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Mike Lamb

Integrity of the electric equipment

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NEC  110.12(C) Integrity of Electrical Equipment and Connections. Internal parts of electrical equipment, including busbars, wiring terminals, insulators, and other surfaces, shall not be damaged or contaminated by foreign materials such as paint, plaster, cleaners, abrasives, or corrosive residues.

This NEC verse covers internal parts of electrical equipment.  What about the integrity of the exterior of the electric panel? Is there a reference to address painted and otherwise compromised covers and breaker switches? I was only able to remove the cover from two of the panels in a large multi-unit building and the insides looked okay.

 Also, these are Federal Pacific electric panels but not Stab-Lok (the building was built in 1960). Is there any statistical evidence damning these type of FPE breakers?

P1090356 elec FPE.JPG

P1090375 elec.JPG

P1090408 elec no paint.JPG

P1090604 elec.JPG

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Hey Mike, 

when we do apartment bldgs we write painted or damaged covers.  we also have learned to write all (as many as seen) damaged switch and outlet covers.  Usually we make a blanket statement.  

As far as I know covers are not to be painted and fasteners clean and clear. 

EDIT:  we write them because they are painted to the wall, fasteners filled in with paint, etc.  not the fact they are just "painted"

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35 minutes ago, Plummen2 said:

Are those sub panels actually accessable,or are they mounted above a counter top?

They are all above the kitchen counter tops and are actually accessible over-the-counter. I am aware of the clearance requirements which none of them meet.

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Can't blame anyone for painting them uglies.

Mike, I believe there were problems with the internals of FPE breakers in addition to the Stab-Lok bus issue. So I would call for replacement of all of them. They are antiques.

Re: Paint on the deadfront, I will scrape just enough paint off the screws and cut around the edges so that it can be removed, so the paint issue is pretty minimal after that.

You could describe the panel cover as 'repainted' in the report. My take on the no paint issue was that it is meant to prohibit paint on the interior.

 

Edited by John Kogel

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John, I agree with you abt the interior.  But, when they are painted in multi-family units they almost always are painted to  the wall.  We will not pull them if painted.  We don't need to be painting walls after the inspection. :)

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3 hours ago, Les said:

John, I agree with you abt the interior.  But, when they are painted in multi-family units they almost always are painted to  the wall.  We will not pull them if painted.  We don't need to be painting walls after the inspection. :)

Sure, I understand your position on that. You are saying the interior of the panel is not accessible because of the paint. And in a multi-family building, there would be the time factor to consider, because it can take a while to get that cover off.

Even so, it is important for someone to open those panels up, so eventually there will be some cutting and scraping.

 

 

 

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12 minutes ago, John Kogel said:

Even so, it is important for someone to open those panels up, so eventually there will be some cutting and scraping.

A quick razor knife around the perimeter prevents any tear off. Caulked-in is an obstacle though.

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1 hour ago, Bill Kibbel said:

A quick razor knife around the perimeter prevents any tear off. Caulked-in is an obstacle though.

That's what I do.  I 'jump through loops' to serve the client sometimes.

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On 1/11/2018 at 6:43 AM, Mike Lamb said:

What about the integrity of the exterior of the electric panel? Is there a reference to address painted and otherwise compromised covers and breaker switches?

There's no prohibition against painting panel covers. You can paint them as much as you want. 

As far as I know, you can also paint the front portions of the breakers, but you're not supposed to cover their amp rating numerals, which are supposed to remain visible. (240.83(A))  

If the panel cover screw slots are filled with paint, I place the blade of a screwdriver next to them and tap it with a small hammer, "plowing" the paint plug out of the way, and leaving a nice clean slot. 

On 1/11/2018 at 6:43 AM, Mike Lamb said:

Also, these are Federal Pacific electric panels but not Stab-Lok (the building was built in 1960). Is there any statistical evidence damning these type of FPE breakers?

Unless someone presented contrary evidence, I'd lump them in with Stab Loks and recommend replacing them. 

