Inspectors Notebook

An electrical inspector visiting your home might identify a number of situations that are not "up to code." These situations may not be immediate problems. In fact, it is possible that the wiring in your home has remained trouble-free for many years.

Nevertheless, any wiring or device that is not up to code carries the potential for problems, often at risk to your home and your family. In addition, you may have trouble selling your home if it is not wired according to accepted methods.

Most local electrical codes are based on the National Electrical Code (NEC), a book updated and published every three years by the National Fire Protection Agency. This code book contains rules and regulations for the proper installation of electrical wiring and devices. Most public libraries carry reference copies of the NEC.

All electrical inspectors are required to be well versed in the NEC. Their job is to know the NEC regulations and to make sure these rules are followed in order to prevent fires and ensure safety. If you have questions regarding your home wiring system, your local inspector will be happy to answer them.

While a book like The Complete Guide to Home Wiring cannot possibly identify all potential wiring problems in your house, we have created the "Inspector's Notebook" to help you identify some of the most common wiring defects and show you how to correct them. When working on home wiring repair or replacement projects, refer to this section to help identify any conditions that may be hazardous.

roblem:

ispecting the Grounding Jumper Wire

roblem: .'.ire is missing or rounding lumper side ot me /.aie' broken this is a .'.jid oe 'ued immediately roblem: .'.ire is missing or rounding lumper side ot me /.aie' broken this is a .'.jid oe 'ued immediately

Solution: Attach a lumper wire 'o the aate' either S'oe ot 'he .-.ater meter using pipe ci Use *6-gauge 0' »4-gauge bare copper lumper wire

Running Romex Across Joists

Problem: Cable running across joists or studs is attached to the edge of framing members. Electrical codes forbid this type of installation in exposed areas, like unfinished basements or walk-up attics.

Solution: Protect cable by drilling holes in framing members at least 2" from exposed edges, and threading the cable through the holes

Running Romex Across Joists

Problem: Cable running along joists or studs hangs loosely Loose cables can be pulled accidentally, causing damage to wires

Solution: Anchor the cable to the side of the framing members at least 1'/" from the edge, using plastic staples NM (nonmetallic) cable should be stapled every 4/ feet and within 12" of each electrical box

Problem: Cable running across joists or studs is attached to the edge of framing members. Electrical codes forbid this type of installation in exposed areas, like unfinished basements or walk-up attics.

Problem: Cable running along joists or studs hangs loosely Loose cables can be pulled accidentally, causing damage to wires

Solution: Protect cable by drilling holes in framing members at least 2" from exposed edges, and threading the cable through the holes

Solution: Anchor the cable to the side of the framing members at least 1'/" from the edge, using plastic staples NM (nonmetallic) cable should be stapled every 4/ feet and within 12" of each electrical box

Solution: Install metal nail guards to protect cable from damage Nail guards are available at hardware stores and home centers

Problem: Cable threaded through studs or joists lies close to the edge of the framing members. NM (non-metallic) cable (shown cut away) can be damaged easily if nails or screws are driven into the framing members during remodeling prdjects.

Solution: Install metal nail guards to protect cable from damage Nail guards are available at hardware stores and home centers

Cable shown cut away

Problem:

Solution:

Problem:

Solution:

Problem: -iOe an electri ano ceate c

Solution: Bring installation up to coae the splice inside a meial or plastic electric (pages 38 to 391 Make sure the bo> is large enci toi the number ot wires it contains (page 36)

Problem: -iOe an electri ano ceate c

Solution: Bring installation up to coae the splice inside a meial or plastic electric (pages 38 to 391 Make sure the bo> is large enci toi the number ot wires it contains (page 36)

Problem: Two or more wires are attached to a single screw terminal This type of connection is seen in older wiring but is now prohibited by the National Eiectn i Code

Solution: Disconnect the wires from the screw termi nal. then join them to a short length of wire (called a pigtail), using a wire connector (page 25) Connect the other end of the pigtail to the screw t rmmal

Problem: Ba-e wire extends past a scr terminal Exposed wire can cause a short circuit it touches the metal box or another circuit v ire

