Arc Fault Breakers
Arc Fault breakers are a relatively new requirement in homes, they didn’t make it to the code book until 1999. If your home or the home you’re looking to buy was built before 1999 chances are you do not have Arc Fault Breakers and your home wasn’t wired for them. Even so, almost every home inspector will point out that a home doesn’t have them and suggest that they be put in, whether it’s possible or not.
These breakers were first required on all bedroom circuits. Under current code, they are required in all “living spaces”. They are a more sensitive breaker that can detect an imbalance in load between a hot and neutral conductor, not just an overloaded circuit or short, to protect the house against an electrical fire. The neutral wire will attach to an arc fault breaker to help it detect these issues. Read more about arc fault protection here.
Absolutely the most misunderstood household problem. According to National Electrical Code, the gas system is bonded or grounded by being connected to an appliance that is grounded. Let’s take your dryer for instance, assuming it runs on gas and also connects to a grounded outlet. The gas system would be considered properly bonded because the outlet, that your dryer is plugged into, is grounded. NEC 250.104 B says it this way: If installed in, or attached to, a building or structure, a metal piping system(s), including gas piping, that is likely to become energized shall be bonded to the servce equipment enclosure; the grounded conductor at the service: or to one or more grounding electrodues used. The bonding conductor(s) or jumper(s) shall be sized in accordance with 250.122, using the rating of the circuit that is likely to energize the piping system(s).
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Double tapped/Double lugged neutral wires
What this means, is that there are simply two neutral wires underneath one lug inside the breaker panel on a neutral bar. For each breaker panel there is at least one, if not more, neutral bars, which is a bar of lugs. When the person who put in the breaker panel was terminating the wires, they put the neutral wire of two circuits under the same lug and tightened it down instead of separating each wire to its own lug.
It’s possible that there are not enough lugs for each neutral to have its own lug but the solution to that is to add another neutral bar which a qualified electrician can do quickly and easily.
Although this is a simple fix, it is recommended that a qualified electrician do the work. It could potentially become a dangerous situation for someone without the right tools and knowledge of a breaker panel.
The equipment grounding conductor for the cirucit that is likely to energize the piping shall be permitted to serve as the bonding means. The points of attachement of the bonding jumper(s) shall be accessible. In laymans terms, as long as the outlets servicing gas appliances are grounded, this will serve as the gas system bond.
What the home inspector usually means to say is lightning protection, which is another ball game entirely. Here’s what NEC 250-106 says about lighting protection: The lightning protection system ground terminals shall be bonded to the building or structure grounding electrode system. Or in other words, the system that needs lighting protection, in this case the gas line should be connected to the homes main ground system, usually found at the main breaker panel. Lightning protection for your gas system is required when corrugated stainless steel tubing, or CSST, is present in the piping system. If you only have conventional black pipe with threaded fittings, there are not requirements for lightning protection on your gas system. The 2009 edition of NFPA 54, National Fuel Gas Code includes new requirements for lightning protection. According to 7.13.2 CSST gas piping systems shall be bonded to the electrical service grounding electrode system at the point where the gas service enters the building. The bonding jumper shall not be smaller than 6 AWG copper wire or equivalent. Again, this is only required when CSST is present. Sometimes this is an easy fix and other times it’s a bear to get from the ground at the main panel all the way to the gas line. Every situation is a little different and we should talk about it one on one.
Missing GFCI outlets
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets have been slowly making their debut into homes since the 80’s when they were first introduced into garage circuits. Since then they’ve found homes in kitchens, bathrooms, outdoor circuits and basements. These outlets are programmed to trip in the presence of water to protect from electrocution. The average house needs about 4-6 outlets, one for every circuit that could come into contact with water.
Unlabeled breaker panel
Although handy, and potentially helpful in an emergency situation, I wouldn’t consider this a threat to the homes electrical system. This is something that doesn’t require an electrician to help with. It doesn’t require any special tools or skills. The best way to do this is to take some time and do it yourself. Dig up an old radio that needs to be plugged in to work, put on your favorite jams and go to work. Plug it into a room, turn it on and start turning off breakers until you find the one that controls the radio, then label it. It’s that easy. Go through the house room by room and soon you’ll have a labeled panel.
The gray breakers on the right are Arc Fault Breakers
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