the A.R.I.E.S. Co



Module: #7 (seven)                                Electrical

NARIES training module for Home Inspection

by Michael W. Pederson, Architect/General Contractor


Study, writing and inspection assignments:


Student Name:_____________________________________________________

City & State:_______________________________________________________

Building location:____________________________________________________






Special Inspection Comments:






WARIES PO BOX 532, Edmonds, WA 98020, Ph: 800-583-5821



Copyright 2003 Michael W. Pederson

Module # 7

Section of Standards:             ELECTRICAL

Index of the Module:                     

1.)   Standard of Practice (This standard parallels the report form)

2.)   Study Guide ( A guide for future improvement and study)

3.)   Focus Points and Check Points (Provides necessary guides for observing to make the report analysis, facts and findings)

4.)   Sample Check list (Good for review, can be expanded)

5.)   Samples of lap top computer generated reports (in your binder.) 


1.) The student is to do (1) one complete house inspection using a field or lap-top form and use the contained module from that inspection to do assignments (3) & (4) and a part of (5).

2.)   Narrative writing assignment. Trains you to develop a link between the observation (eyeballs) in the mind (brain), and the written report (hands) for detailed work.

NOTE: Assignment (2) does not require you to inspect any buildings.

Please read enclosed directions.

3.)   Section of the module for hand written field report. (Fill it out)

4.)   Section of the module for lap top generated report form taken from your disk.

     ( Fill it out)

The following assignment requires you to look at 3-5 building situations.

5.)   Section of the module for unsatisfactory conditions, maintenance, repairs and replacements on 3-5 buildings. (Fill it out completely, 90%. Some items may not be found.)


Before beginning this section, remember to read the theory of the eyeballs and the brains working together. Modeling is how you make the observation count when providing the analysis. Compare what you see with the model, and write down the observed differences. This is the analysis, facts and findings. Things do not look a certain way; they are a particular way and a fact. Write them down. Use your “Focus Point and Check Point” guides in this module. Examine the entire system thoroughly looking for signs of alterations or repairs.  Ask the agent and owner for this information.

To develop your modeling ability you must do your own self-education, and go look for the information about each item. The question is, how was it supposed to be when it was built, and how does it appear now.  Report the differences, no matter what, in the analysis.

The Electrical inspection, is considered a part of the “Home Inspection” (the actual building structure), and it is included because it is part of what the owner is purchasing, and contains many things which influence the conditions found in the building, or potential things which effect the building, negatively or positively. 

Inspection Process

The inspection process is always sets of opportunities to show your client how thorough, complete and critical you are. Doing the Electrical section is a rigorous and dangerous exercise, which your client can easily relate too. Therefore, you seat your client while you do this section of the inspection, especially when you open up the panel for inspection. This comes quite naturally since they are now done inspecting those items they are familiar with anyway and by now would like to rest and be seated. You tell them they will be notified if anything is found they should see. Inspect each inspection item thoroughly and completely being very careful when inspecting the open panel. First, inspect service entrance for a safe and solid installation. Second, inspect the panel; it’s interiors, equipment, and wiring for proper and safe appearing installations. Once the exterior of the panel is inspected, remove the cover being very careful not to touch anything inside the panel. We recommend that a flashlight be the only tool in your hand, once the cover is removed, and do not face the panel, but stand sideways with your left hand in your pocket and to the outside and the right side at the panel side with a flashlight in hand only to observe the interiors. Third inspect all of the switches and receptacles you can observe including all GFCI receptacles. Lastly check the fire and smoke detectors for functionality if possible.


This tedious and dangerous exercise will make the inspection a thorough and precise one, and impress on your client you are a thorough and complete Home Inspector. This is a good marketing tool and adds to convincing everyone you are the right inspector.

Risk & Liability

The most important issue is, of course, as always, any “Life Health and Safety” item we see, which could be identified as an existing and/or potential hazard, dangerous or an emergency condition, or other safety oriented items in need of immediate attention. We report these as such and as an unsatisfactory condition with urgent attention required. They may or may not be costly to repair or replace.

Life, Health & Safety Examples

In the case of the electrical inspection it is a black and white issue. Wherever you see any evidence of amateur or homeowner work, other than professional work with a permit and an inspection, we report it, and request a full inspection by a qualified State licensed electrical contractor. The next most important item is functionality, which should always be totally useful throughout the building. Nothing should be non functional. This prevents any homeowner or other amateur from activating any of the non-functional equipment for some reason by hooking it up to the panel or elsewhere and using it.

