Electrician's Criticism Comes Back To Zap

Electrician’s Charged Criticism Comes Back to Zap Him

By Barry Stone
Saturday, December 23, 2006; Page F06

Q: DEAR BARRY: Some of your answers to electrical questions reveal that you are obviously unschooled. In one article, you talked about what home inspectors look for in a breaker panel, and your ideas were totally wrong.

Here are three examples:

  1. You said that home inspectors report when circuits are over-fused. I am a licensed master electrician and have been in the trade for nearly 50 years, but I couldn’t tell from looking if a wire was over-fused.

  2. You say that home inspectors check for improper grounding in a panel. How do they do this? Do you measure resistance to earth or simply make assumptions by viewing the wire ends?

  3. You say that panels should not be used as “raceways.” In all my years in the trade, I have never seen an instance where someone wired a panel that way, nor can I think of any reason for doing so.

Perhaps you need to brush up on the National Electrical Code. – Nicholas

A: DEAR NICHOLAS: Let’s review your three points of disagreement regarding breaker panel inspections.

  1. As a master electrician of 50 years, you say that you “couldn’t tell from looking if a wire was over-fused.” So let’s take a common example: How about a 12-gauge wire (rated at 20 amps) that is connected to a 50-amp circuit breaker? Would you not recognize that as “over-fused?” If that circuit were to have an overload of 40 amps, the breaker would not trip, and the result could be a house fire. Wouldn’t a home inspector be justified in disclosing that condition and recommending repair by a licensed electrician?

  2. You ask how home inspectors check a panel for improper grounding and whether they do so by measuring resistance to earth. Home inspections are limited to visual observations. They do not involve specialized tests such as measuring resistance. However, there are common grounding violations that home inspectors see regularly. Those include ground and neutral wires that are not separated in a subpanel; a ground bus that is not bonded to the panel; a neutral bus that is connected to a bond jumper in a subpanel; bundled ground wires with a single wire used as a bond, or the lack of a grounding rod for the system. Conditions such as these are code violations in most instances and warrant disclosure.

  3. You say you have never seen an instance where a breaker panel was improperly used as a raceway. Indeed this is not common, but there are instances where a full panel is used as a conduit for unidentified wires. In such cases, further evaluation by a licensed electrician is warranted and a home inspector would be justified in making that recommendation.

Home inspectors should be accountable for the conditions they inspect and report. And accountability demands full disclosure of conditions that are inherently or potentially hazardous. A home inspector would be remiss in overlooking conditions such as these. So would a master electrician with 50 years of experience.

Barry Stone


Hi to all,

It is nice to see Mr Stone growing some balls :twisted:



Aw hell John…send him to one of my seminars…WE got things to teach him…:slight_smile:

I heard Berry has been reading this forum to find
material for his articles.

lol…well I replied to the washington post article…We teach MANY things that will allow HI’s to determine everyone of those conditions.

Thats the problem with some old school old timers who do not keep up with changes in the industry…thats all that is…electricians who are in the business 50 years are needing to retire…I have 20 years in…trust me…by the time I hit 50 years…my BUTT is retired !

Ouch…I absolutely love Barry’s comeback.

I’ve read a lot of Barry’s articles and found him to be accurate and fair, but not all his decisions are wise, or else he’d be a member of NACHI.

Obviously, this ‘Master Electrician’ has been spending way too much time in new construction. If he ever took the time to ‘lower’ himself to look at electrical systems in older houses, he would see all kinds of stupid stuff.

Some, done by the homeowner.

Some, done by ‘a handyman’ who the owner hired because he didn’t want to pay the (honestly deserved) price that a good electrician charges to do good, quality work.

I have a friend. I have know him since we were in kindergarden. He went on to become a master sparky and served as the asst chief electrical inspector of the City of Chicago. Now he teaches at the Union hall. He laso has a Masters in History and is a teachers (High school and community college) certificate.

He and I used to argue with each other over the sparky VS home inspector question.

THEN! I took him around on two inspections. One, and older (built in 1952) ranch house, flipped (cosmetic changed only). The other, a brand new 4,900 SF tear down new construction.

Each had some reallt stupid stuff.

The ranch. About 1/3 of the wiring was Romex (in Chicago!), but was (mostly) properly installed. He focused on the 'NO! Romex in Chicago issue. He missed 2 double taps, 3 triple tapps of neutrals conductors in the panel and the ground bonding to a PVC water pipe downstream of the water meter.

In the new construction (not in Chicago, but in a near suburb). 22.7% voltage drop at the 2nd floor bedroom furthest away from the service equipment (179 foot run of 14 AWG), No AFCI (the permit was pulled two weeks before the local AHJ adopted the NEC rule) protection. All the receptacles were back-stabed, not connected to the screws. Home depot, defective (would not resent after tripped) GFCI receptacles.

In short, he was amazed at what was happening out there. He (typical) put all his faith and trust in local AHJs, expecting them to actually do their jobs, do them according to national standards and do things the way that the Union told him they should be and were being done.

Opened his eyes.

We gotta remember that people have preconcieved notions.

And, mostly, those notions are not real.

Hope this helps;