Electric Systems And
Pre-Purchase Home Inspections
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A modern home or building requires electricity to run many of vital systems such as lighting, heating, hot water, appliances, and cooling system. Because so appliances require electric power, some existing homes and buildings do not have enough circuits to support modern electrical usage. Buildings with insufficient electric service (or an undersized panel) need not be very old. A building constructed only 10 years ago may not have the electric wiring to support the today's needs. However, modern energy-efficient equipment and appliances allow some building to get by with a smaller electric service.
Electric service insufficiency is often aggravated by homeowners who add appliances without providing additional circuits. If someone adds appliances without upgrading the electric service, hazardous conditions may exist.
The electrical system consists of the electric lead-in wire, the electric meter and meter pan, the circuit breaker panel (or fuse box in an old house or building), the wiring, and the outlets, switches, lights, and other electrical devices. The whole electric system in the house or building needs to be assessed. If you are purchasing a condo or co-op, the electric service to the unit needs to be assessed to determine if it is sufficient for modern electrical needs.
equipment and appliances
allow some buildings to have
a smaller electric service
In addition evaluating the electric system and advising you of the hazards, the Professional Engineer provides an expense analysis in the engineering report that helps you plan for the future.
Only a Licensed Electrician should open a circuit breaker because of the risks. A Licensed Electrician can correct hazards created by opening electrical panels. Someone who is not a Licensed Electrician lacks the experience to deal with hazards. If a problem develops because of opening the panel, the Inspector is not in a position to resolve the problem. A responsible Home Inspector will not open electrical panels.
Communities require electricians to be licensed, and prohibit anyone other than a Licensed Electrician from performing electrical work. (Exceptions are made for homeowners wiring their own home.)
Heimer Engineering's℠ Licensed Engineers can determine the condition of the wiring by visual examination. The question is why do some Home Inspectors insist on opening the circuit breaker panel when it creates a hazard. Can't these Home Inspectors see the risks and hazards on the outside? Are these Home Inspectors missing wiring problems because of their narrow focus?
There is a misconception that if a house has circuit breakers and has 100-Amp, 240-Volt service, it is sufficient. There is also a misconception that if a home, building, condo unit, or co-op unit has circuit breakers and no fuses, the electric service and electric wiring are sufficient. If a house has large electrical loads such as air-conditioning, a swimming pool, or an appliance such as an electric range, then 150-amp or 200-amp service may be required. The electric panel may also be undersized for the number of circuit breakers installed.
You can depend upon the Professional Engineer Inspector to assess the sufficiency of the electric service and electric wiring in the home, building, condo, or co-op that you are considering purchasing.
Below are terms used in describing home wiring and building wiring:
Alternating current (AC): An electric current that reverses direction in a circuit at regular intervals. Alternating current, also called AC, is used in almost all homes, buildings, condo units, and co-op units today.
Aluminum wiring: Homes, buildings, condo units, and co-op units built between 1965 and 1973 (outside of the City of New York) may have been wired with aluminum wiring, a potential fire hazard.
Amps: The unit of measure of the flow rate of current.
Circuit breaker: A device that shuts of a circuit by mechanical action when too much current is flowing. When a high current passes through a circuit breaker a trigger rapidly separates a pair of internal contacts. Unlike a fuse which must be replaced after it has blows, a circuit breaker can be reset after it has been tripped. Circuit breakers have replaced fuses in modern buildings.
Circuit breaker panel: An electric panel containing circuit breakers.
Conductor: A substance, typically metal, that conducts an electric current. Copper and aluminum are the most common conductors in building wiring.
Current: The rate of flow of electrons, measured in amps. The more electrons flowing, the more energy that is available. However, the flowing electrons heat up the wire. Too much heating of the wire creates a fire hazard.
Direct current (DC): An electric current that flows in one direction in a circuit. Direct current, also called DC, is rarely used homes and buildings today.
Fuse: A safety device used to protect against excessive current. A fuse consists of a metal alloy strip with a low melting point. Because of its electrical resistance, the alloy strip is heated by electric current. If the current exceeds a safe value, the strip melts and stops the current. Fuses are rarely seen in modern wiring.
Insulation: A material that does not conduct electricity. A conductor wrapped in insulation forms the wiring found in homes and buildings. Most modern insulators are plastic or vinyl.
Power: As a first order approximation, power is the product of the voltage times the current. Power is a measure of how much work can be done in a certain period of time. It is power (not voltage or current) that defines how much work is actually done.
Sub-panel: An additional electrical panel installed after the main circuit breaker panel.
Three-phase power: Electrical power delivered in three separate phases. This is the way electrical power is distributed throughout the community and supplied to buildings.
Voltage: The electrical energy available, measured in volts.
Volts: The unit of measure of electrical potential.
Watt: A unit of measure of electric power.
Wire: A conductor surrounded by an insulator. Wires carry the electric current throughout a building.
During the inspection, the Heimer Engineering℠ examines, analyzes, and/or reports on (as appropriate based on the building):
Inspections New Condo
Punch List Co-op
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Heimer Engineering℠ is happy to help you. Senior Staff members are available to answer your questions from Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM. After 5 PM, please leave a message. Messages are checked during the day on Sunday, and Sunday evening through Thursday evening. Inspections are performed seven days a week. Choose Heimer Engineering℠.
Inspection orders are taken by senior staff members. A real estate purchase is complex, and you should be able to speak with someone who can give you real answers to your inspection questions.
To set up an appointment for a pre-purchase inspection, or to find out about Engineering services or expert court testimony send Heimer Engineering℠ an email at WebInfoRequest@heimer.com, send Heimer Engineering℠ a text at 888.769.6910, call Heimer Engineering℠ at 800.605.1500, or call Heimer Engineering℠ at 646.757.4500. If no staff member is in the office, leave a message.
Heimer Engineering℠ serves the Metro New York area, including New York City (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island), Long Island (Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Upstate New York (Rockland County, Putnam County, and Westchester County).
Heimer Engineering℠ respects your privacy. Some inspection firms share information with insurance, landscaping, home maintenance, moving, cable, mortgage, and other companies. You will not receive phone calls or solicitation emails from third parties as a result of providing personal information.
In the event of a life-threatening emergency call 911. Emergency situations need to be handled by first-responders who can evacuate buildings, shut utilities off, and take other steps necessary to preserve life.
Heimer Engineering℠ Standards of PracticeThe Licensed Engineers of Heimer Engineering℠ substantially adhere to the InterNACHI® Code of Ethics, to Subpart 197-4 of the State of New York Code of Ethics and Regulations for Home Inspectors, and to the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE®) Code of Ethics. All State of New York Licensed Engineers are also bound by New York State Education Law Article 145.
Heimer Engineering℠ Code of Ethics
The Licensed Engineers of Heimer Engineering℠ substantially adhere to the InterNACHI® Standards of Practice and the ASHI® Standards of Practice. In the event of a conflict, the Licensed Engineers of Heimer Engineering℠ use Engineering judgment to decide what standard or Engineering principle takes precedence.
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Heimer Engineering℠ performs home inspections, building inspections, condominium inspections, and co-op inspections in the State of New York. We do not perform inspections or recommend Inspectors or Engineers outside of the State of New York. We provide Licensed Professional Engineer consultation services including hurricane and storm damage and damage from adjoining construction. Expert witness services are provided regarding playground injuries, parking lot, walkway, and stairway slip, trip, and fall.
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