Improperly installed service entrances may allow water to enter around the masthead or through the mast head entry if the wires are not attached properly.

The panel may be improperly installed with inadequate stud or other form of protective methods for the wires coming and going into the panel. The panel may have no seals at the entries or the breaker openings may not be covered leaving an opening into the panel interior.

Panel interiors may be damp, wet or overly humid causing shorts and/or breaker tripping.

The equipment may be wrong sized wires or breakers, no grounding or lack of it at all.

The wiring may wrong size, double tapped breakers, or mismatched wire to breakers.

Visible wiring throughout the building may not be in proper conduit or properly placed.

Switches and receptacles may be mis-wired or arcing and/or non functional.

GFCI equipment may be mis-wired or arcing and/or non functional.

Smoke detectors may not work.

Time & Money

All of the above items may be unsatisfactory and require expensive consultations, maintenance, repairs or replacements, so do not overlook them. Remember that the cost of these conclusions is usually the deciding factor for the consumer. Therefore be sure to recommend they consult other specialists and experts, who are qualified state licensed individuals or companies, for their opinions and/or remedies, before purchase.


Review the enclosed material, inspect one house, fill out a report form, and then fill out 1.) the writing exercises, 2.) the field form, 3.) the lap top form, and 4.) the section of the module for unsatisfactory conditions, maintenance, repairs and replacements. Use the directions found with the report forms and the binder.

The writing exercise is very important for developing the noted relationships in your mind, with the written word. This training creates standard patterns of thinking and developing patterns for writing. This in turn develops your efficiency to write with ease, with clarity, without any hesitation, and to understand the repetitive nature of this system.

The field report forms demonstrate how efficient your ability to briefly state things should be, because you have limited space. 

The lap top forms demonstrate how efficient your ability to briefly state things can be, but provides room to be more descriptive and explain things more clearly.

The section of the module for unsatisfactory conditions, maintenance, repairs and replacements develops your sensitivity to each conclusion and what it actually means.

Complete this module and send back to me with any of the individual whole house report assignments.


Please use a hand held tape recorder to do the house inspections and take notes. Then return to your office and create the reports. This method will develop your skill much faster than doing it in the field where it will be clumsy and you cannot focus and develop your writing skills.




Required duty: Identify, provide an opinion and make any appropriate recommendation about the observable conditions in the accessible areas of the electrical system and related items.

    1. Service Entrance: Observe, locate and describe the visible installed wires and cables to the service entrance, service wire attachments and structures including weather head, masts and supports, etc. and any related deficiencies including insufficient clearances, insecure attachments to buildings and poles, missing, damaged or broken parts and improper meter installation.
    2. Panels: Observe, locate and describe the visible installed electrical panel and sub-panels for accessibility, installation, amperage rating and voltage, and any related deficiencies including the lack of screws, open breaker spaces in the face, holes, grounding and improperly sized panels.
    3. Panel Interiors: Observe and describe the visible panel interior including its cleanliness, the presence of moisture, humidity and water, rust and corrosion, and any related deficiencies including the lack of entry seals and other holds, etc.
    4. Panel Equipment: Observe and describe the visible installed electrical equipment including wiring type, size and material of main service wires and circuit wires, grounding, the rated amperage of breakers, fuses and fuse-stats, and any related deficiencies including improper overload protection and wiring compatibility for breakers, fuses and fuse-stats, double tapping of the breakers, missing grounding, etc.
    5. Wiring: Observe and describe the visible installed electrical wiring throughout the building and wiring between the primary building and its associated structures including parking structures, storage, playhouses and any related deficiencies including improper installation, unprotected wiring, and open wires, etc.
    6. Switches, Receptacles and Fixtures: Observe, describe and check the functionality, including any GFCI receptacles with its respective test button, the visible installed electrical switches, receptacles and fixtures, and any related deficiencies including missing plates, open junction boxes, loose visible wires and improperly mounted fixtures etc.
    7. Smoke Detectors: Observe, locate and describe the visible installed smoke detectors and any related deficiencies including the absence of smoke detectors in appropriate areas and deficiencies with location or operation.
    8. GFCI Equipment: Observe, locate and describe the visible installed GFCI receptacles and any related deficiencies including the absence of GFCI receptacles in appropriate areas and deficiencies with location operation.


