Electrical Safety Checks when Purchasing a Used Home

Welcome to your new home! There is nothing quite like the hope and excitement of new home ownership, whether your purchase is an older home, or in a new housing development.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume you’re purchasing a previously-owned home, since this is most often the case. 

Walk around with a checklist to see what might need attention.  If you didn’t have a home inspection, or if you didn’t read your home inspection report, walk around and look for things which may need electrical attention. Why? Because it’s much easier to see problems before they’re hidden by your sofa or buffet. Plus, it’s more convenient to have an electrician come take care of your electrical needs before you move in.

Okay, so let’s get started!

Examine the outlets and switches in each room of the house. You’re checking to see that all the outlets are three-prong, that all outlets and switches have a switch plate covers and that the outlets are in a convenient position to match where you want your furniture. 

Check the switches. If any of them are hot, it means electricity has built up in the switch; shut it off and call an electrician immediately. Note: a dimmer switch will be warmer if you have it to the dimmer setting, however, it should never be hot or smoke.

If you need new outlets, consider upgrading some of the outlets to include to USB ports. You can find them here: http://store.fastmac.com/product_info.php?products_id=458
Sometimes homeowners buy decorative covers, and then remove and take these covers with them when they move, which means you need to replace them. You should do this right away for two reasons: first, it keeps moisture from getting into the wires. Second, it keeps you or your family members from getting an electrical shock. 

DO you have a baby or toddler? Count outlets to buy outlet covers.

The next thing you want to check for is light fixtures. First, make sure that the ceiling-mounted fixtures are secure, and then check the wattage and bulbs. It’s possible that the former owners put a higher wattage of bulb in their light fixtures than they were safely designed to handle. (Realtor’s trick: brightly lit homes sell faster.)  It only takes a few minutes to make sure this is not the case. Do you like the fixtures? What about ceiling fans? Under counter lighting in the kitchen is always a great value.

You’re also going to want to make sure there are GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlets in your bathrooms, kitchen, garage, unfinished basement, outdoors, and anywhere else there is a sink or is in close proximity to water. Test and reset each one every month.

Next, see how many amps you have in the service panel. A 200-amp service will mean you can run several large appliances at once. A 100-amp service means you will have to be careful; if you’re using your oven and the hot water heater, you’ll be pushing your service if you use the toaster, vacuum, dehumidifier, or any other energy-hungry appliance. 

The next thing to consider is what (and who!) you’re moving into your new home; If you have a large family, or if they enjoy a number of electrical appliances, computers, televisions, and video games, consider upgrading to a 200-amp service (Cost: between $800-$1200). Also, if you aren’t going to sell that deep freeze, need an outlet for the Christmas tree lights, or power for your Prius, this is the time to install them. 

Don’t forget to check the smoke detectors, CO2 detectors, and make sure you have a working A-B-C fire extinguisher. The C-rating indicates that the fire extinguisher is acceptable for use on an electrical fire. Make certain that every family member, including older children, understand how to shut off the main breaker to the house, know where the fire extinguisher is, and understand how to operate it.

Let’s go outside. Check out the lighting situation. Are there enough lights in the right places so family and guests won’t stumble around in the dark? What about security lighting? Is there a security system? Is it in good working order? Are their outlets for the outdoor holiday lights and electric lawnmower?

One security option you may consider is a motion-activated security doorbell, such as the Ring  https://ring.com/ or Skybell http://www.skybell.com/?gclid=CO3as5Tm-M4CFQqEfgodGE8N4Q

This is also the perfect time to add lights, an electrical cord in the master closet, heated flooring in the master bath or move the wiring for the internet if it’s in an undesirable location. 

Now that you’ve examined the electrical safety of your home, check your list to see what needs attention and then find a licensed, bonded, insured electrician who lives in the area and specializes in residential work. You’ve just invested in an asset, and for the long run, you want your asset to increase in value. Poor-quality workmanship, inadequate power, and safety issues will all cause your asset to depreciate.

Your list might not have anything noteworthy and therefore, you may not need an electrician now. Find one anyway. If a situation arises, you want to be able to pick up your phone and call someone you already know and trust, instead of trying to do research after you smell something electrical burning or see sparks.