When shopping for a home, it's imperative that you have the electrical service fully checked out. You don't want to end up with a major fire and safety hazard without knowing about it. The following are a few things to look for when touring homes.
Check outlets and switches
It may not be possible to plug something into every outlet in the home on an initial walkthrough, but you should have an electrician or home inspector with a multimeter check all the outlets to ensure they are working before you finalize an offer. Every light switch should also work. If the owner says it is a "mystery" switch – in other words, they don't know what it controls, you need to find out so you can be sure there are no loose wires in the wall.
Be wary of "sizzling" fixtures
Does an overhead lamp flicker or make a slight sizzling sound when turned on? With the exception of some fluorescents, lights should come on immediately with no flickering or noises. Problems with a fixture could indicate anything from the need to replace or rewire, to water leaking into the ceiling and getting into the fixtures.
Check for safety outlets
Safety outlets, also known as GFCI outlets, are the ones that have the little test button on them. These are designed to shut down all electrical current if they sense any moisture or short-circuiting. Modern building codes require them in any room with plumbing, which generally means the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room. Some older homes, though, may not have these outlets installed, which can be a major electrical hazard that you should require that the owner remedy.
Know the age of the electrical panel
The electrical panel, also known as the circuit box or breaker box, should be in an accessible place that is not near moisture. Some older boxes are a major fire hazard and have even been recalled. You need to make sure the home has a modern box and that it is fully inspected to ensure everything is wired properly. Keep in mind, many homes have two or more boxes because of major appliances, like the dryer or HVAC system, maybe on a separate breaker panel.
For more help, you can have an electrical service like RDS Electric inspect the home before you make your final offer, or you can hire them to fix issues after you close on the house.