It Grew and Grew

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

A lot of houseIt can be mind numbing to realize how something we own or indulge in has become a huge almost out of control monster. For example that collection of beer cans from around the world or a figurine set that looks like Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Or a house that over the years has grown and grown through addition after addition.

Such was the case on a recent home inspection. The original home was a modest cape code style with it appeared three bedrooms. The home was now a small manor with five bedrooms and no less than five additions. As add-ons go, this entire home was well done, but there are always issues with every house.

Electric panel number twoBecause of the almost Lego like adding of new living spaces over the years, the house of course has also had numerous alterations and additions to the mechanical systems. An old radiant heating system had been replaced with a newer hydro air system. The system included three air handlers, three A/C compressors and what looked like miles of duct work. The one major necessity for all this new heating and cooling equipment is electricity. In fact you need a lot of "juice" for all that new space just to run lights and outlets. So it came as no surprise to find the house had four electric panels salted through the spread.

One of the characteristics of electricity is that if you begin the systems wrong, all that follows, even if has been done "right" will be wrong...

And a potential hazard.

As I wander the vastness of this house I came upon the first electric panel and everything was looking okay. The second one was basically all right with one major flaw. I was not to know it was a harbinger of electric panels yet to be inspected.

The main electric panelThe third panel I found was the original and main service panel. It was a large 200 amp enclosure, which as expected was stuffed to capacity. What wasn't expected was the fact the panel was wired incorrectly. Interestingly, the other two panels I had viewed so far were wired from this main panel. What that meant was a licensed electrician on several occasions had been inside this panel and never noticed or bothered to correct a major wiring issue. Like falling dominoes, the other panels all follow suit and are ultimately unsafe as well.

As things grow, one is hopefully they are increasing with out deficiency. Unfortunately there may be times when those given the job of caring may not be paying attention to the details.


Posted by

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

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Winston Heverly
Winston Realty, Inc. - Atlantis, FL

How easy it to run a wire here and run a wire there and snap in a breaker I have a guest house on my property that was here when I bought it, luckily though we have one meter it does have a separated panel.

Jun 05, 2012 09:57 PM #1
Mark Loewenberg
KW of the Palm Beaches - Palm Beach Gardens, FL
KW 561-214-0370

hopefully you found them all and they did not put an extra one in the tree house too!

Jun 05, 2012 10:03 PM #2
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

James, I was a little surprised to read that the first original panel had 200 amp Most of the older homes like that were 150, or that has been my experience anyway. Sounds like an electrical nightmare to me!

Jun 05, 2012 10:25 PM #3
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim, I find that when a panel gets close to capacity, that is when those doing the wiring start to get lazy, make mistakes, and push the envelope so to speak.

Jun 06, 2012 01:48 AM #4
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

I had a commercial building like that once, subpanels of subpanels. I called it cascading subpanels and like a river the stains (mistakes) kept flowing downstream.

Jun 06, 2012 02:09 AM #5
Lisa Orme
The Master's Key Realty LLC -Windsor, CT - HARTFORD COUNTY - Windsor, CT
Broker/Realtor, ABR, CRS,GRI, PSCS, SFR, Notary Pu

Electrical stuff scares a lot of buyers, so this is one area that a homeowner should make sure it gets done right the first time! 

Jun 06, 2012 02:58 AM #6
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

That's called:  I'm here to do my job and not to look anything else over.  I am not paid to fix something else, even if I notice it.  But since I'm here to do my job and not to look anything else over, I won't notice it.

That close?

You'll like my free enterprise quote yesterday.  It's a great story.

Jun 06, 2012 07:24 AM #7
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Winston, There is way more to safe wiring than meets the eye. 

Mark, I think all the panels were located. If not the electrician will sort it out.

Fred, I believe the "original" panel at some point was upgraded to the 200 amp panel now in place. 

Charlie, Yet this one was never, as far as I could see, wired right. 

Robert, Where you been? I like your analogy. It is so true.

Lisa, Electricity I think scares a lot of home inspectors. I have never in the least been fearful of electricity. I do however have a healthy respect :) My experience with buyers is that, yes when electrical issues are found, fear is usually the first reaction. This I find is easily quelled with a good explanation of the issue and how it can, in general terms, be set right and above all be made safe. 

Jay, I think you may be in the ball park ;)

Jun 06, 2012 10:29 PM #8
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James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
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