Solution: Clip the wire and reconnect it to the screw terminal In a proper connection, the bare wire wraps completely around the screw terminal and the plastic insulation |ust touches the screw head (page 2-i>

Electrical Exposed Wires Protruding

Problem: Wires are connected with electrical tape Electrical tape was used frequently in older installations. but it can deteriorate over time leaving bare wires exposed inside the electrical box

Solution: Replace electrical tape with wire connectors (page 25) You may need 10 clip away a small portion of the wire so the bare end will be covered completely by the connector

Problem: Wires are connected with electrical tape Electrical tape was used frequently in older installations. but it can deteriorate over time leaving bare wires exposed inside the electrical box

Solution: Replace electrical tape with wire connectors (page 25) You may need 10 clip away a small portion of the wire so the bare end will be covered completely by the connector

Pigtail

Sharp edges

Protective sleeve

Problem: No protective sleeve on armored cabl Snaip edges of the cable can damage the wire creating a shock hazard and tire risk

Problem: Nicks and scratches in bare wires interfere the flow of current This can cause the wires to

Solution: Protect the wire insulation by installing plastic or fiber sleeves around the wires Sleeves are available at hardware stores Wires that are dan- aged must be replaced

Solution: Clip away damaged portion of wir restnp about ot insulation and 'econnect' to the screw terminal (page 24)

Wire Insulation Damage

Problem: Insulation on wires is cracked or damaged if damaged insulation exposes bare wire a short cir-can occur posing a shock hazard and tire risk

Solution: Wrap damaged insulation temporarily with plastic electrical tape Damaged circuit wires should be replaced by an electrician

Problem: Insulation on wires is cracked or damaged if damaged insulation exposes bare wire a short cir-can occur posing a shock hazard and tire risk

Solution: Wrap damaged insulation temporarily with plastic electrical tape Damaged circuit wires should be replaced by an electrician

Hardest Electrical Problems

Problem: Short wires are difficult to handle The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that each wire in an electrical box have at least 6" of workable length.

Problem: Open electrical boxes create a fire hazard if a short circuit causes sparks (arcing) inside the box.

Solution: Cover the open box with a solid metal cover-plate. available at any hardware store. Electrical boxes must remain accessible and cannot be sealed inside ceilings or walls.

Open Electrical Boxes Risk

Solution: Add an extension ring to bring the face of the electrical box flush with the surface. Extension rings come in several sizes, and are available at hardware stores.

Problem: Open electrical boxes create a fire hazard if a short circuit causes sparks (arcing) inside the box.

Solution: Cover the open box with a solid metal cover-plate. available at any hardware store. Electrical boxes must remain accessible and cannot be sealed inside ceilings or walls.

Problem: Short wires are difficult to handle The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that each wire in an electrical box have at least 6" of workable length.

Solution: Lengthen circuit wires by connecting them to short pigtail wires, using wire connectors (page 25). Pigtails can be cut from scrap wire, but should be the same gauge and color as the circuit wires

Problem: Recessed electrical box is hazardous, especially if the wall or ceiling surface is made from a flammable material, like wood paneling. The National Electrical Code prohibits this type of installation.

Solution: Add an extension ring to bring the face of the electrical box flush with the surface. Extension rings come in several sizes, and are available at hardware stores.

Problem: Dust and dirt in electrical box can cause hazardous high-resistance short circuits (pages 134 to 137) When making routine electrical repairs, always check the electrical boxes for dust and dirt buildup

Solution: Vacuum electrical box clean, using a narrow nozzle attachment Make sure power to box is turned off at mam service panel before vacuuming

Electrical Conduit

Solution: Replace the electrical box with a deeper electrical box (pages 36 to 39)

Problem: Dust and dirt in electrical box can cause hazardous high-resistance short circuits (pages 134 to 137) When making routine electrical repairs, always check the electrical boxes for dust and dirt buildup

Solution: Vacuum electrical box clean, using a narrow nozzle attachment Make sure power to box is turned off at mam service panel before vacuuming

Problem: Crowded electrical box (shown cut away) makes electrical repairs difficult. This type of installation is prohibited because wires can be damaged easily when a receptacle or switch is installed

