Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

ElfIn folklore a changeling is typically described as being the offspring of a fairy, elf or other legendary creature that has been secretly swapped with a human child. In nature the Cuckoo bird lays its eggs in the nest of other birds and leaves the rearing of its offspring to the host. Talk about a dead beat parent. The swapping of one thing for another in retail is called bait and switch or you could simply call it misrepresentation. Changing one thing for another not only is a dirty trick, but it also may not behave in the same manner.

Main service panel being used incorrectly as a sub panelElectricity is a force of nature that humans have managed to harness and control. We learn early on, sometimes the hard way, that electricity can hurt or even kill you. While for most of us the flow of electrons is mysterious and not particularly understood, we come to respect electricity.

An important part of a home inspection is inspecting the electric panel. From my experience it is even more important in older houses, especially those that have under gone renovation. Often the electric system has been altered during the construction. The modifications are not always done correctly, at times leaving the system with potential dangers.

During a recent home inspection, I noted that the house had undergone a massive renovation adding an entire second story several years previous. This of course required an upgrade to the electric system. The house now had two electric panels installed side by side in the basement. The newer panel was now the main panel, while the older and likely the original panel was now a "sub" panel.

While the panel pictured may look like any other electric panel, it has been incorrectly  altered. This panel was manufactured as a main service panel. It has been swapped with the new panel and has now become something it was not intended to be, a sub panel. It is also now potentially dangerous.

An elf, a.k.a. the contractor, facilitated this switch perhaps not mindful or foreseeing the prospective consequences. This panel like the changeling is not what it appears to be. 

Posted by

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

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi James,

So did they upgrade the main service and install a new service main panel, thus causing the main panel to become the sub panel?

If they did that there are a myriad of issues with it.

Good find. Thanks for sharing the info.

Best, Clint Mckie

Jan 15, 2013 09:30 PM #1
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim, the infamous co-mingled neutrals and grounds. Sub panels must be rocket science for many.

Jan 15, 2013 10:13 PM #2
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim, this happens over and over again.  It is so weird because, how many people would tie the ground and neutral together before they connected it to a receptacle?

Jan 15, 2013 10:26 PM #3
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

James - thank you for bringing up something that many people may see, without realizing the problems it can cause.

Jan 16, 2013 02:52 AM #4
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

And here I thought marrying things that were never intended to be married was chic now! 

That's what happens when a general contractor, who knows "all" trades, doesn't know at all... and convinces people that a silly thing like a permit isn't needed.

Jan 16, 2013 03:33 AM #5
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Clint, Yes, that is what was done.

Don, It would seem that way.

Charlie, Exactly and yet we have this.

Steven, Glad to make people aware of potential dangers.

Jay, According to the homeowners this work was permitted. However they were not the ones who had the work done.

Jan 16, 2013 09:49 PM #6
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Clear evidence that knowing how to assemble the parts bears no relation to understanding what they are doing. 

Jan 17, 2013 12:46 AM #7
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Robert, So true :)

Jan 17, 2013 05:47 AM #8
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James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
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