What my Home Inspector apparently missed?

I’ll try to keep my story short and I am interested in hearing your opinions.

I just bought a single-detached home – age 59 years. It has a fully finished basement with a suite (own kitchen, laundry).

The house had been purchased last year by a professional contractor who completely rennovated it. He gutted the interior right down to the insulation. You didn’t have to be an expert to see that it was quality work.

However, the real estate market tanked and the contractor had to sell at a substantial loss. So, I did get a deal.

I hired my home inspector and was impressed by his knowledge and report. There was apparently very little wrong with the home.

Subsequently, I contacted my insurance company to arrange fire insurance. Of course, they grilled me for details on the home. At the end of the lengthy conversation with the insurance agent, I was kind of startled when she informed me that the home did not meet their criteria for an insurance policy due to insufficient amperage service.

When the home was renovated, the contractor brought a new power line from the outside to a new electrical panel with 125 amp service. From the new panel, there was a 60 amp feed to the old electrical panel (which is now a sub panel).

The insurance company maintains that this is insufficient for a home with a suite and presents a potential fire hazard.

They will offer me insurance only if I upgrade the electrical so that either the entire house has 200 amp service or there is at least 100 amp service to each of the two “units” (main floor and basement suite).

My questions:

— Is the insurance company out to lunch on this? Is this situation really a fire hazard?
— Why didn’t the home inspector catch this and advise me? (Mind you, I would probably still have bought the home)

— How much should this cost to fix, if it needs fixing?
— What is the best solution? I feel it is probably upgrading the electrical so that the entire home has 200 amp service. But what about the sub panel with its 60 amp service feed? I believe the sub panel feeds some major appliances like a washer and dryer.

Some constructive feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.

You may want to check other insurance agencies and companies to see if their requirements are the same. Often they are not.

Hard to say with out seeing it. Ask what they base their fire hazard assertion on.

Catch what exactly? A visual non-invasive inspection is limited and knowing what an insurance company/agent may do is outside the scope of a home inspection. Also, knowing what all electical items are fed from where is typically not possible during the inspection

Get pricing from a couple of local qualified electricians.

Verify what may need to be done, if anything, and then get pricing from qualified contractors.

Just some thoughts…

Good luck.

The Code minimum service size is 100 amps. You need to perform a demand load calculation to see what size service is needed.

BTW, a 125 amp is not a common size for a main breaker. Mains are commonly 100, 150 and 200.

There is a calculation that will determine if the service is sufficient, without that everything else is speculation.

Some insurance companies may have their own rules. As Larry said, shop around.

An undersized service is not (in itself) a fire hazard. . .

Thanks all for the feedback.

It’s like I suspected…need a proper assessment.

I mean, I could have said “no thanks” to the insurance company and shopped around…and probably could have found another company who wouldn’t have taken issue with it.

However, in the back of my mind, there would always be some doubt as to a possible fire hazard. When you think about it, there is probably a good reason why my insurance company took issue — bitter experience with previous claims?

And my home inspector just called me back and I ran it by him – he thought it was odd and had in fact seen similar situations where the service was even less — 100 amp service for the whole house with a suite.

What part of the woods are you from Ray?

I see many houses with less than 150 A service. If it is a large house with 100 A service, and electric Water Heater, Dryer, and Range, then I recommend an update post haste. I dont see why a service with a 120 A main breaker is a fire hazard.

That really depends on the equipment date. 125 amp service breakers were very common in my area during the late '80’s and early '90’s.

I see 125 quite often, but I don’t ever recall seeing a 150.

You have to special order a 150 amp panel most of the time. A 125 amp is common and there is a lot of old 150 amp systems out there in my neck of the woods. Must be regional.

I think you make an excellent point Michael. The one water heater in the house is gas-fired.

