I am confused with testing of AFCIs. While in school they said to not hit the test button due to home owners having computers and such plugged in and it may mess up the work they have on their computer. Everything I read says to hit the test button. What do we do? I will test the outlet for defects but does the test button need to be checked?
You can on vacant homes. I don’t do it on occuied homes and put it as a limitation in the report.
Thank you! That was my thought but then I was second guessing myself!
I had a first generation AFCI explode. It was like a little blow torch in the panel. Makes a good story now, but at the time, it was pretty exciting.
Same for me with some GFCI’s (especially when a freezer is involved )
Thanks, that makes a great point too!
Everyone who is selling a home should have all their personal stuff put away, including electronics. I usually take a peek before testing the bedrooms just as a courtesy but given how often we lose power current homeowners should not be bothered by it. Besides, isn’t testing GFCI/AFCI breakers a part of the InterNACHI SOP?
I always ask, and 99.9% get a “no problem” or a “just a moment”. Then I press the button.
I’ve always tested them all and through the years have found quite a few that wouldn’t trip, but to each their own, as inspectors we each should stay within our comfort zone.
On a side note, I do inform all LAs in emails sent when the inspection is scheduled that I’ll be testing AFCI & GFCI devises.
So, to sell a house a person should live like a caveman?
Hope to find you well.
As for testing of AFCI breakers or AFCI devices. Follow the manufacturer’s’ recommendations. Nothing trumps manufactures’ recommendations.
As well, you can protect yourself by putting memo in your PIA by requesting homeowners list if the home is continually monitored by an insurance company. Ask them to lists what not to test in terms of AFCI, Fire Alarms, and other safety items incase the home is monitored by an insurance provider.
As well, you can ask the venders agent if it is OK to test AFCI devices.
I think you know what I mean: nobody is going to leave expensive electronics or an important document open on the computer during an inspection or an open house, at least I have never seen it in the hundreds of homes I have been inside. Either way I doubt any homeowner will really care you flicked the power for a second: after all they are not surprised by your visit.
They shouldn’t but assuming they won’t/didn’t is a big assumption. There’s a reason the SOPs have an exclusion for occupied houses. Any one house it’s very unlikely to be a problem but like everything in this business, the numbers will catch up with you eventually.
Been at plenty of gigs where the sellers/occupants are working in their office, on PC’s, etc…
Life goes on for homeowners, inspection or not.
I inspect occupied homes all the time that have expensive Medical Devices that are plugged in and powered up, (usually in bedrooms), such as Oxygen Concentrators.
Maybe $1,000+ is nothing to you, but I bet my clients would disagree! Their insurance definitely will not cover a device that the inspector fried!!
Expensive medical devices necessary to sustain life, or such, should be plugged in and protected by UPS+generator. Power companies do lose power and do not guarantee your power will be on 24/7/365 and or there won’t be spikes in voltage when power does come back. Few years back I used to lose power at least 1s a month or so where I live. After much complaining, they have finally upgraded some of the infrastructure and pruned a lot of trees around the power lines.
Hello Heather -
Nope. I never ever (repeat never & ever) turn on/turn off/test any breakers. I inspect for and report on their presence and absence only. I’ve been there, done that, and know what the results can be.
Some will claim that testing these breakers is required by our SOP. This is not necessarily true as it is a confliction in the SOP. Which means you could go either way. It’s up to you.
From the SOP:
I. The inspector SHALL inspect:
J.a representative number of switches, lighting fixtures and receptacles, including receptacles observed and deemed to be arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI)-protected using the AFCI test button, where possible;
K. all ground-fault circuit interrupter receptacles and circuit breakers observed and deemed to be GFCIs using a GFCI tester, where possible
Which is followed by…
IV. The inspector is NOT required to:
A. insert any tool, probe or device into the main panelboard, sub-panels, distribution panelboards, or electrical fixtures.
D. operate or re-set over-current protection devices or overload devices.
With video cam in action - I WILL test accessible GFCI receptacles using their test button only, and confirm that all required (on-circuit) receptacles also shut-off. If I notice any devices plugged-in and reliant on any on-circuit receptacles (phones w/answer machine, devices operating on a timer), I will not test at all.
Whether you choose to test or not to test - A healthy disclaimer or warning in your report limitations is advisable.
Looks like you may be new to the biz. Welcome to the industry!
If you need any help with the limitation narratives, holler.
Now ‘that’s’ a delightful fantasy!
Oh grasshopper…Yes and double yes, at some point, some homeowner/seller will be dressing you down like a 3-year-old for interrupting the recording of their favorite soap opera, and the SoP will not protect you for a second. You can (and I have) proclaimed that “I am a home inspector and testing safety devices is what I do, but I can tell you the that sellers are unmoved by that defense.” And now, I have set up an acrimonious situation for my client in negotiating with the seller. And that is only for a soap opera. What if you mess up something important?
I typically test all GFCIs. But I recommend tripping them with the test button or at the GFCI outlet and then finding out what is de-energized downstream with your 3-light tester, instead of tripping them from a remote outlet and then searching for the controlling GFCI. But AFCI breakers are tested only on vacant homes, for me.
As others have said, we all operate as we see fit. I do many things that some other inspectors do not. We all find what works best for us, usually through a course at the school of hard knocks.