If items, which are excluded, are observed at the site, they will be identified, located and the exclusion shall be noted.

The inspector is not required to perform the following:

    1. Examine or inspect items inaccessible or unobservable.
    2. Examine or inspect items behind the surface of walls, floors or ceilings.
    3. Operate or evaluate any electrical equipment or appliances.
    4. Examine or inspect electrical systems which are disconnected or shut-down.
    5. Examine or inspect panel interiors, if in the opinion of the inspector, the panels are physically inaccessible or if removal of the cover could cause physical damage or pose a safety hazard.
    6. Operate or evaluate the operation of overload protection devices.
    7. Examine or inspect every receptacle, switch or fixture or remove their respective covers.
    8. Examine or inspect compatibility of breakers or fuses with the panel board.
    9. Operate or evaluate smoke and fire detectors or test them when access would require a ladder or steps.
    10. Evaluate secondary power sources.
    11. Evaluate the attachment of any electrical equipment or devices.
    12. Examine or inspect the GFCI receptacle with anything other than the manufacturers test button.
    13. Examine or inspect emergency/backup electrical power sources including generators, windmills, solar collectors, battery or other electrical storage facilities.





A.        Incoming Power & Exterior

1.            Observe any overhead or underground cables.

2.            Check cable fastenings and attachment for looseness, improperly installed and unsafe support.

3.            Check wiring for frayed or damaged sections, including incoming lines and from support cable into the masthead.

4.            Count the number of service wires.  Two is 110-volt, three is 220-volt.

5.            Observe the main panel location – should be inside the building.

6.            Observe any tree limbs, etc. which are overhanging, contacting or swinging against the service wires.

7.            Check exterior outlets for weather protected caps.

8.            Check exterior wiring for damage and whether it’s marked for exterior use (sunlight resistant).

9.            Test all exterior outlets and lights.

10.         Observe all fixtures that are in poor condition, hanging loose and/or missing.


B.        Interior Power

1.             Check the main power panel to see if it is fused or breaker.

2.             Check the volt and ampere size.

3.             Inspect the following:

a.            Whether the panel is installed properly with an inspection certificate inside the door

b.             Whether the cover is missing or loose.

c.             Whether there are any missing knockout plates.

d.             Whether all fuses are in place.

e.            Whether the panel is clean, dry and well organized.

f.              Whether there are any holes in the case, and all wire entries sealed at the holes.

g.            Whether any circuits over-fused.

h.            Whether branch wiring is aluminum or copper.

i.              Whether there is any rust or corrosion.

j.              Check for grounding and whether it is connected properly inside and outside the panel.

k.            Observe whether the ground wire is properly connected to pipes or to the exterior rod.


C.        Interior Outlets, Switches and Wiring

1.            Check every room for properly mounted electrical outlets and switches, including cover plates.

2.           Test each duplex with a circuit analyzer.

3.           Observe any electrical hazards or unsafe conditions.

4.            Test all GFCI outlets with a circuit analyzer and ground fault test device.

5.            Be sure there are GFCI devices at all required locations near sinks, washing machines and other water sources.

6.            Observe each room for number of outlets.

7.            Observe the house wiring type (knob and tube wiring or other wire)

8.            Check for poorly mounted fixtures, etc.

9.            Check for any extension cords being used as additional outlets, and which may or may not pass through walls.

10.         Observe all visible wiring for cracking or loss of insulation.

11.         Check whether all visible wiring exposed to possible damage is covered with metal conduit.  Note: Garbage and electric water tanks, for examples.

12.         Inspect all visible wiring in basements and attics for open junction boxes, visible and exposed wire splices, long unsupported sections, installations which are unprofessional, unsafe or hazardous, and any knob and tube wiring buried in insulation.

NOTE:  Test all switching for function and identify their use to be sure they are working properly.




Focus Point Identification & Terminology

1.              Identify exterior service, service entry and grounding components

2.             Identify panel boxes, their components, types and arrangements

3.             Identify distribution systems, their components, types and arrangements

4.             Identify service voltage and amperage

5.             Identify wiring components, types, materials, uses and installations

6.             Identify wiring methods and cable installations, switching and outlets

7.             Identify circuit over current protection, breakers, fuses, fuse stats, GFCI

8.             Identify grounding components, types, materials, uses and installations

Unsatisfactory Conditions Recognition, and Analysis and Relationship to Public Safety (Conditions needing maintenance, repairs and/or replacements)

1.            Service at street & wires, recognize regular or irregular, installations, sag, attachments, clearances and height above ground.

