Why amp meters

I performed a inspection yesterday so far in the boonies that my cell phone had no service???

This inspection was what I call a typical farm or redneck type of home. The electrical made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I won’t go into all of the Gorey details as I listed over 2k in repairs.

I would like to express the importance of a good amp meter as there were two items that would never have been detected if the meter had not been used.

The bottom element on the electric hot water heater was not working drawing no amps with the tank full of cold water.

The electrical heat strips for the furnace had a bank of 3 elements and the center bank was cycling on a safety control on and off with the stat turned as high as it would go. This would not have been detected with out the amp meter.

Bottom line give your clients a run for their money. This was all detected with just the removal of normal excess panels.


This is what it is all about

I know that many will be upset that you used a clamp on amp meter but this is what your client was paying for

Go for it


Let them be upset an amp meter is a normal process for me. There is no way to determine if a electric furnace or a hot water heater is performing as intended with out an amp meter and if (THEY) are not using one I call this a short change for the customer.

I wonder how many have you done and found nothing .
Now if you balance out all the time you spent finding nothing wrong with the electric element .
It would be interesting to see how many elements you could have bought with this time spent.
I do not take my clamp on with me as I feel this is an electricians job the same as I do not check how many inches of water the gas pressure is.
Not My job.
My openion others may disagree.

Roy Cooke

Roy; That is my job to find nothing the key word is FIND.

I am not into buying elements VS time

Could you please teach us on this proccess?..

Be more than happy to but have got to go on an inspect will be this evening.


If you look at it from another perspective, the Amp Meter will save time (and your a$$).

You have to open the electrical panels anyway, you can stick the AMP Probe on a circuit and test the equipment from there.
For example, if you have electric heat, electric heat banks come on in sequence and are rated 3k, 5k, 7k, ect… the amp reading will show how many come on, if they come on.

If you have an electric heater around here in TN and dont find about 40 AMPS drawn with the heat running you have a problem.
This is a hell of a lot better than using a dry buld thermometer at the air side of the equipment! And much quicker.

BTU’s = V * A * 3.415
1 BTU = 0.293 watts
1 kW = 3412 Btu/hr

David is absolutely right you can check the furnace amp draw at the main panel and get a good feel if the unit is drawing close to the proper amps.

I guess the old TECH just comes out in me I have to remove the control panel cover for the furnace because I have found to many wires that had burnt off or were about to burn off of elements and or sequencers so I have me a quick peek just normally two screws holding this panel.

I highly recommend you do not stick your wet Willy fingers into this area as you may end up looking like a piece of toast. The curiosity side of me wants to know how many elements are installed. I don’t care what their KW is just the amount of elements. Your elements will be distinguished by perfect rows of wires attached to ceramic insulators on the front side with the elements not visible on the back side. (Nichrome wire that looks like a small cork screw) There will be two wires for each element most likely black on one side that travels Thur the sequencer and red on the other side that connects to the element Thur a Klixon heat sensitive switch. I place my amp meter on each element individually with the thermostat turned to its highest setting to ensure that the second stage of heating is being called for. You have sequencers that energize the elements in sequence so as not to place a heavy amp draw all at one time
The furnace I inspected this week had 3 elements and two sequencers the first sequencer controlled by the first stage heat from the thermostat had two stages bring on the first two elements one after the other. The second sequencer was a single sequencer controlled by the second stage heat from the thermostat. Boy that was a mouth full. The most common element to burn out is the first and or second element as these are used the most.

If I had checked the amp draw at the main electrical panel on this unit I would have missed the burnt out element as each of the two remaining elements were drawing 22 amps each at the elements. At the main panel I would have been indicating possibly 44 to 45 amps giving me false security that the furnace was performing as intended.

Guys with a little practice you can check the amp draw on a furnace in less than 5 minutes and it will make you shine like a diamond in a goats Butt. I can not tell you how many elements I have found in the last years as a HI that were bad but a bunch and I do not do that many electric furnaces

Electric Hot Water Heaters and AMP meters do I check every one absolutely not I have to have a reason to check the elements. 1.Not very hot water at the faucet. 2. Old heaters. 3. A pile of old elements lying near the water heater thats what rednecks do they never throw nothing away. The reason I checked the amp draw on this last find was the seller left a red flag he disclosed on the disclosure statement that the water heater was operating fine but, he the seller had removed the cover plates over the elements as if he had been checking the elements and failed to replace the covers. RED FLAG He probally used a redneck voltage tester and had 220 volts at the element and thought it was operating, That tells you nothing other than you are getting power to the element through the stat not if the element is operating. AMP METER thats what works.

