 2wire rag, 3 wire BX and romex, you run into problems when you have circuits that are reverse wired! I ran into one last week. Every light on my tester lit up.  Never had that before.  

Oct 07, 2007 12:16 PM #6
Rainer
26,520
West Hartford CT Real Estate Agent | West Hartford Realtor | www.CTMike.com
ERA Broder Group - West Hartford, CT

I would hate to see the results of some young kids playing Tarzan and Jane on those wires! This is just one more example of why you MUST get a home inspection. AND, not only get one done, but make sure it's done by JIM! Nice work.

Oct 10, 2007 04:24 PM #7
Rainmaker
686,884
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector
Thanks Mike! What's funny about this problem is the buyers agent actually thought I was making a big deal out of nothing. She thought the height was fine. Kind of silly to take such a risk, when the problem can be rectified rather easily.
Oct 11, 2007 12:50 AM #8
Rainer
17,128
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS
This brings up a thought:  Why aren't agents offered CE classes that at least provides them with a rudimentary knowledge base of building standards, and the need for such?  Is it just me, or would that not help make some agents appear less, mmmm, challenged sometimes?  The ironic thing is, such agents actually think we're the stupid ones.  As an ex-educator, I'm well qualified to teach such a class...hmmmm...I can hear vender bells ringing!
Oct 11, 2007 10:42 AM #9
Rainmaker
686,884
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jimmy,

I don't believe it's a lack of knowledge more than a complete lack of interest. In my case there was more than a bit of arrogant superiority. The agent was, I strongly believe, a part timer. No doubt it was her "hobby". There is a difference between ignorance and arrogance. I have certainly come across both  in this business. I have much more tolerance, no understanding for a lack a of knowledge than a know it all.

As far as agents taking building CE classes, that could be a double edged sword. You may give them just enough knowledge to make them dangerous. :)

Oct 11, 2007 12:24 PM #10
Rainer
17,128
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS

LOL!! Maybe you're right about that, James.  Actually, I know many knowledgeable agents, which, incidentally, are the ones who offer less criticism of a good inspection.  But I still find far too many with a far too convoluted perception of what the inspection is supposed to accomplish.  I suspect their judgment is clouded by a particular malady called acute commission syndrome. I take comfort in knowing that most realtors don't fall into this category, being sensible people on the whole.  BTW...would you accept an inspector's commission of .0025 percent of the asking price on any inspection?

For instance:  A $100,000 home X.0025 = $250.  And so on.  I know it's a far cry from 6%, or even 3%, but I think most inspectors would be happy with that.

Oct 11, 2007 07:08 PM #11
Rainmaker
686,884
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jimmy,

Up here in CT my understanding is back in the day inspections were priced by the homes sale price. The formula was $1 per $1000 of home sale price. $100,000 house = $100. I like your formula much better. With the average home price up here around $200,000, that would be a very nice fee. Unfortunately it is an inequitable method. A small house can be very high priced because of location.

I think most home inspectors up here are under pricing their services and as such keeping fees artificially low. Especially when you compare them to real estate commissions which go up simply due to appreciation. That is the trouble with this profession, too many in it under estimate the value of their service.

Oct 12, 2007 11:58 PM #12
Rainer
17,128
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS
I agree with that.  Nobody else sets our fees for us.  On the other hand, some guys aren't worth the low fees they do charge.  When I figure all the costs of doing business, I'd be dumb to offer some of the rates I'm aware of even if I did have a desire to compete with the low ballers.  They come, they go, out of desperation they offer really low rates, they exit that much quicker.  Then another one takes his place.  I do think that certain franchise operations do a disservice, not only to the industry as a whole, but very often to the franchisees, by suggesting marketing plans which offer certain inducements to certain other professionals in the transaction process, at certain low rates, in return for a quickie PDA driveway report.  Very convenient for the realtor, good for the inspector if he can crank out 4 or 5 a day.  NOT good for the client, who after all is the person writing the check and depending on you for your objective observations. I say this again:  there is no way anyone can produce a quality product in 45 minutes to 1/1/4 hours.  I don't care what kind of guided checklist you have, or how "efficient" you think you are.  If you're working in this manner, you are missing lots of stuff, every day.  Whoever you are, you are not taking the time to read the clues, investigate thoroughly, and force that property to tell its complete story.
Oct 14, 2007 03:50 PM #13
Rainmaker
686,884
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jimmy,

Well said. I agree quickie inspectors are not "listening" to the house. An inspection is an investigation. You must look for clues and put the pieces together. I tell clients that all the time. I need to check out other things (clues) in the home in order to make an educated conclusion on what I am seeing. You can not do that in 45 minutes.

Oct 15, 2007 12:50 AM #14
Rainer
17,128
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS

Well, I think I'm guilty of creating a bit of thread drift here, but since we're on the subject........

Good independent inspectors' goals and aspirations, better known as marketing plans, differ from those of some franchises in two important ways: 1) There is no thought aforefront toward signing up as many franchisees as possible in order to have as great a presence as possible in as many markets nationwide as possible, and 2) good independent inspectors are religiously devoted to the concept of ethics.

Now, I see absolutely nothing wrong with no. 1 on its surface.  The problem is that a preoccupation with observation 1 affects number two.  In the interest of gouging out market share, the predominant questions concerning ethics become, "Where is the line?", and "How close can we get to the precipice without falling into the abyss?"

Those are two questions the independent, ethical inspector never has to ask himself.  In my mind, planning one's ethical life around those questions indicates a consicious desire to move that precipice forward and a willingness to take a good look into the abyss, if it will increase inspection volume.

The good, independent, ethical inspector will at some point daily remind himself of who he works for.  He takes it on faith that sustainable volume will be reached based on his reputation for thoroughness, knowledge, honesty and integrity.

Oct 15, 2007 02:20 AM #15
Rainer
25,201
Bill Duncan
Home Status Inspection Company, LLC - Haymarket, VA

Hey James,

I just did an inspection yesterday where the electric company had just replaced a deteriorated service entry conductor and did not notice that there was less than 8 feet clearance from ground to the wires. That was a the house, it was less over the yard.  They had to be blind not to notice. 

Oct 16, 2007 12:38 AM #16
Rainmaker
686,884
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Bill,

Most likely lazy. Correcting the problem would have taken initiative and more work. They probably didn't want to bother going to the extra trouble of making the electrical drop safe. Makes you wonder about some peoples priorities.

Oct 16, 2007 01:54 AM #17
Rainer
17,128
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS
OH, they noticed alright.  As James said, it's part laziness.  Why create another work order by reporting a shortcoming?  These guys are on salary, for Pete's sake!  There are gazillions of such installations all over the country.  About the only way they will correct it is with a call from the homeowner dropping words like "liability" generously into the conversation.  Y'all know the utility is basically concerned with the physical integrity of the installation from the drip loop back.  Or, at least that's the way it seems.  Public utilities in most places I'm familiar with enjoy a specially legislated limited liability on negligence claims.  Is that true where you guys are?
Oct 16, 2007 05:26 AM #18
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Rainmaker
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James Quarello

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