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The Inspector's Journal

Reporting Defective Electrical Panels.


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I do a lot of insurance inspections (as well as standard home inspections) here in Florida where older homes require a 4 point inspection and basically all require a wind mitigation. Most of these are performed for owners renewing their policy or looking for a better rate with another company. Recently I have been getting a great deal of 4 point inspection orders from folks who recently purchased and had a full home inspection. Though I don't have a problem getting orders for insurance inspections that should have been completed along with the home inspection (more cash in my pocket) what I can't honestly understand is why I'm finding so may Federal Pacific and Zinsco panels not reported in the home inspections?!?!?

(7 last month and 2 so far this month)

I cover quit a large area of south west Florida and these reports were done by multiple inspectors. Is this a lack of education, no construction background or as much as I hate to ask, realtor pressure?

I'm not looking to throw anyone under the bus here as we all know a 4 point inspection requires photo's of the electrical panel, cover on and cover off.

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I sure do. What's sad about it is they cannot get insurance with these panels and are facing a change out cost of 12 - 15 hundred dollars they didn't expect. I haven't run into any yet with aluminum wiring but it's only a matter of time. Amazing these guys are getting away with this!!!!!!

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We work in a profession where educational institutions haven't made much of an entry because they depend on regulatory requirements to drive folks to them and these regulatory bodies are still in the dark ages.

Marc

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I report FPE and Zinsco panels as a concern but I would question your statement that they are defective. Are they high quality? I say no. Was a Yugo a defective car? No. Was it high quality? No.

Our society mostly perfers low prices over quality. That's why we have stuff like composite board siding and poly plumbing and leaf blowers that last one season.

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I report FPE and Zinsco panels as a concern but I would question your statement that they are defective. Are they high quality? I say no. Was a Yugo a defective car? No. Was it high quality? No.

Our society mostly perfers low prices over quality. That's why we have stuff like composite board siding and poly plumbing and leaf blowers that last one season.

Around here the majority of experienced real estate professionals are aware of the issues with some of the old electrical panels. Many realtors even advise their clients to upgrade the panel prior to listing the house for sale (of course it makes the deal go smoother and raises their commission).

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I was slow coming to the conclusion compared to others, but I'd absolutely call them defective. They're horribly designed. As bad as something can be.

I remember before I came to my conclusion, I'd pull panel covers off and the breakers would all fall out. I was so dense, I didn't even think this was a problem. I was a moron; facts were hitting me in the face and I blithely walked on without saying a word about it.

I don't even pull covers anymore. I think they're total crap.

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I, also, don't even pull their covers anymore. First time I ran into one, some of the breakers fell out when I removed the cover. Researched, found crap, reported crap and stopped removing covers for those. Now it's just report as crap, explain briefly why, recommend replacement and move on.

Years ago, found an apartment complex (one of those "do a brief walk through of a few sample apartments and look at the common area and send us some photos" type inspections that didn't pay real well) with a couple of hundred of them. Talked with the maintenance supervisor about why they were crap, gave him some documentation.

He reported to upper management, though I doubt he revealed his source. That year they replaced half of them. Next year replaced the remainder. He was a hero and got a nice raise for his awareness.

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At the panel is one of the best places to check for AL branch conductors. I still pull the covers of FPE, especially if walls are all finished and I cant see very much cable sheathings.

Although ASHI removed the requirement to identfy AL branch wiring, my State SOP still requires it.

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...

Although ASHI removed the requirement to identify AL branch wiring, my State SOP still requires it.

Any idea why ASHI would do that? The risk of electrical fire is something like 55 times as likely if solid aluminum wiring is in the house. To me, that's worse than FPE panel risks.

Marc

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...

Although ASHI removed the requirement to identify AL branch wiring, my State SOP still requires it.

Any idea why ASHI would do that? The risk of electrical fire is something like 55 times as likely if solid aluminum wiring is in the house. To me, that's worse than FPE panel risks.

Marc

They removed it because it was an anomaly and it didn't make any sense.

ASHI inspectors are still required to identify things that are unsafe. If the inspector judges aluminum wiring to be unsafe, he's supposed to say so. That's always been the case and it hasn't changed.

