Episode 53 - Home Inspector's Electrical Wall of Defects

Hey everyone,

NACHI.TV just released a new episode:

Episode 53 - Home Inspector’s Electrical Wall of Defects
We asked Mr. David Ruskay, a master electrician, to build the Electrical Wall of Defects. The wall has 50 electrical defects every inspector should know. Throughout his career Ruskay has repaired electrical problems discovered by home inspectors. Ruskay built the wall to demonstrate the most common electrical problems that are missed by home inspectors. The main electrical panel and subpanel are filled with electrical defects and improper installations. 21 wall receptacles are purposely wired with defects that a GFCI tester falsely describes as “Correctly wired.” Receptacles are pulled out to show how they are improperly wired.

Watch this episode now. Reply here to discuss.

An excellent job on the video!! Thanks.

I thought this was a very informative video and time well spent in watching…I have to admit that it made me a bit nervous how comfortable that electrician was with his hands inside that panel…I kept waiting for Him to go extra crispy…thanks for Your efforts …good job !!!

Yeah, and I did notice Kenton flinching a couple times, when David started touching the inner bus bars. David definitely isn’t afraid of “HOT”.

Thank you David and Kenton. Fantastic job.

This video is so long, it took me three attempts to finish watching it.

Nice video…I would like to add a few comments for the HI’s to use as well.

1.) A statement was made that only electrical tape within the panel can be used to re-identify the white conductors that are now being used for ungrounded conductors. Remember their are other methods allowed and not just tape.

2.) Anti-Oxident paste is not required on the aluminum terminals of a main service panel unless the panel listing calls for it. If you wish to install it the NEC says it is fine as long as it is the proper kind depending on the conductor being used.

3.) I believe it may be easier to understand the difference in the statement " first disconnect location " with proper terminology of the Service Disconnection Location and it may assist in HI’s knowing where a service panel starts and where a “sub-panel” or remote distribution panel begins.

4.) There was a discussion on how AL wire and CU wire on a double tap would be a problem because of the reaction…however the largest issue in the immediate situation is that AL and CU are of different physical sizes and their is no way to properly torque onto a 14 AWG CU and have a 12 AWG AL also under the same screw…but I think he got the point across fine.

5.) You need to be aware that a statement was made that no other breaker can go into a panel unless it is the manufacturer of that panel. This is incorrect in regards to replacement breakers and some of you will find some breakers that are listed as “Classified” breakers and are UL listed to be installed in many of those older panels. You can get a UL Guide on those classified breakers from ME or I am sure others have them already…it does not void any warranty dispite what a manufacturer places on the panel in a replacment situation.

6.) The breaker ties on the pop up portion of the video said the handle ties have to be approved…since 2005 NEC they need to be identified for the application as approved does not cut it anymore unless of course you are on an older installation before 2005 NEC…but then again if they added something new for the sale of the home it would need to comply to todays standards.

7.) A statement was said that all panels set back 1/8" are incorrect…that only applies to panels with a combustible surface…if it is set back in plaster or sheetrock for example it can be recessed back no more than 1/8" and still be compliant and safe…just wanted to make that clear for everyone.

8.) A statement was made that the distance that SE Conductors can come into the building was a maximum of 6’. Be aware that 230.70(A)(1) of the NEC does not give us an actual distance…Purists believe a back to back installation is the only proper method to meet this requirement. However, many localities set up their own allowable distance an unprotected SE Conductor can travel within the building before it lands on overcurrent protection so be aware of your local areas guidelines. A simple call to the local building official will answer that question but if it looks too long and looks dangersous by all means call it out and let the electrician explain the situation.

9.) A statement was made that the 2005 NEC was the start date of the AFCI requirements and in fact it appeared first in the 1999 NEC to go in effect on Jan 1, 2002 and applied to receptacles only at first. It was in 2005 NEC that it expanded to all 15 and 20A 120V outlets within a bedroom…so it has evolved in to what we have now in the 2008 NEC…just wanted to be aware of that so none jams someone with a house built in 2002 lets say.

10.) It was discussed how to determine a size of the panel, remember it has to take in effect the size of the main overcurrent protection device as well as the labels on the panel enclosure and also the conductors within the service enclosure…you have to use them all in order to make an informed choice on the size and their are other items can can assist you like possibly conduit sizes and meter socket enclosures that you have to use as a whole…possibly throwing one out and so on to make the choice right…never guess…if you dont know state you are not able to determine on your report.

11.) It may have been missed but also it may be important to note that when looking into a panel you may see a 12 AWG wire on a 30A breaker…check the legend and it may be a HVAC unit outside…check the nameplate on the unit and it may say minimum circuit ampacity of 18 AMPS which allows a 12 AWG and a maximum circuit breaker or fuse of 30A…this is perfectly allowed…so remember look at the circuit close and if you can’t determine it…someone else cant either and call it out if at all their is reason to doubt what you see.

