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Chad Fabry

Electrical section for review and comment

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A colleague asked me to review the electrical section of a recent report. I asked permission to share it here.

It was a pdf and had all the company info so I copied the contents to a Word doc. The guts are there but it looked better as an original. 

Please chime in with constructive comments.for review.docx

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I couldn't get past the first page. The opening disclaimer is awful. Half of it needs to be axed, and half of what's left is in the wrong place.

The checklist is annoying. Is it really that hard to label the boxes in every comment? MM? RE? How is a client supposed to decipher that?

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I couldn't drag the photos.  Had I been able to do so, I would have changed each individual finding to double-column, keeping the text on the left column and the photo on the right.  I didn't proof it so ignore the spelling/punctuation.  You'll get the gist of it:

Descriptions

1. The electrical service entrance is a 200 amp, 120/240 volt service.

2. There are subpanels installed near the hot tub and near an outbuilding.  They’re both 120/240 volt panels but I don’t know what the ampere ratings are.

3. There are some aluminum conductors installed but they’re stranded conductors so don’t worry about it.  The problem with aluminum wires concerns single strand conductors only.

Findings

4. Several general-purpose wall receptacles are two prong: there is no grounding connection. Grounding is a good idea that has been around since 1960.  Grounding is used to help prevent folks from being shocked by energized surfaces.  They’re used to conduct lightning currents to the ground rod where they can be safely dissipated in the earth and by surge protectors to protect sensitive electronic devices from voltage spikes that result from lightning strikes to the power lines.  Ask your electrician to go over the entire property, making sure that grounding is installed where needed.  Two-prong receptacles will need to be replaced with three-prong equivalents.  All devices (wall receptacles and wall switches), fixtures and appliances should be grounded.

5. There are several grounding issues involving both sub-panels: both should have 4-wire service but are served by only three wires.  The missing wire is the ground wire; the ground wires from the branch circuits are joined with neutral conductors when they should be isolated from each other; the cross-over bar should have been removed.  Ask your electrician to go over these two sub-panels and make them right.  Don’t hire the same guy that did this.  Find someone who knows what he’s doing.  Your safety depends on it.

6. Plastic-sheathed electric cable is installed in exposed areas where it can be damaged.  This kind of cable needs protection in such areas.  Putting it in the attic is fine if it’s not where folks can step on it. In areas where it's exposed to damage, use a different kind of cable or install the conductors within conduit.  Ask your electrician to do this for you.

7. There are several locations in the house and outbuilding where Ground Fault Circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection is either not installed or failed when tested.  These devices work in conjunction with ground wires to protect folks that accidently close the circuit between an energized surface and the earth, causing electrical shock or even worse.  It’s vital that you ask your electrician to go over the entire property, make sure that GFCI protection is installed where needed and that they all function properly.  A good electrician will know where GFCI protection is needed.

8. Within the outbuilding are many electrical connections not concealed within an electrical box.  Bad connections generate sparks sometimes.  Since combustible materials are everywhere, a box is needed to contain those sparks and help prevent a fire.  Ask your electrician to make sure all connections are within either an electrical box, fixture or appliance.  Install box covers wherever missing.

9. Some wall receptacles and wall switches don’t have a cover.  Energized surfaces are present and within easy reach inside the box.  It’s an electrical shock hazard.  Ask your electrician to install covers wherever currently missing.

Edited by Marc

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Put me right to sleep.

My complaint with checklist formats has always been too much space occupied and too many dead words.

Narrative format lets you say just what you found, not everything else that you did not find.  

The repeated calls for licensed review of just about every item raises the question of why did the inspector look here at all.

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I kinda looked it over, but did not have the discipline to read it.  Forget about the format of report, repetition, poor grammar, etc.  Did the inspector meet the expectations of his client?  Likely no he/she did not.

Some of the comments are not understood by me, a home inspector, so how can a client understand it?

I remain in the school of short and sweet for reporting.  Do not explain the defect, just report it.  Lightening can strike anywhere.  the nonsense about client personal protection is crap;  you can trip and fall anywhere and die!

Find it and report it.  Have the confidence in your own ability and knowledge to make "pronouncements".   The electrical system is unsafe, bad, crap, etc.  Get an electrician to fix it.  No I did not spend all day making a list of the defects.  No, I will not tell you how to re-wire the subpanel. 

I have problems with inspectors that think they are saving the world one client at a time. 

 

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I do not like room-by-room reporting as you end up repeating yourself over and over, no client will read that type of report closely. The beginning is way too wordy, if you want to put anything just restate what the SOP states or better, just write that the Client can refer to the SOP.  "I urge you ---"? Just put "Hire an electrician ---." This would be much better if written in a bulletized or point-bypoint form, put all the GFCI issues in one statement, all the wiring issues in one statement, etc.  And did I read this correctly, the main panel is a GE panel with a 60 amp Square D main breaker? Why report on things that are not issues? "There is a fan in a room that works." "There is aluminum wiring but is is not an issue." There is another discussion going on about Realtor referrals - this is the type of report that will get you no Realtor referrals, or worse,  and the inspector will probably say "They don't refer me because I am so tough on the inspection." 

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I believe the author has an adequate technical skill-set. Still, the text was difficult to follow. The photo layout is confusing and it was difficult to figure out which photo went with specific comments. 

I'm a fan of tying text to photos with arrows originating at the text and ending by pointing to the issue in the photo. Lately, I've been using more text boxes in the photo with less narrative outside the photo. Kurt called it "cartoon style" because of the text bubbles. He was/ is a proponent of fewer words and better pictures with short bursts of text. 

I think it's OK to say just once at the end of the section; "Have an electrician fix these issues and any others he or she may find."

I think it's OK to have just one disclaimer either in the contract or at the beginning or end of the report. Disclaimers at each section , or worse, after each comment  are a distraction.

Yes. 120/240, not 110/220

to and too- please use them correctly.

"Outside, the installer used wire that's rated  to be used inside only. Replace the wire with a product or method  approved for wet locations and exposure to sunlight."

"The outbuilding main panel is mounted on a pole"  Is it a service disconnect or a disconnect /*subpanel*?

Are the out-building and garage the same thing? 

The hot tub disconnect photo is labeled as the outbuilding sub-panel

The photos are much too small to be meaningful. The  illustration of a panel showing the bonding strap is too esoteric to be helpful to a lay- person.

I truly dislike the checklist and room-by- room canned comments

I'm hoping Jim Katen will take a few minutes to share his thoughts.

   

 

 

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I agree with most of what everyone else has said. 

My overall impression is that it takes way too much space to convey way too little information, and the information that it does convey is confusing. The report has no regard for the reader, who has to comb through giant haystacks to pick out the needles. This is a good example of a report that's more concerned with covering the inspector's butt than the client's butt. If I had paid for this report, I'd ask for my money back. It's simply not readable. 

I doubt that I could give effective advice to this person without meeting him or her first, so maybe what I'm about to say is out of line: In general, confused reports are written by confused minds - that is, people who are not accustomed to organizing their thoughts and presenting information in a way that makes sense. So without meeting him or her first, my best advice is to start by learning how to organize and present information in a clear manner. Everything else will flow from that. 

In the meantime, dicking around with minor improvements to this reporting system will be a waste of time. 

 

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I totally agree with Les.  Keep it simple. Your client may be an archeologist.... he doesn't get the techno-babble.

"Several anomalies were noted at the electrical installation.  We recommend consulting a licensed master electrician to further evaluate the electrical panels/subpanels and perform all necessary corrective action to ensure a safe and efficient installation."

That's it.  Maybe a couple of pics

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