Throw breakers & AL Requirements?

There are a few discrepancies in the course material for electrical inspections, and I’m having trouble getting a straight answer in the forum for the course. Hopefully some of the established inspectors here can help me out!

Early on in the course, it stated that inspectors should not turn off any breakers or disable service to the house because it would be disruptive to the homeowner. Later on, it is advised to test GFCI and AFCI breakers, and to potentially pull fuses or turn off the main breaker. Which is correct?

Next, the text suggests that purple wire nuts are not acceptable for joining copper and aluminum, but in the course video, the electrician said they were the only way he ever fixes aluminum wire.

Finally, along similar lines, a quiz question indicates that anticorrosive paste is **not **required on all aluminum connections, but the same electrician in the video said that it was.

I’m particularly concerned about the aluminum questions – I’d hate to be held liable for not pointing out something in need of repair, and I don’t have any personal experience with AL wire just yet. Thanks for your help in getting these cleared up!

It would be a rare occasion and for a very specific reason that anybody would turn off the main breaker or disconnect switch. Generally the answer to turning off all power is NO. There is no real reason that it is necessary in most cases, and no benefit it provides. There are also potential liability issues related to turning it off, so use proper judgement here, and generally I would recommend to leave on.

Never turn on breakers that are turned off… you do not necessarily or usually know what they are wired to or powering, and there have been some horror stories from inspectors or real estate agents who have simply turned all the breakers on. If off, then there generally is no reason to turn them on. If you are turning any on - for whatever reason you feel necessary, ensure they are labeled, turn only one on at a time, verify that what was supposed to be powered is… and turn back off ASAP.

GFCI and AFCI can be tested… this only disconnects a single circuit at a time and is verifying a safety device. This could be at receptacle or breaker and if at breaker should be labeled properly. Test one at a time, verify it works and reset it.

Wire nuts, if approved for CU/AL are fine to use. There are purple ones as you mentioned which are both UL and CSA approved for use in connecting aluminum to copper. There are some who try to say they are not acceptable, but until they are stated as such by an official source I say they are still fine. There are copper to aluminum crimping tools as well, but I have not seen many electricians who use them in our area. Whatever is used, they need to be installed properly.

The purple connectors have anti-oxidant in them. Lugs to the buss on load centers (main panel) are rated to have aluminum connected to them - or anything reasonably new is. Therefore no paste is needed there. The same for any other connection where the aluminum wire is directly connected to a device which is rated for either copper or aluminum.

Hope this helps… Roy

It the house is unoccupied I will test AFCI breakers.
If the house is occupied I never test them as I could be shutting down computers, DVR and such, that would be disruptive to the homeowner.
The only way I “test” breakers is taking their temps with my IR thermometer.
If they are all in the same ambient range, good.

If one is way above that range I’ll look into it further and consider calling it out.

Sometimes the paste is used on the main lugs and sometimes not, since it’s stranded AL thats different that single strand solid AL.

Can not disagree there. Common sense must prevail.

Temperature on the breaker is dependant on load. A breaker under load will be warmer than one not under load so seeing if they are the same temperature is somewhat baseless as a determinant.

Why is it that hard to ask for computers to be powered down?. They are not mission critical and by not testing the breakers defects could be missed.

I understand temp on breaker is dependant on load and take that into account.

Jim, there are a lot of things I’d can ask for and not get on a home inspection.

  • Items to be removed around attic scuttle.
  • Stored items around HVAC and water heaters and elec. panel.

Just to mention a couple, I can’t talk with the seller as I work for the buyer.
I can ask the buyer agent to talk to the listing agent to talk to the seller…

I mean half the time the listing agent barely knows if all the utilities are on.

I think you get my drift…

I would never presume that a computer is “not mission critical.” In today’s world, such a presumption could prove quite problematic. My three computers run 24/7, and one of them is, indeed, mission critical.

Additionally, in 11,800+ inspections, I think I’ve had the Seller there at ten of them, maybe. Seller’s agents don’t show up either unless it’s a McMansion full of antiques, coin and stamp collections mounted on the wall, etc. So there’s no one to ask other than the buyer or the buyer’s agent, and they certainly wouldn’t be making decisions about someone else’s property.

Thanks for the replies, all! My takeaways are that you only throw breakers if the home is clearly unoccupied or if you have explicit permission from the owner/seller. And paste is generally necessary, except on the main lugs or other stranded AL wire.

Much obliged.