The problem was that the old standard required the inspector to "describe the presence of solid conductor aluminum branch circuit wiring." It was the only place in the entire standard where inspectors were required to describe a particular building material. There was no requirement to say anything about it other than describing it. It was a goofy requirement, particularly since you can still buy solid-conductor #8 aluminum cable that's just fine - even today. Why force inspectors to describe one, single building material and no others?

When the change was in the proposal stage, there was a huge uproar because people thought that ASHI was saying that inspectors weren't supposed to report on aluminum wiring. That is not the case.

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Jim nailed it as usual about the change in the ASHI SoP. Now, if I came across so many unreported FPE & Zinsco panels like the OP has been doing in FL, I would be throwing those inspectors under the bus.

Tell those owners that they need to call their home inspector and ask why the panel was not reported and tell them to ask the inspector what they are going to do about it! This is this is the only way that those inspectors are going to get educated!

The profession in FL was flooded with unqualified folks when they grandfathered just about anyone who had ever held a screwdriver when they started licensing several years back.

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In my mind defective is the wrong term. Defective is defined as imperfect or faulty. Everything is imperfect. I am imperfect as are you. Do you consider yourself defective? In my opinion a court of law should define a defective product.

Of course you are free to use any term you wish. Like I said, I identify these panels and explain the issues.

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Wow, I had no idea I was opening up such a bag of worms!! We can debate whether ASHI or anyone else requires reporting these or not, a qualified honest inspector will do the right thing and let the folks know these panels are dangerous and need to be changed out. In the state of Florida most if not all insurance company's will not bind a policy if one of these panels are present unless they are presented with a contract and permit number from a licensed electrical contractor for a change out. This must be completed within 30 days or they will cancel the policy.

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Wow, I had no idea I was opening up such a bag of worms!! We can debate whether ASHI or anyone else requires reporting these or not, a qualified honest inspector will do the right thing and let the folks know these panels are dangerous and need to be changed out. In the state of Florida most if not all insurance company's will not bind a policy if one of these panels are present unless they are presented with a contract and permit number from a licensed electrical contractor for a change out. This must be completed within 30 days or they will cancel the policy.

Mike, that is pretty much true around the entire country. An insurance company will issue a binder so the house can close. Then the vast majority of insurers will send out a person to do a brief audit type inspection and if they identify problems like an FPE, Zinsco or K&T they will give the owner 30 days to correct the problems or cancel the coverage.

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In my mind defective is the wrong term. Defective is defined as imperfect or faulty. Everything is imperfect. I am imperfect as are you. Do you consider yourself defective? In my opinion a court of law should define a defective product.

Of course you are free to use any term you wish. Like I said, I identify these panels and explain the issues.

You can quibble about whether or not the panels are defective. But there should be no question about the breakers. A large percentage of them are, in fact, defective. That is, they are improperly constructed and will fail to perform to the standard that they're supposed to perform to. This was actually decided in the NJ courts and Reliance, who bought FPE admits it.

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Wow, I had no idea I was opening up such a bag of worms!! We can debate whether ASHI or anyone else requires reporting these or not, a qualified honest inspector will do the right thing and let the folks know these panels are dangerous and need to be changed out.

Just to clarify, we were discussing ASHI with regard to aluminum wiring, not FPE and Zinsco panels.

Love the mixed metaphor, by the way. In Oregon, we keep our worms in cans. . .

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I guess I'd be opening a plastic yogurt container of worms. [:)]

Home inspectors should report any item that could affect a client's ability to obtain home insurance. Maybe not required but is just good service. It is not that hard to add some boilerplate comments that say blah, blah, - check with your insurance provider.

With the power of the internet today, there is no excuse for ignorance.

I was warning people about the old Crane toilet tanks for a while but have dropped that one. Maybe the bad tanks are mostly busted and gone by now. For a couple of years clients were asking me if the house was bolted to the foundations. That was coming from insurance providers, earthquake insurance for older houses. That one has also dropped from the radar, maybe they are changing the requirements or just denying earthquake coverage outright. Anyway we should try to keep up with the trends.

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