Electrical panel boxes contain circuit breakers or fuses that act as over current protection devices for the electrical circuits that are installed in the home. If electrical current exceeds the capacity of the wire to carry it safely the circuit breaker will trip and stop electrical current from flowing. This can help to avoid a house fire and electrical shock.
Home inspectors should check for the following defective conditions during an electrical panel inspection: (not an all inclusive list)
- Lack of clearance. According to the 2008 National Electrical Code, residential electrical panels require at least a 3-foot clearance or working space in front, 30 inches of width, and a minimum headroom clearance of 6 feet, or the height of the equipment, whichever is greater. If obstacles would make it unsafe for you to inspect the service panel, you should not inspect it.
- One of the most important aspects of the electrical inspection is to identify the presence of aluminum branch circuit wiring
- Panel box cover screws must have blunt ends so they do not damage the wires inside the panel box. Look for wires that pass too closely to the screw openings inside the electrical panel.
- Home inspectors should look for proper sizing of circuit breakers.
- Inspectors should look for rusting or corrosion in the panel box which is a sign that water infiltration may be taking place.
- Electrical panels manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electric (FPE). These panels have a poor reputation and further evaluation by a qualified electrical contractor is recommended.