12.) This goes without saying…get used to the wire sizes bu visual inspection. I would not recommend an HI remove any wires from a breaker to aid in determining the size of the conductors…just some advice.

13.) While the instructor did not agree with an GFCI protecting a circuit that has aluminum wiring…I would strongly recommend it because the chances are the people will either not replace the wiring or do nothing…atleast with this option they have possibly some added protection. Why…because chances are the older AL wiring did not have a equipment grounding conductor anyway and this is an enhancement and also consider protecting the circuit if possible with an AFCI…again its all about giving them choices…if they choose to do nothing then you can atleast sleep knowing you made the suggestions.

14.) I noticed something that said HI’s are not required to remove the panel cover. I would find it hard to examine that panel if I did not remove the cover. I believe that in todays HI world you guys are more than skilled enough to handle this important task…I have talked with many of you and I feel perfectly safe in you removeing covers…( except obviously in a hazardous condition mind you…ie: standing water and so on )

15.) A statement was made that the neutral is dead…lets not get fooled here as you can get just as good a shock from that neutral " grounded conductor " as you can an Hot " ungrounded conductor " …be careful as it is not really “DEAD”

16.) If you indeed are going to try and use a multi-meter…be careful that you have the proper meter for the job at hand. I see way to many people use a cheap meter with a low CAT rating on a job that needs a meter with a higher ratings…this is very important…know your equipment and know the job you are dealing with before you step outside of the SOP…in a commercial inspection be very careful and know what you are dealing with when dealing with multi-meters…at the very least get a CAT III or CAT IV for things you do…

17.) Just a reminder…in new construction the AFCI’s need to be " Combination Rated " and it will say that on the breaker itself.

18.) A statement was made that a switch within reach of the show MUST be on GFCI and that is not actually correct. While it is a GOOD practice it is not a NEC requirement. However, if a metal coverplate is used and no equipment grounding conductor is provided then look at 404.9(B) Exception.

19.) A statement was made that you cant use AFCI technology with GFCI technology and I just wanted to tell you thats incorrect actually. You can have lets say an AFCI breaker in the panel feeding the first receptacle “device” on the circuit and put that first “device” as a GFCI receptacle and get the benefits of both technologies…and yes Eaton ( and I am sure others now ) do make AFCI’s and GFCI combination breakers…but they again do make an AFCI and GFCI that has the benefits of BOTH…but yes you can use each technology together and GFCI receptacles do work on an AFCI breakered circuit.

20.) Again a statement was made that the AFCI requirement stated in 2005 NEC but just so no one gets in trouble on a house they inspect built in lets say 2003…AFCI was required all the way back in the 2002 NEC and was actually madated in the 1999 NEC starting Jan 1, 2002.

21.) FYI…they do make a shared grounded conductor AFCI…Eatons version is called “Fire Guard” and will allow a shared neutral…just in case anyone wanted to know.

22.) As regarding the false tripping of AFCI’s. I actually see more of this happening simply because a improper case to neutral connection someone in the circuit. I see it the most in smoke detectors and in ceiling fans. The AFCI is not perfect but neither is the smoke detector and you would not even think to not install one of those would you…?

23.) I disagree with the statement about GFCI’s…if added to a 2 wire circuit you must meet all the requirements and that includes the labels at the replaced receptacles…this is what warns them and is required. However, let say they dont mark them…the GFCI is still safer because whats the difference…but it does possibly save someone from cutting off the ground on a grounded plug or an extention cord so in my eyes if done properly the NEC is perfectly right and GFCI can make it safer.

Since you know in most cases they are not going to rip it all out…err on the side of caution and recommend GFCI’s when you can in older homes.

24.) I did not see an example of a bootleg ground on the walls of shame…remember the normal tester will read OK when they run the grounded conductor to the grounding screw then up to the grounded " neutral " screw…very dangerous but does fool the cheap testers…just wanted you to know is all.

25.) Again…you saw a ground fault take place on the video…should go without saying your job is to not remove devices…and never while hot. I would have liked to see that explained more…they safest environment is one where electricity has been removed from the circuit…then examined…just be safe guys…please…

26.) One final statement…remember Bonding is generally what we are talking about when we are dealing with the green screws on the receptacles or in the panels…bonding all parts together to create a low impedance path for fault current to allow an overcurrent device to work properly…dont get confused with grounding and the earth as ever aiding in that process…

GUys…please dont think I am bashing the video…IT WAS EXCELLENT…this is my job…and I enjoy what I do and I just wanted to add those things for your knowledge and protection…be careful out their fella…

Excellent video and I appreciate the additional comments by Paul.

