How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
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Do home inspectors turn on circuit breakers?
Saturday, May 27, 2023
The Standards of Practice of the two major home inspector associations and the State of Florida do not require an inspector to turn on any circuit breakers in a panel that are off at the time of the inspection. The InterNational Association of Certified Home Inspector's (InterNACHI) standard states that “the inspector is not required to operate or re-set over-current devices or overload devices.” Circuit breakers are over-current and overload devices. American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and State of Florida both do not even address the issue in their standards.
But most home inspectors are averse to the “let’s turn it on and see what happens” approach anyway. The breaker could be off due to a short in the circuit that is awaiting repair, or it could be an abandoned circuit with loose wires at the other end.
Or, as one unhappy home inspector told us years ago, he turned on the breaker to the range at a panel in the garage, intending to test the range later as he worked his way through the house…but a departing tenant had left carboard boxes piled on top of the range when they moved out, and one of the burner knobs was jostled to “ON” from the boxes. You can guess the rest.
At a minimum, we require an explanation from the homeowner (if available) or their representative and permission before flipping on any circuit breaker. Also, although it is common to find the the main breaker off in a foreclosure house, we still require permission from an authorized representative to turn the main breaker on before proceeding.
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The building code refers to a circuit breaker as an OCPD, which stands for Over-Current Protective Device. Here’s a selection of our articles about them:
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