Common Electrical Problems Found in a Home Inspection
May 9, 2023
Common Electrical Problems Found in a Home Inspection
May 9, 2023

Fans of Kensa Inspection are familiar with our motto for every home inspection – will you be warm, safe and dry?  We manifest this by focusing on three key things, namely safety, water, and big-ticket items.  One of the most common areas to find things to resolve in an inspection is the electrical system. The issues are mostly about safety, not functionality.


The National Electric Code (NEC) used in all 50 states for the safe design, installation and inspection of electrical systems comes from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  While we don’t check for compliance with the latest version of local code or cite specific code rules when writing up a problem, we do use it as a guideline for best practises.  Because Safety.

The National Fire Protection Association is a global self-funded nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.

It’s rather compelling that the NFPA authors the NEC, isn’t it?  That’s the best way to explain our focus on safety in the electrical portion of every home inspection.  With that in mind…


Some electrical things might look a bit scary in writing when you read your Kensa inspection report.  They are often highlighted in red with the phrase Safety Hazard also in red.  It’s meant to get your attention.

Please keep in mind that most problems can be very easy for a qualified electrician to fix.  Sometimes it’s just a simple matter of reconnecting a loose wire in a receptacle, or moving a wire from A to B inside the panel box.  Just because it’s an important safety item doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world as we know it, or that it will cost 87.3 gajillion dollars to fix, or that you should run away screaming in terror.  Just get it taken care of, one and done, no biggie tomahto.  Clear context is vital, and you’ll always get that from Kensa during your home inspection.

220, 221, whatever it takes

Speaking of fixing:  DO NOT ATTEMPT REPAIRS!  Most people are rightly uncomfortable around electrical things.  Follow your instincts!  Just because you saw it on YouTube doesn’t mean you should run to the hardware store doing your Tim the Tool Man impression.  This applies to outlets, fixtures, switches, appliances, exposed wires, and so on – anything electric.  Sure, there are plenty of DiY resources out there.  Maybe you’re the slightest bit unsure, not very handy, never had someone experienced show you things, and/or never used hand tools?  Regardless, it’s always just best get a license, qualified, professional electrician.  Speaking of which…


Fun Fact: One nickname for electricians is Sparky.  Some find it offensive, some say it’s good-natured.  It comes from the fact that when an electrical spark occurs usually means something went wrong.  There are exceptions, such as the ignition source for gas appliances (that clicking at the stovetop), but I digress…

Given the clear connection between electrical problems and fire hazards, it’s no mystery why it’s a key part of your Kensa home inspection.  Every.  Time.  Because Safety.

Dead Front

Fun Fact: The cover on an electrical panel box has a nickname too: Dead Front.  Hmm…

Only licensed electricians and home inspectors are allowed by Massachusetts regulation to remove the cover of an electrical panel. In fact, the state standards of practice require me to remove that cover to inspect inside, but you would NEVER do such a thing.  I’m trained and I’ve done it about 3,000 times, literally.  So, don’t even pretend to start to think about the possibility of maybe toying with the idea of wondering if you might barely be able remove it without getting zapped and falling down.  Just don’t.  Okay, enough lecturing!


Let’s dive into some actual examples of actual electrical problems from actual home inspections.  These are things I expect to find because I find them so often.  Again, common problems that look scary in writing are often quick and easy to resolve.  

First some screen shots from past inspection reports, then some raw photos:

Most circuit breakers are designed to have one wire connected.  When there are two, it’s called a double-tap. Electricians know they’re not supposed to do it (violates NEC), but they do it all day anyway, even in new construction!

In a Kensa Inspections Home Inspection Inspection Report, you can click/tap on a photo to see it full-size and read the caption (basement panel).  No squinting at a tiny photo in a PDF!

Other places to find a double-tap in a panel have different rules than breakers…

Fun Fact: There’s no such thing as an electrical outlet.  The correct term is receptacle.  Just sayin…

GFCI protection at receptacles near a water source is important.  The most common problem is that it's simply not installed, since it wasn't always required. In this case it's installed but not working, another easy fix.

Yeah, no.  Looks don’t count, but aside from that there’s lot’s going on here.  It’s definitely Sparky Time.

Compare with the previous panel :)  These 3-phase panels are very nice. At Kensa we focus on the good things too!

We check ALL breaker boxes.  These ones heres are outsides, for ACs condensers.

In new construction the main shutoff (aka service disconnect) will be outside.

Yikes!  Did I mention NFPA?

Fuses aren’t necessarily bad.  Context!

Very Nice!

Also Very Nice!  Doesn’t get much better than this!

This crummy photo shows active knob-and-tube wiring.  Common in much older homes, and sometimes insurance companies don’t like it.  If I find it we’ll talk about it.

Easy fix!  Replace that cracked stuff where the wires enter the meter box outside, because…

…water has been slowly dripping down the exterior service wires from the meter all the way into the panel inside.  The crusty white stuff is the minerals that remain when water dries.  We don’t mix water and electricity, right?  Right!

This receptacle accommodates a ground prong but it’s not actually grounded!  (“open ground” is lit).  Where would any errant electricity go without a proper path to ground?  Hmm….

Routine Stuff

There you have it.  Common electrical problems found in almost every home inspection, delivered with context and clarity, which is always the Kensa Way.  Book your next inspection with us to get the full experience in person!