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Thread: Scary

  1. #1
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    Default Scary

    I got a call today from the seller of a property I inspected one month ago regarding some of my findings in the service panel. In the report, I noted the presence of multiple undersized wires on oversized breakers inside the service panel. My exact report verbiage was "multiple unsafe and improper wiring configurations noted in service panel (undersized wires on oversized breakers - repairs needed)". In addition, I marked all six breakers in question with a white "X" using a whiteout pen. The seller told me his electrician was with him at the house and was confused by my comments. I asked if he sees the six breakers marked with the "X" and he says yes. I told him they are 20 amp breakers with 14 gauge wires and explain the whole wire gauge size-to-breaker size relationship. The seller takes his mouth away from the phone and tells his electrician, "Nick says those are 20 amp breakers with 14 gauge wires and that the wires are undersized". I then hear the electrican say "Oh, the wires are undersized? OK."

    HUH?????????

    Dumbfounded by what I just heard, I asked the seller if his "electrician" had pulled the cover off the panel before he called me. He said yes but the "electrician" didn't want to touch anything before talking to me first. I then told him it's pretty straightforward and that anybody who works for a living as an electrician will know what needs to be done just by looking at the installation. The seller then said the "electrician" no longer does this for a living.

    I immediately called my client to aprise him of the service panel shenanigans being perpetrated as we spoke but luckily, he had already deep-sixed the deal and was looking for another place.

    Scary!!!!

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Scary

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    The seller told me his electrician was with him at the house and was confused by my comments.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    My exact report verbiage was "multiple unsafe and improper wiring configurations noted in service panel (undersized wires on oversized breakers - repairs needed)".
    I think I see where the confusion came from. (I know exactly what you meant to say.). Your words make it sound like BOTH the wires are undersized AND the breakers are oversized when in all likelihood only the breakers are oversized. In other words, does the repair also require the wiring be replaced with larger wires?

    Still, any competent electrician should have been able to see the problem, especially when you have already identified the problem and marked the breakers. Sheeeesh!

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Scary

    Any reputable Electrician could have read that comment and knew exactly what Nick was meaning.

    20amp breakers on 14ga. wiring. Thats WRONG.

    OK, I need to replace those 20amp. breakers with 15amp. breakers.

    rick


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Scary

    Nick,

    As I was reading your post, I kept thinking ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Breedlove View Post
    I think I see where the confusion came from. (I know exactly what you meant to say.). Your words make it sound like BOTH the wires are undersized AND the breakers are oversized when in all likelihood only the breakers are oversized. In other words, does the repair also require the wiring be replaced with larger wires?
    ... but then noticed that Bruce had already posted that (but it bears repeating).

    Then, in your defense, as both Bruce and Richard said ...

    Still, any competent electrician should have been able to see the problem, especially when you have already identified the problem and marked the breakers. Sheeeesh!
    Fortunately for you and your client, your client has gone elsewhere.

    "Electrician" my butt (being PC there).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Scary

    Speaking of scary, has this been posted here yet?

    YouTube - 3D Rendition of how Isaac Lawrence was Killed


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Scary

    Looking at it now, I can see my verbiage admittedly makes it sound like two things are wrong. But the general message was clear about the state of the wiring in the panel: "multiple unsafe and improper wiring configurations noted in service panel".

    I just need to fine tune my verbiage. That "electrician" needs to hang up his tools. Pathetic.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Scary

    Nick, I agree.

    Michael, that is ONE COOL 3-D animation. Let me guess - that was Exhibit 1 offered by the prosecution.

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Scary

    Bruce, I assume so.

    Check out this clown, at 2:35 in this clip about the same incident::

    YouTube - Energized Garage Door


  9. #9
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    Question Re: Scary

    Somebody correct me if I am not thinking right here. After reading Nicks verbiage a few times, it looks right to me. My reason is, should'nt the circuit be traced, to find out if it requires a 20 amp breaker. If it did the wire would be undersized. If if were my house I would want to know what the size of the circuit should be, rather than installing a 15 amp breaker, and waiting to see if it tripped.

    Paul Kondzich
    Ft. Myers, FL.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Scary

    FWIW, here’s may take:

    Since the NEC does not limit the number of receptacles on a dwelling unit circuit, there are only a limited number of circumstances in which you could visually determine that a circuit requires a given breaker and conductor size when you find 14 AWG conductors behind a 20A breaker.

    One would be 20A receptacles, but in that case just change out the receptacles.

    Another would be an oversized plug connected load, but once you changed the receptacles (required by the NEC), it would no longer plug in.

    So you are left with permanently connected loads such as an AC where the minimum plate ampacity is greater than 15A, or a dishwasher/disposer/IHW dispenser on a single circuit where you can add up the plate requirements and they exceed the conductor capacity. In many cases *positively* identifying such loads as excessive is probably beyond the scope of a home inspection (though nothing would prevent someone from (for example) putting a clamp meter on the circuit with the loads applied - except the possibility that *you* will fry the circuit, or further weaken already marginal insulation, and later fry the occupants).

    So I would write is as briefly as possible, and leave it to the electrician to sort out what was required:

    -----------

    Observation: There are several circuit breakers connected to wires too small to carry the current the circuit breaker can supply. See attacked picture for details.

    Analysis. A circuit breaker “oversize” for a wire attached to it could allow the wire to overheat under load. This is a fire hazard.

    Recommendation: Have a licensed and insured electrician determine the load present on this circuit, and replace the breaker and/or branch circuit conductors as required.

    ----------

    Since I have identified a breaker/conductor mismatch, and the electrician will have to determine the required ampacity and adjust things as required, I just don’t see any reason to go any further in testing or reporting this.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 11-22-2007 at 12:39 PM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Scary

    Let's look at it this way:

    1) The circuit size is 'supposed to be' sized in accordance with the load it serves, and, being as the circuit is basically 'permanently installed', the only thing which can be changed is the overcurrent protection.

    2) Can a circuit be overloaded? Sure - it happens all the time.

    3) Can a circuit be too small for the overcurrent protection? Not as easy as the overcurrent protection is supposed to be sized *to protect the circuit*, it is not there to protect any equipment or appliances connected to the circuit. Thus, the circuit is not undersized (see 1) above, also see 2) above), the overcurrent protection is sized/rated too high for the circuit.

    4) Thus, a 20 amp breaker on a 14 awg conductor is too large for the conductor rating.

    End result: Is the conductor rating too small for the overcurrent size? No, the overcurrent size is too great for the conductor size - because the overcurrent size/rating is required to be a proper size/rating which protects the circuits.

    Report reads: Breaker (overcurrent protection) too large/too high of a rating (which ever way you prefer to say it) for the conductor size/rating. The overcurrent rating needs to match or be lower than the rating of the conductor.

    Now, you could also go into more detail and explain that the higher rated breaker may have been installed as the circuit may be overloaded and the proper breaker size kept tripping, so it was replaced. Even if you do, though, the circuit is not too small/under-size, the circuit is 'overloaded' and the overcurrent protection is 'to large'. Another circuit may need to be added to handle whatever is overloading the exiting circuit.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Scary

    Jerry,

    "being as the circuit is basically 'permanently installed', the only thing which can be changed is the overcurrent protection..."

    This is Chicago - we don't like no stinking' NM.... we bend conduit!

    So inspectors here actually see *lots* of residences where it would be practical to upgrade a branch circuit's conductors.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Scary

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    Jerry,

    "being as the circuit is basically 'permanently installed', the only thing which can be changed is the overcurrent protection..."

    This is Chicago - we don't like no stinking' NM.... we bend conduit!

    So inspectors here actually see *lots* of residences where it would be practical to upgrade a branch circuit's conductors.
    Michael,

    I know, Corey explained that (Chicago uses EMT) to me a long time ago.

    However, if you've ever pulled wire through conduit, it is not as easy as 'just pulling new wire in' because you would need to pull it from junction box to junction box, working from one end to the other - yes, 'it can be done' but the wiring should (is by code) still considered 'permanent'.

    The breakers in Chicago, on the other hand, are just as easily replaced as anywhere else.

    Which ends at the same conclusion as above - The circuit is not undersized, it may be overloaded, and the breaker may be oversized. Replacing the breaker for the right one for the circuit conductor size rating is the 'right way' to go. Besides, there are times when there are too many conductors in the conduit to add another (without derating the conductors) and sometimes pulling out a smaller one to replace it with a larger one is not practical either. There are times when it would be, but you would be replacing one "permanent" wiring with another "permanent" wiring.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  14. #14
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    Mar 2007
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    South-West Michigan
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    469

    Exclamation Re: Scary

    It all comes down to improper electrical work. In the second video, how about the idiot who put the city inspection tag over the panel label? During one inspection, I found a NEW panel with an inspection tag on the exterior of the panel door. The panel door would not open, due to a new 4 inch PVC drain pipe that was run right in front of it. The PVC drain pipe had an inspection tag on it, right where it passed the panel. Perhaps it is time to remove immunity from government employees. When they fail to do their job, they need to get hammered on.

    Randall Aldering GHI BAOM MSM
    Housesmithe Inspection
    www.housesmithe.com

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