How To Look At A House

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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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Field Guide for Home Inspectors, a quick reference for finding the age of 154 brands of HVAC systems, water heaters, and electrical panels, plus 210 code standards for site-built and manufactured homes, and the life expectancy rating of 195 home components. Available at for $19.95.
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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:

What is the maximum number of circuit breakers allowed in an electric panel?

Can you add circuit breakers by different manufacturers to an electric panel if they fit?

What is the life expectancy of a circuit breaker? 

What is a tandem circuit breaker? 

•  Can an unused (spare) circuit breaker remain in an electrical panel or does it have to be removed?

Are double tapped breakers illegal? 

 What is a classified circuit breaker? 

• What is the difference between specified and classified circuit breakers? 

• Can you substitute two 120-volt breakers for a 240-volt breaker in a panel?

My circuit breaker won't reset. What's wrong? 

What causes a hot circuit breaker in an electrical panel? 

• What temperature is too hot for a circuit breaker?

• What does maximum sum of breaker ratings per stab mean in an electrical panel? 

• Why did circuit breakers replace fuses?

What is a double tap at a circuit breaker? 

When did arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers first become required?

How do I identify a combination AFCI (CAFCI) circuit breaker? 

What does a circuit breaker with a yellow or white test button indicate? 

What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers? 

What happens when you press the "TEST" button on a circuit breaker in an electric panel?

Why is there a GFCI breaker in the electric panel for the bathroom shower light and exhaust fan? 

What is a lock device on a circuit breaker for?

Why is the circuit breaker stuck in the middle? 

Why is there a 3-phase breaker in a single phase electric panel with only two bus bars?

What is the maximum allowed height of a circuit breaker (OCPD) above the floor?

Why is there no main shut-off breaker in my electric panel?

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