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  1. #1
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    Default Tools for inspecting panels

    On another thread Rich Goeken made a comment about a tool holder I made for my cordless drill, and at the same time admonished me for using a cordless drill on the panel screws. He claimed that one should rely on the "feel" of a hand tool to stay out of trouble.

    First of all, thanks for the compliment on my tool holder. As a matter of course, I open the panels on gas pak forced air units to try to get a better look at the heat exchangers. Most of them have at least two sizes of screw heads, and some have as many as three. I made the tool holder so I could have my most commonly used nut drivers, a phillips head, slotted head, and square drive bits available at all times. I also find it useful in my workshop, when I can have my drill/countersinks and other bits handy.

    While I use my regular 6 in 1 screwdriver on some panels, I use my cordless drill on most of them. In my 23 years inspecting, I have never had an issue where using a cordless drill contributed to the problem.

    Yes, I have had many screws arc when I was backing them out. Using the cordless drill might have actually saved me from a shock since I didn't have my other hand on the shaft of the screwdriver.

    I have also elected to NOT replace some screws when putting the panel back because they were sharp pointed, and/or the proximity of wires to the screw could have possibly caused a problem.

    I'm also not that convinced that using only a hand screwdriver is going to give you some extraordinary tactile advantage. After all, is it really possible to determine if the resistance you might feel is the screw hitting live wires, or maybe its just a stripped or cross threaded or bent screw?

    But reading his comment caused me to re-think my process. Have I really been unsafe all these years? Am I the only guy that uses cordless drills to open panels?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    I use a cordless drill for opening panels. No problems. So far.

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    I use a little 4 volt Ryobi pistol grip screwdriver. It slips into my pocket, nice and light. I like having it handy like that, holding the panel cover with one hand, screw in the other, driver in pocket. I believe it has opened 1000 panels and the lithium battery is still good. A rubber band holds a spare bit or two, but it drops bits as well. I need a better bit holder.

    A magnet would be handy and it could hold screws as well.

    On about 1 in 100 panels, I've found screws torqued so tight my little 4 volt won't budge them, so I have all the standard bit screwdrivers, including a slot and a square stubbys, handy in my bag. I prefer to carry 8 or 9 screwdrivers to messing with a bulky multi-bit. A stubby multi-bit screwdriver makes a good bit holder, BTW, so that's how I carry spare bits. Turning screws by hand is slow and tedious. It goes a bit better if your screwdriver has a good handle.

    When I use a more powerful cordless screwdriver, I feel like the screw is spinning too fast for me to control it, but it's all in what you're used to and how you use it.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Here is the bit holder I made

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    I just use a good old-fashioned screw driver... mainly because anything not attached to me (like in a pocket) is likely going to be left behind somewhere. I do wrap the shaft the screw driver with electrical tape since it's typically resting against my finger as I touch the screws.

    The pointed screw thing is a case by case basis. I write them up but will re-install them if there's no danger of hitting a wire. If the panel's crowded I'll replace them with spares I keep in my truck or just leave them out with a note to the seller if I don't have any replacements.

    I don't wear eye protection but typically pull the cover off towards my face for at least a second or two before dropping it downward. And, of course, the first thing I do is wrap on it with my knuckle as opposed to grabbing it.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Several years ago I used a Black and Deck cordless screw driver, it was great - then the rechargeable battery gave out and I didn't replace it. Great time saver given some screws are fine threaded and take a lot of wrist action.

    I have thought about buying another but continue to use my screw drivers.

    Up here we have Robertson head screws as some of you may know tend to be better at taking torque and the screwdriver slipping out of the slot or Philips head.

    Don't know why anyone would admonish you for use of a cordless unit.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    The most common panel screw I find is one with a slotted and square drive head.
    I really like square head screws and have switched to them for most of my woodworking projects.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    The most common panel screw I find is one with a slotted and square drive head.
    I really like square head screws and have switched to them for most of my woodworking projects.
    Invented in the 1930's by a Canadian named Robertson. A tapered screwdriver bit jams into the square hole in the screwhead and holds it snug, truly a great and simple invention.

    Henry Ford liked the Robertson screw but would not come to reasonable terms over patent rights. I think he offered a cash payout and Robertson turned it down. From that day on, all screws in Ford's plant would be Phillips or slot. Now that robots are working in the factories, we have Torx, but you need 20 different sizes of bits for Torx.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  9. #9
    Garry Blankenship's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Some of those panel screws have a 32 thread which is a lot of hand work. Screw gun or not you have to have manual drivers for cross threads and those driven too tight. I do not always walk this talk, but my safety protocol in order of importance is;
    > Eye protection
    > A voltage sniffer
    > Rubber gloves

    Panel covers, prespiration and blood are all potentially good conductors.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Garry Blankenship View Post
    Panel covers, prespiration and blood are all potentially good conductors.
    I've often wondered when, if ever, panel covers and panels will go to plastic as pretty much everything else in the world has? I could see the panel boxes needing to stay metal for the overall durability but a nice piece of non-conductive plastic sure would be nice. I often feel dumb forcing a large chunk of metal (the cover) into a fully juiced panel.

    The blood and perspiration are just inherent to the job... nothing I can do about those


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    I've often wondered when, if ever, panel covers and panels will go to plastic as pretty much everything else in the world has? I could see the panel boxes needing to stay metal for the overall durability but a nice piece of non-conductive plastic sure would be nice. I often feel dumb forcing a large chunk of metal (the cover) into a fully juiced panel.

    The blood and perspiration are just inherent to the job... nothing I can do about those
    I use a $30 Black and Decker power screwdriver that I have had for over 10 years. It still holds a charge for weeks on end. I bet I can open 50 panels with it on one charge. I stopped using a normal hand powered screwdriver when I developed a cyst on my wrist that the doctor said was most likely caused by me using a screwdriver so much.

    If you have not tried a power screwdriver, give it a turn! You will be surprised at how well they work for what we do at every inspection.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    I've often wondered when, if ever, panel covers and panels will go to plastic as pretty much everything else in the world has?
    That already happened years ago in a limited fashion but did not catch on.
    I see plastic panels on the rare occasion.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    I've often wondered when, if ever, panel covers and panels will go to plastic as pretty much everything else in the world has?

    GE made a go with those in the early 90's.
    All plastic case, deadfront, etc, all cheap as hell. Every once in awhile I come across one of them, and I hate trying to get the cover on or off.
    Total failure for a panelboard, so I guess they stopped making them.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    I keep my tools out of sight in my tool bag. Used to worry about people stealing them. Not so much any more.

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    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    I keep my tools out of sight in my tool bag. Used to worry about people stealing them. Not so much any more.
    That looks like the instruments my dentist used when I had my tooth pulled.
    Old, but still did the job.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Tools for inspecting panels

    Someone's been shopping at Professional Equipment I see!!!!!!! :-)


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