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We treat them much like attic skuttles that are painted closed or nailed.  Our market would "eat our lunch" if we cut or gouged.

 

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My state SOP requires me to inspect the interior of electric panels so it is pretty well understood around here that I have to get into the panel, and if I make some scratches so be it. I will always make an effort but if it is too much of a chore I will consider it not readily accessible, but should be made accessible so it can be inspected at a later time.  Same with attics.

Edited by Mike Lamb

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13 hours ago, Les said:

We treat them much like attic skuttles that are painted closed or nailed.  Our market would "eat our lunch" if we cut or gouged.

 

In that case, I put it on the agents. I can either omit this part of the inspection or they can get me permission to mar. 

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10 hours ago, Jim Katen said:

In that case, I put it on the agents. I can either omit this part of the inspection or they can get me permission to mar. 

Agents generally do not give any "permissions".  We just note that we did not open.  Usually we will go back  for a small charge or no charge if they give us written permission or cut and gouge on their own.  We actually go back less than 1% of the time and never for apartment buildings. 

 

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1 hour ago, Les said:

Agents generally do not give any "permissions".  We just note that we did not open.  Usually we will go back  for a small charge or no charge if they give us written permission or cut and gouge on their own.  We actually go back less than 1% of the time and never for apartment buildings. 

 

I tell my clients, "I can't get the panel cover off because it's caulked/painted shut. I'm afraid if I remove it it will damage the paint and the surrounding areas. It is very important that we inspect the panel." Then I ask` the agent if they would care to incise the paint around the panel cover. If they decline, I ask them to contact the seller to see if it's alright if I do it.
I remind both the buyer and the buyer's agent that my agreement specifically states, "if the panels are painted/ caulked shut, I cannot open them without the owner's permission."
I think performing a house inspection without inspecting the interior of the panel borders on negligence.
It's exactly the same scenario when I encounter a closet full of clothes below the attic hatch. When I explain if I can't get access that I'll have to come back and that there will be a fee, the realtor is usually tossing clothes faster than a commercial laundry.

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2 hours ago, Les said:

Agents generally do not give any "permissions".  We just note that we did not open.  Usually we will go back  for a small charge or no charge if they give us written permission or cut and gouge on their own.  We actually go back less than 1% of the time and never for apartment buildings. 

 

They don't give permission, they *get* it. (Probably 90% of the time - no one wants me to come back.)  

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little thread drift - How many inspections do you do with no agent present?  Not an actual number, just curious if you are seeing more instances where there is no agent.  We are seeing many more during the past two years.  Mostly the agents do not care if we inspect interior or do not inspect interior of panel.  We care.

 

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48 minutes ago, Les said:

little thread drift - How many inspections do you do with no agent present?  Not an actual number, just curious if you are seeing more instances where there is no agent.  We are seeing many more during the past two years.  Mostly the agents do not care if we inspect interior or do not inspect interior of panel.  We care.

 

About one in five - agent not present, or left as soon as the house was unlocked.

 

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we are getting close to 33% that agent not present or sits in car.  Many refuse to even talk to us directly.  We are in a very eclectic market here in mid-Michigan.

 

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10 hours ago, Les said:

little thread drift - How many inspections do you do with no agent present?  Not an actual number, just curious if you are seeing more instances where there is no agent.  We are seeing many more during the past two years.  Mostly the agents do not care if we inspect interior or do not inspect interior of panel.  We care.

 

Most of the time, the agent shows up to unlock the door, goes away, and returns for the wrap-up at the end.

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Most of the time I have an agent at least stay in the home, maybe one in ten inspections the agent goes out and sits in the car. Usually they just sit in the kitchen and work (or play) on the phone/laptop and leave me with the client. Back on topic, I usually open the panel, cut the edge open, clean out the screw slots. I've never had anyone come back on me for damaging the paint but I am pretty good about getting them open without any damage. And yes, I have moved a heck of a lot of clothes and stored stuff to get to panels and attic hatches. 

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