In many instances, the nitty gritty of how a home works and all of its mechanical resources are overlooked when purchasing a home. The best thing that any buyer could do is to hire a competent home inspector to go through a home and check to be sure that everything is working properly.
Be sure that the inspector is independent and not tied to any one agency or company. One of the main areas of concern is the electrical system of the home. If the wiring is old and outdated, it could be the cause of a future fire. If the outlets and switches have been in use for a long time, the same could be true.
If the home inspector runs into anything that is out of his or her scope, then the matter can be referred to a licensed electrician for further consultation.
All of the wiring, conduit, and electrical boxes should be tightly fixed to the building so that they are not moving around. There should not be any visible signs of deterioration or damage in these areas.
There should also be at least one grounding rod or some other means of grounding present that adheres to the local electrical code. The minimum allowable electrical service that most communities is 100 amps and 120-240 volts, and you will find also that 120 to 208 volt servicing is quite common.
The most important section of a residential setup is the main electrical panel. It is typical for the main panel to also contain the main disconnect. The older models of panels have what is called a multi-throw disconnect, which means that several breakers must all be shut down in order to completely turn off all the power in the house. In the newer electrical panels this is not allowed as it would be too easy to leave something on, and it could prove dangerous when working on the system.
The panels should very neatly set up, properly labeled and each breaker should service only one wire. All of the GFCI and AFCI breakers will need to be tested to be sure they are operational.
It is still common to find fuse panels. The problem with them is that people will tend to replace fuses with the wrong kind, leaving things open to fire. There is also the propensity to add too many circuits to one fuse, or to double-lug the fuse. Older fuse panels are just better off to be replaced and you will avoid a lot of headaches down the road.
It is also more common than one would think to have aluminum and copper wiring together in the same home, or just aluminum wiring. The two metals expand at different rates, and aluminum is troublesome to work with. Copper is the best metal to use for wiring.
All appliances should be cycled to be sure they are working and smoke detectors that are wired should all be replaced if they are older.
To find an acceptable home inspector, check with Angie’s List, and you will get someone who is trustworthy and has a good track record with other consumers.