2.            Service entry and meters, recognize regular or irregular installations, meter box size, building attachment, clearances and height above ground.

3.            Grounding, recognize regular or irregular installations, rods and piping etc. with attachments.

4.            Panel boxes, recognize regular or irregular installations, quantity, location and clearances, penetrations, appropriateness of use, physically sealed and signs of overheating and damage.

5.            Distribution systems, recognize regular or irregular, installations, “J” box types, wire type and location, exposure, appropriateness of use and physically sealed and signs of overheating and damage.

6.            Service voltage and amperage, recognize whether the meter base, amperage and panel size match.

7.             Wiring, recognize regular or irregular, types, installations, locations, protections and exposures.

8.            Wiring methods, recognize regular or irregular, types, installations, locations, protections and exposures.

9.            Over current protection, recognize regular or irregular, installations, types and devices and signs of overheating and damage.

10.         Grounding, recognize regular or irregular, installations, types and metal to metal devices.

Systems Functions and Operations

1.         Understand service entry and grounding requirements and public SAFETY.

2.         Understand panel box types and their uses and public SAFETY.

3.         Understand distribution systems and public SAFETY.

4.         Understand service voltage, amperage and public SAFETY.

5.         Understand wiring installations and public SAFETY.

6.         Understand wiring components, switches, outlets, GFCI outlets and public          SAFETY.

7.         Understand circuit over current protection, breakers, fuses, fuse stats, GFCI and   public SAFETY.

8.        Understand grounding and public SAFETY.

Construction Methods and Materials

1.        Understand service installation and arrangements

2.        Understand panel box installation and multiple arrangements

3.        Understand the installation of distribution and wire systems

4.        Understand service voltage and amperage and how it is used

5.        Understand the installation of wiring, switching and outlets including how neutral and grounding works

6.        Understand the installation of circuit over current protection grounding and bonding

7.         Understand the installation of grounding components and how it is used

8.         Understand the installation of conductors and relationship to over current devices

9.         Understand electrical theory, grounding and current flow



Electrical – Exterior

            Poor drip loop                                               Correct/possible water entry

            Damaged duct seal                                      Reseal/possible water to service panel

            No/faulty/missing GFI outlets                       Add/repair as necessary

            No/damaged/older outlets                           Consider adding/repairing/updating

            Exposed unprotected wiring                        Correct

            Lamp cord wiring                                          Replace with proper wiring

            Loose service entrance/service head        Repair as necessary

            Poor clearances as shown                          Correct

            Damaged/frayed service cables                 Consult with an electrician

            Older service cable                                       Anticipate updating

Electrical System

            Minimal circuits                                             Add more circuits as needed

            No ground fault circuits                                 Add where needed as discussed

            Open junction boxes                                     Provide covers

            Exposed splices/wiring                                Put in junction boxes

            Poorly hung wires                                          Hang properly

            Over-fusing                                                    Reduce fuse/breaker size

            Double-tapped circuits                                 Single up circuits if necessary

            Use of lamp cord wiring                               Wire correctly

            Older 2-slot outlets                                        Update to grounded 3-slot outlets

            Minimal outlets in house                               Add more outlets as needed

            Need De-oxy gel on aluminum wire            Apply  gel where needed

            Older wiring                                                   Update/upgrade wiring as needed

            Reversed-polarity outlets                             Update/upgrade wiring as needed

            Loose outlets/switches                                 Tighten up

            Water/corrosion in service panel                Correct for  leaks or condensation

            Visible defects/deficiencies                        Correct as needed

            Older system/components                           Update/upgrade as needed

            Need upgrading/updating                            Hire a licensed electrician

            Some inaccessible areas                            Check if possible

            Possible homeowner wiring                        Follow up with an electrician

            Open knockouts in panel                              Seal up

            Open fuse slots                                             Add fuses

            Possible code violation                                Check with a licenses electrician


Published in the United States of America 2004 Ó by NARIES,

 The National Association of Real Estate Inspection and Evaluation Services

All rights reserved

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by means electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the publisher.