Electric System and Wiring and
Home, Building, Condo, and
Co-op Inspections Performed by
Licensed Engineer Inspectors

Insight Only An Engineer Inspector Offers

Licensed Engineer Inspectors performing Home, Building, Condo, and Co-op
Inspections in New York City (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx,
and Staten Island), Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk),
and Upstate New York (Rockland, Putnam, and Westchester)

Scroll down to find out why you need an Engineer Inspector

An electrical fuse panelA modern  home, building, condo unit, or co-op unit requires electricity to run many of vital systems such as lighting, heating, hot water, appliances, and cooling system.  Because so many of today's appliances require electric power, some existing homes and buildings do not have enough circuits to support modern electrical usage.  Homes, buildings, condo units, and co-op units with insufficient electric service need not be very old.  Even a  home, building, condo unit, or co-op unit built only 25 years ago may not have the electric wiring to support the today's needs.

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 condominium unit or co-op unit, the electric service to the unit needs to be assessed to determine if it is sufficient for modern electrical needs.

Federal Pacific circuit breaker panels are alleged to be hazardous.  For more information on Federal Pacific circuit breaker panels, click here.

In addition evaluating the electric system and advising you of the hazards, the Engineer provides an expense analysis in the engineering report that helps you plan for the future.

Electrical HazardIMPORTANT:  Only a Licensed Electrician should open a circuit breaker or fuse panel because of the associated risks.  An Inspector or anyone else who is not a Licensed Electrician should never open a circuit breaker or fuse panel.

A Licensed Electrician is in the position to correct hazardous conditions that are created by opening the circuit breaker or fuse panel.  Someone who is not a Licensed Electrician lacks the experience to deal with hazardous conditions that might develop as a result of opening a circuit breaker or fuse panel.  If there is a problem that develops as a result of opening the panel (for example, a circuit breaker becomes loose), the Inspector is not in a position to safely resolve the problem.  Thus, opening a circuit breaker or fuse panel could create a hazardous condition.

In addition, most 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.)  So an Inspector who creates a hazardous condition as the result of opening circuit breaker or fuse panel would not be permitted to repair the hazardous condition created.

An experienced Inspector can determine the condition of the wiring by visual examination of visible areas in the building.  The wiring evaluation should not be based just on the inside of the electrical panel.  The question you should ask is why do some Home Inspectors insist on opening the circuit breaker panel when it could create a hazard?  Can't these Home Inspectors find risks and hazards by examining the way the building is wired?  Are these home Inspectors missing problems like insufficient electric service or old circuit breaker panels?  Are these Home Inspectors missing serious wiring problems because of their narrow focus?

Insufficient Electric Service

Incandescent light bulbThere 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, and 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 200 amp service may be required.

You can depend upon the Engineer to assess the sufficiency of the electric service and electric wiring in the  home, building, condo unit, or co-op unit that you are considering purchasing.

Definition of Electrical Terms

Below are terms used in describing home wiring and building wiring:

  • Circuit breaker panelAlternating 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.

  • Exposed Electrical WiringDirect 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.

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Heimer Engineering's Engineer Inspectors perform pre-purchase home, building, condo, and co-op inspections, and provide other Engineering services. Heimer Engineering only provides Engineering services in the State of New York. Heimer Engineering's Engineer Inspectors do not provide contracting, construction, building, or repair services. Heimer Engineering is not affiliated with AIA®, ASCE®, ASHI®, ANSI®, ISI®, NACHI®, NAHI®, NSHI®, Amerispec®, A-Pro®, Big Apple®, Brickkicker®, Buyer's Choice®, Criterium®, Gotham, Green Apple®, Hometeam®, Housemasters®, Pillar to Post®, or WIN® Home Inspections. Heimer Engineering cannot tell you how Heimer Engineering's services compare with any of these societies, organizations, or companies. Heimer Engineering cannot provide contact information for any of these societies, organizations, or companies. Heimer Engineering is not affiliated with the City of New York Department of Buildings, or any other community's Department of Buildings. Heimer Engineering cannot provide contact information for any Department of Buildings. You should search the internet for contact information. Heimer Engineering does not issue violations or certificates of occupancy. Heimer Engineering is not an agency of the State of New York. Heimer Engineering is not associated with any contracting, construction, or repair company, which helps assure you of unbiased professional advice.