A home's electrical system is a major part of every home inspection. This week we join St. Louis Home Inspector’s Steve Sonderen to discuss the ins and outs of inspecting a home’s service entrance which is an important safety concern in the home.
We’ll start our inspection of the electrical systems at the service entrance, which is the responsibility of the utility provider (Ameren in the St. Louis area). When we look at the service entrance, we’re evaluating the general condition. The most common potential issue we see is encroaching foliage or trees. In this case, the usual fix is a phone call to the utility provider to have a crew come out and trim back the area.
In addition to tree overgrowth, we’ll also look at the height of above-ground wiring. There are height requirements for sidewalks, roadways, and driveways. These minimum heights are very important to prevent accidental contact with the wires. Again, the main concern we have with residential electrical systems is safety. If the minimum height requirements aren’t met, someone could contact a live wire and get electrocuted.
The utility provider’s responsibility stops and the homeowner’s responsibility begins with the meter base, which connects the service entrance to the house. Wiring from the service entrance runs through the meter base and on to the service panel, which is usually what homeowners think of when we talk about the electrical system. However, the electrical system is more complex beyond the service panel.
When we inspect the service panel, we’ll always start by assessing the general condition of the panel and the surrounding areas. We need to make sure it is safe to approach. Occasionally we’ll see the panel blocked by excessive storage items like boxes or leftover building materials. If a service panel isn’t safe to approach, we’ll let our client know immediately.
If the panel is safe to approach, we’ll next make sure the panel is safe to touch. If the wiring isn’t done correctly, a person touching the panel can be electrocuted and killed. We’ll see inspectors killed every so often when they open a charged panel door. When you’re dealing with that much electric energy, you don’t get a second chance. That’s why we take safety so seriously.
We’ll be back next week to discuss the internals of the service panel. When we’re talking electrical systems, we’re also talking safety, so join us again next week as we look at the inside of the service panel.
As always, thank you for your support!