But I will have two sets of washers/dryers…both dryers of course running on electricity. And two electric ranges. Two microwaves. Two sets of “electrical accessories” in both bedrooms (:)…just kidding on the last one — but you know the gist behind the humour)

In theory, we could be running our laundry, range and microwave at the same time as the tenant in the suite is running theirs…in conjunction with any other electrics such as lights etc.

Would all this draw in more than 125 amps?

Ditto around here, too.

Its possible that the insurance company is “thinking” that potential demand of the dwelling is greater then the service and the whole house is going to go POOF into a ball of flames if everything is on… Obviously they do not understand the modern electrical system, let alone the basic workings of breakers and how they prevent wire over current load fires. Given their set of rules, we should see housed go up in flames every 10 minutes! :mrgreen:

Vancouver, BC

Although totally renovated, the home I bought is technically 59 years old.

My understanding is, in Canada, 125 amp service was the standard in older homes. Newer homes of course have 200 amp service.

And by the way, after getting feedback in this forum, and after consulting a certified inspector (over the phone), I am getting the drift that my insurance company is making an unreasonable demand.

I am therefore going to shop around. If I decide not to go with this particular insurance company, I am going to inform them that they have just lost some business as I deem it to be an unreasonable demand, and they may wish to consider revising their policy.

And this may be viewed as “sour grapes”…but the name of the insurance company is “The Personal”.

As a union employee of a certain federal government department, this is insurance offered by the union at preferred rates. As their website states:

“Thanks to The Personal and the CEIU (union), you have access to privileges not available to the general public”

Of course, there is a disclaimer that “certain conditions apply”. (like having to spend a couple of thousand on an unnecessary upgrade to your electrical panel when you want fire insurance — for example).

When I had condo insurance with them, I was certainly satisfied with the policy and my rate.

However, it is evident that they have developed the same bureaucratic mindset which is typical of my employer.

Never again.

Thanks to this forum for the practical and sane advice. And thanks to the moderator in advance if you allow me to vent my frustrations a little.

I see older 125 AMP service panels all the time here.

125 amp is quite common here in my neck of the woods, as is 175. I haven’t seen too many 150, though.

I think your insurance company is out to lunch. 125 amp service capacity with a 60-amp subpanel is perfectly acceptable. Load capacity on individual circuits might be questionable depending only on your individual needs.

There was nothing that the home inspection should have caught and advised you of.

It doesn’t need fixing.

The best course is to find another insurance company that understands electricity better.

Just my humble opinion.

The minimum – and most common – we build out here in my neck of the woods is 100 amps.

There are many insurance companies here that require upgrading the service capacity to 100 amps if it’s lower, and I think the magic 100 amps is what your insurance company is looking for. However, they don’t understand electricity and the difference between the main panel and subpanel. They are just looking for 100 amps. Someone needs to take time to educate them, and the whole company if need be.

Ray - this is the point. It appears that a new service was brought to the house into a new panel but the old panel (and presumably most of the house) is being fed by a 60A breaker. This is not appropriate for a house with a suite and does constitute a fire hazard. A 60A service can only be used for very small dwellings (I believe it is less than 600 sq. ft.) with no electric heating or electric HWT. The code does specify the min service size based on the dwelling size and loads present in the home. A licensed electrician would be able to do a load calculation and advise the smallest service required. It may be smaller than 200 and the the insurance has no right to force you to exceed the electrical code.

My personal opinion is yes your inspector did miss this and should of pointed it out. Even those that do not open the electrical panel (and all should) should be able to tell it was not a big enough service to the sub panel based on the composition of breakers in the sub panel.

If you email me I can forward you a spreadsheet that I use as an inspector to calculate the load of a dwelling when I think it is marginal (the service).

inspectoratbchouseinspections.ca (replace ‘at’ with symbol)

Cheers
Sean

What you are telling us is ALL homes with 60 AMP sub panels are a fire hazard? Crazy.

From the original post the HI did nothing wrong. 60 Sub Panels are fine.

Nowhere in the original post does it specify what the sub panel is feeding. :wink: