What are the different electrical issues between new and old homes during a home inspection?

home inspection electrical

Understanding Electrical Concerns in New vs. Old Homes

During the home inspection, your inspector may report electrical issues differently depending on the age of the home, the reason for this, is that new construction and remodeling requirements change depending on when the home was built. For instance, a 100-year-old home was likely originally built using 2 wires, ungrounded cables, and receptacles without any GFCI receptacles in bathrooms and kitchens. If these areas have never been remodeled or upgraded in any way, there is no requirement by local code enforcers that these components be updated.  On the other hand, if these conditions are found on a late model home or new construction, they may be code violations that a local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) might require to be repaired.

On the other hand, outdated electrical components and systems should be considered for updating for the safety of you and your family members or other occupants of the home. Electrical standards change because there are ways found or engineered to make your home safer from electrical shock and fire hazards. For example, the two wire conductors previously mentioned have been upgraded to 3 wire conductors that contain a ground and many receptacles such as bathrooms and kitchens which are near water sources are GFCI protected to minimize the chance of electrical shock hazards. You may have also heard about AFCI protection, this is typically a special breaker in the electrical service panel that protects lighting and receptacles from electrical arcing that may cause fires.

The tricky part is determining when you should consider negotiating these issues with a seller. While a home inspection completed by Batten To Beam Inspections LLC, will indicate what issues you have and at what locations, how you negotiate is best consulted with your real estate professional representing you in the sale. You should consider the age of the home, the state of the electrical system, and comparative sales to determine if the home has been priced fairly or not. For instance, a 100-year-old home that was recently sold for $350,000 was updated with a new electrical plant that is properly grounded and undated GFCI/AFCI, but another one currently for sale in the same neighborhood of similar size has the original 2-wire knob and tube electrical system is also priced for $350,000. Is this home fairly priced? Probably not as updating the home could cost upwards of $50,000 or more. 

knob & tube wiring

Old Home Electrical Issues:

  1. Outdated Wiring: Older homes may have outdated wiring systems such as knob and tube wiring, aluminum wiring, or ungrounded electrical systems. These can pose fire hazards or cause electrical shocks.
  2. Overloaded Circuits: Older homes may not have enough electrical circuits to accommodate modern electrical demands. This can lead to overloaded circuits, causing tripped breakers or even electrical fires.
  3. Aging Components: Electrical components like outlets, switches, and breaker panels degrade over time. In older homes, these components may be worn out, damaged, or not up to current safety standards.
  4. Unsafe Modifications: Previous owners may have made modifications or additions to the electrical system without proper permits or expertise. These DIY or amateur modifications can be unsafe and non-compliant with building codes.
  5. Lack of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs): Older homes may lack GFCIs in areas where they are now required, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor outlets. AFCIs, which protect against electrical fires caused by arc faults, may also be absent in older homes.
  6. Poorly Located Outlets: Older homes may have outlets located in inconvenient or unsafe locations, such as behind furniture or in damp areas without proper protection.
outdated fused service panel

New Homes Electrical Issues:

  1. Code Compliance Issues: While newer homes are generally built to meet current electrical codes, sometimes mistakes are made during new construction inspection, leading to code violations.
  2. Defective Installation: Despite being new, there can be issues with the electrical installation due to errors made by contractors or subcontractors. This could include improper wiring connections, inadequate grounding, or faulty installations of outlets and fixtures.
  3. Quality of Materials: In some cases, newer homes may have electrical components of lower quality due to cost-cutting measures by builders. This could result in premature failures or safety hazards.
  4. Incomplete Installation: Sometimes, builders may leave parts of the electrical system unfinished or incomplete, which could pose safety risks or inconvenience to the homeowner.
  5. Overlooked Upgrades: Homeowners who opt for upgrades or additions to the electrical system during construction may find that these are not properly installed or integrated into the overall electrical system of the home.
  6. Lack of Maintenance: While the electrical system in a new home may initially be in good condition, lack of maintenance over time can lead to issues such as corrosion, loose connections, or deteriorating insulation.

Regardless of whether a home is old or new, it’s important for buyers to have a thorough electrical home inspection conducted by a qualified professional to identify any potential issues and ensure the safety and functionality of the electrical system. This is important not only for the safety of your family but also so that you may make an informed decision about the value of your home in relation to comparative sales and you are not presented with unplanned expenses after settlement. You can be assured that your inspection performed by Batten To Beam Inspections LLC, will provide you with information about the age, condition, and if the electrical system for your new home is safe and adequate for you and your family’s use. Contact us at (484) 573-7194 today to schedule your inspection and gain peace of mind.