Thanks to all for your efforts!

Good comments Paul. Thanks.

It’s of course not a course, but rather an on location (albeit our set) interview with an electrical contractor who is giving us his take on things.

And I liked it…just wanted to add to it. Nothing more…

Thanks. That’s why we set up this dedicated forum, so no one be shy.


I think iNACHI should of had you on this particular video and that would have definitely taken the cake if you were there to show David your take and we would then be able to view the differences of opinion of two licensed Electricians.

We all learn from each other.

Thank you for your clarifications. Very much appreciated.


Thanks…But I think Ben and NACHI did a fine job on the video. It is always easy for a back seat driver ( or an Electrical Expert ) to sit and comment on things after the fact but all in all it was a good basic video for HI’s.

Take it from someone who has done videos and so on…and someone who has been in on larger productions like the Mike Holt videos…it aint easy to roll it out so you are bound to have some mistakes or missed comments…but they should be commended on a job well done.

**Paul, **

I too thank you. I appreciate all the comments from all the viewers of NACHI.TV.


Great suggestion. Since day one, I have asked (via private emails) for expert participation.
Are there any HVAC experts interested in coming to Boulder to actively participate in the development of NACHI.TV’s 2-day HVAC course?

All in all nice informative video. When they are more than a hour long how much trouble would it be to divide into part 1 & 2?


Please elaborate on this…particularly in the context of NEC 2005 110.3B.


No trouble.
Great question.

Chris has developed something crazy cool for NACHI.TV -
When the viewer hits “play,” the video can instantly jump to where the viewer left off previously.

This feature will be necessary for the future stucco and HVAC courses being developed.

Sure James…I would love too.

What you have here is many manufactures saying that only their branded breakers can be installed in a panel of that manufacturer even in the event of replacement breakers. What happened is a class action suit was bought and a court ruling came out called the Magnisson Moss Act ( I think I spelled that right ) which said that if a third party certified a product that it could be installed in a manufactures panel and approved to work in that product without violation of any warranty.

So basically Eaton Cutler Hammer ( who probably makes most breakers anyway ) went through the process of getting their Classfied Product line third party listed by UL to be used on many of the panels on the market today.

So what they did ( and I do have inside knowledge on this ) was under the listing process with UL had all the manufactuered panels they make the breakers for and they were used, tested and approved as UL Listed product to be used in other manufacturers panelboards.

OK…lets look at 110.3(B):

**(B) Installation and Use.
**Listed or labeled equipment
shall be installed and used in accordance with any instructions
included in the listing or labeling.

Now…on the new construction installation you are correct…however we are speaking of replacement breakers which have been UL Listed for use in the panel because the panel says one thing but in a replacement situation you are looking for breakers that are listed to be installed in that panel…the classified versions have been UL Listed for use in the brands that are specific to the guide provided with the Classified style breakers.

It is of MY opinion that when a breaker is UL Listed for use in a panel it is approved for that panel because UL lists both items just at different points.

We also have to remember an important thing…as HI’s you are looking at Classifieds that go into lets say panels ( lets us an ITE ) and they use a classified breaker which has a 5 year warranty…chances are even if you did void some warranty with the ITE panel…it expired a LONG TIME AGO…so these are new warranties and since they are UL Listed…would have been tested and approved for the panel as the later date…

Does that explain it…remember I did not make this up…it is important to read the Magnesssun Moss Act ( man I know I am spelling that wrong )

What it does not mean is…can I stick a BR in an ITE panel…nothing of the sort…these are special UL Listed breakers that have been tested for the panels in which they are listed for…took Eaton quite some time to get this done…thats why they have them for Square D also…notice why Square D can’t sue them…because they are approved.

The intent of Classified Breakers as I stated are for the renovation market, the court case said that no one can tell you what replacement part can be used in a certain product IF it was tested and approved by a third party for use in that product. Kinda like buying after market car parts…why not make you buy factory brand…because the courts said if it is a replacement and it is listed ( UL in this case ) then it is fine to be used and wont void any warranties.

Thank you.

I still find it prudent, however, to call out the Challenger box with the Siemens, GE and Square D breakers mixed in with the originals. 110.3B certainly provides me with the backing to do it…and I am more comfortable to allow others to interpret lawsuits and how they might apply to the service panel I am inspecting.

I did find this at the Mike Holt site some time ago, and have referred to it often:

Even an hour is too long. It should be divided into more sections.

It may be a long video, but it’s no big deal to view the long videos just as I did. This particular video was over two hours and it took me 4 different times to finally complete this video. I simply clicked on the video link and just moved the lower slide to the exact location I had left off on the last time I viewed it. It wasn’t convenient waiting for the full video to upload completely, but it didn’t take that long either.