Electrical Problems: 3 Common Issues We See

During our home inspections, many of the major key components of the home we inspect are a part of, or rely on, the electrical system. Like other major systems in a home, electrical systems have seen quite a few changes over the years, such as the transition from knob and tube wiring which we still see fairly often. In this short article we’ll describe some of the most common electrical problems we run into with electrical systems during our inspections, and delve a little into what might be done about those problems.

First Electrical Problem: Double Tapped Breakers

double tapped circuit breaker a common electrical problem

One of the most frequent issues we run into, are double tapped breakers. We wrote a short bit on this before, and not much has changed! Simply put, much like it sounds, a double tapped breaker is when a circuit breaker inside an electrical box has been “tapped into” twice. This is something that really should be avoided, and is usually the result of not having enough circuits available for additions. Often times, this is because the electrical box should be replaced with a larger, usually higher amperage box.

Unfortunately, upgrading the electrical box can often be a bit on the expensive side and should only be done by a licensed professional. However, not every double tapped breaker is a result of needing more room. There may be some in the box, and someone may have chosen to go the “easy” route in the past. Consider looking to see if there are any open spaces in your breaker box, and if so, it’s likely possible to just add a breaker and rewire. This is something that still should be done by a licensed professional, but will be much cheaper to do than replacing the entire box!

Second Electrical Problem: Open Ground Outlets

Another common electrical problem we run into are open ground outlets. You know that third “prong” in your electrical outlet? The one at the bottom? That’s the ground. If the outlet your plugging into, doesn’t have that ground wire connected…that means it’s an open ground outlet.

Do you have outlets with only two plugs? Time to upgrade, and consider grounding your rooms or entire home, if needed, to protect your valuable electronics, and the home itself.

ungrounded electrical problems, 2 prong outlet

During our home inspections, we use a tool to detect open ground outlets. You can get one of these relatively cheap, like the one here.

What is Grounding?

Essentially, a grounding is a backup path for electrical current to flow in case there is a fault. An electrical fault is any abnormal electric current. That is to say, grounding helps an abnormal electrical current find safe pathways. If grounding was not in your home, abnormal electrical currents may damage your appliances, home, or people.

Third Electrical Problem: Missing or Non-Functioning GFCI’s

Another common electrical problem we run into is missing, or not working GFCI outlets. A GFCI outlet, or “ground fault circuit interrupter” can prevent electrocution and basically acts as its own circuit breaker, in a sense. If power goes where it shouldn’t, the GFCI will immediately cut off the flow of electricity.

GFCI outlet

GFCI outlets are not only important, but required. While it can depend on location, generally “to code” means having a GFCI outlet near kitchen sinks, and bathroom sinks. This is because water and electricity do not mix, and having a GFCI outlet nearby is one of the best protections from shock damage to yourself or your home.

If you don’t have a GFCI outlet in your bathrooms or sinks, we would suggest moving that up on your priority list – as it tends to be inexpensive and easy for a licensed professional to install.

That’s it for 3 of the most common electrical problems we see in our inspections. During our full home inspections, we take a thorough look at the electrical system and make recommendations on any fixes, and upgrades, while checking every accessible outlet for miswirings or ungrounded outlets. Be sure to reach out to us for your next home inspection!

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