Solution: Replace the electrical box with a deeper electrical box (pages 36 to 39)

Problem: Light fixture is installed without an electrical box This installation exposes the wiring connections, and provides no support for the light fixture

Solution: Install an approved electrical box (pages 36 to 39) to enclose the wire connections and support the light fixture

Problem: Light fixture is installed without an electrical box This installation exposes the wiring connections, and provides no support for the light fixture

Solution: Install an approved electrical box (pages 36 to 39) to enclose the wire connections and support the light fixture

Worn Appliance Cords

Common Electrical Cord Problems

Solution: Reposition the lamp or appliance so that cord is visible. Replace worn cords

Problem: Lamp or appliance cord runs underneath a rug Foot traffic can wear off insulation, creating a short circuit that can cause fire or shock

Solution: Reposition the lamp or appliance so that cord is visible. Replace worn cords

Three Prong Two Prong Grounding
Problem: Three-prong appliance plugs do not fit two slot receptacle. Do not use three-prong adapters unless the metal loop on the adapter is tightly connected to the coverplate screw on receptacle (page 17).

Solution: Install a three-prong grounded receptacle if a means of grounding exists at the box (pages 70 to 71). Install a GFCI (ground-fault circuit-interrupter) receptacle (pages 74 to 77) in kitchens and bathrooms, or if the electrical box is not grounded.

Wiring Appliance Plugs
Problem: Extension cord is too small tor the power .ad j' o, a tool or appliance Undersized exten-.cas car. o.erheat melting the insulation and g oare wires exposed

Solution: Use an extension cord with wattage and amperage ratings that meet or exceed the rating ot the tool or appliance Extension cords are tor temporary use only Never use an extension cord tor a permanent installation

Problem: Scorch marks near screw terminals indicate that electrical arcing has occurred Arcing usually is caused by loose wire connections.

Solution: Clean wires with fine sandpaper, and replace the receptacle if it is badly damaged Make sure wires are connected securely to screw terminals.

Temporary Outdoor Wiring
Solution: Use a multi-receptacle power strip with built-in overload protection This is for temporary use only If the need for extra receptacles is frequent, upgrade the wiring system

Inspecting Receptacles & Switches

Problem: Octopus receptacle attachments used permanently can overload a circuit and cause overheating of the receptacle

Problem: Scorch marks near screw terminals indicate that electrical arcing has occurred Arcing usually is caused by loose wire connections.

Solution: Clean wires with fine sandpaper, and replace the receptacle if it is badly damaged Make sure wires are connected securely to screw terminals.

Problem: Two-slot receptacle in outdoor installation is hazardous because it has no grounding slot. In case of a short circuit, a person plugging in a cord becomes a conductor for current to follow to ground.

Electric Code For Basement Wiring

Solution: Install a GFCI (ground-fault circuit-interrupter) receptacle Electrical codes now require that GFCIs be used for all outdoor receptacles, as well as for basement, kitchen, and bathroom receptacles.

Problem: Two-slot receptacle in outdoor installation is hazardous because it has no grounding slot. In case of a short circuit, a person plugging in a cord becomes a conductor for current to follow to ground.

Solution: Install a GFCI (ground-fault circuit-interrupter) receptacle Electrical codes now require that GFCIs be used for all outdoor receptacles, as well as for basement, kitchen, and bathroom receptacles.

Problem:

Solution

Stranded Wire Receptacle Neutral Screw

Solution: Rev rse the wire connections so tn black not 'ires are attached to orass screw and white neutral /.ires are attached to siKe' scr„.\ terminals Live voltage no. »lows into the short slot the receptacle

Problem: ij"al re connected to the

«nais on r 'eceptacie and oiack a-e aracheo to screw terminals This 'azardous oecajse live voltage flows cuf-l slot on the receptacle

Solution: Rev rse the wire connections so tn black not 'ires are attached to orass screw and white neutral /.ires are attached to siKe' scr„.\ terminals Live voltage no. »lows into the short slot the receptacle

Problem:

Problem: ij"al re connected to the

«nais on r 'eceptacie and oiack a-e aracheo to screw terminals This 'azardous oecajse live voltage flows cuf-l slot on the receptacle

Solution

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