Regarding the water heater full of cold water. Typically only one element in a water heater operates at a time. The top one runs as the primary element. When demand for hot water is met, the lower element takes over to finish heating the cold water at the bottom of the tank. Running a continuity test on the element with no load on it might show it to still be good. Make sure the power source is locked out.

yes, it may show it to be good even when it’s bad!

Unless you know the actual resistance of the element, a burn element or water is leaking into the element may show impedance at any range which could be construed as a good element. Beware.

And how many burned out elements have you found when doing a home inspection and how many electric furnaces have you done .
If you are not an electrical license you are not allowed to do that in Canada.
Thanks Roy Cooke

Randal you are correct but this tank had special circumstances and I knew the tank was full of cold water because I turned the water on to the home and activated the breakers to the water heater with permission from the owner and the listing Real Estate agent and my amp meter told me every thing I need to know the bottom element was not working regardless of the cause I was not troubleshooting If it has no amp draw it will not heat water.

Roy I can not speak for David but my self I have found enough burnt out elements to justify my checking with an amp meter. I can also ask you the same question how many elements have you missed by not checking. What does that statement read at the bottom of your Posts:) :slight_smile:

Come on Roy smile were are not all in Canada

I do not disagree with any of the reasons you gave for troubleshooting the equipment but I shudder to think of some of the new untrained inspectors putting their “skinners” inside the electrical section and getting their YO-YO knocked into their watchpocket. I would venture to say the majority do not have a clue as to the proper way to use or read an amp meter or probe. If it isn’t working, using normal operating controls, write it up for the professional. I had to fix my own furnace this morning but I know how but I would never dream of doing anything like that on an inspection. Ive been asked on occasion to override the thermostat with a jumper but refused. The dink that asked me to was the kind of SoB that would later come back and hit me for a new piece of equipment.

You are probably right most do not have the ability but that is why I say educate educate educate.

My personal belief is if someone decides they want to be an HI they should at least go to a Vo Tech and get some basic training on the fundamentals of the mechanics. This business is just not about sticking your head in a electric panel or operating an A/C unit from the thermostat you should have a basic understanding of the big picture. This state only requires 50 hours of class room training and to pass a test that most 5th graders could pass with just a little studying. To me this does not qualify you to be a HI

I agree, Roy.

It seems that we bring with us, as home inspectors, a penchant for our specialties.

As generalists performing non-invasive observations of the systems listed in the SOP, and reporting on them, we are performing the work of a home inspector.

Those who say they “exceed” this standard (which is not “exceeding”, but simply applying a different and unrecorded standard) are usually doing so in their own special area of expertise.

If you were to spend the time looking beneath the attic insulation for joist defects (and so on, and so on) it would take 16 hours for an average inspection.


I think your exaggeration of 16 hours is a bit extreme I spend less time inspecting an electric furnace properly than I do on a gas furnace.

Would you consider a gas furnace with only 1/2 of the burners in use a properly operating furnace.

In my opinion an electric furnace deserves the same consideration either all of the elements are in use or they are not and just because you can not see them glowing in the dark is a lame duck excuse for not inspecting.

I give my clients the same consideration on any high dollar item outside of my field of expertise (example) roof, foundation as I do with the HVAC. I think the word generalist gives you tunnel vision.

In this case, I would agree that it is not likely that the Inspector will get unquestionably blamed if an electrical element is burnt, because is it difficult to determine when the failure occurred.

However, If there is a way to know something for sure, why not try to protect yourself with this knowledge?

This crap about “not knowing how to do something” is BS.
How many Inspectors are in the Mold, Termite, IR, Radon fields?
That is outside Home Inspection, but HI’s LEARN ALL ABOUT THAT. Knowing for sure that the things that are Inside the Scope of HI are operating IS important. It’s All about ME! Me knowing that something is/is not an issue. Anyone can come back on you when something breaks. Why put yourself at risk more than necessary?

If your defence is going to be that you turned on the t-stat and “felt” warm air come out, rather than you stuck an Amp-probe on it and verified to yourself that it was in fact working, relying on some written contract or SOP for protection than you must be asleep because you are dreaming! These written documents are not going to save you like you think.

I just got done with an Arbitration on a case I was listed as a defendant with others. Of the 14 issues the plaintiff was complaining about, 5 were outside of the HI SOP, the rest were addressed (numerous times) in the inspection report. The plaintiff agreed about the 5 being outside SOP. Still, it cost me $5k to make things go away. I did nothing wrong in my inspection, but it still cost me. The plaintiff was asking for $109,000.00 settlement. Why was I able to settle for only $5k? Because I was able to show, beyond a shadow of a doubt! The Clerk & Master said she had never seen a case in this amount be settled for so little! So, what amount do you guys prefer to settle for when you get to court?

As far as the Inspection Contract you hold so dear, numerous parts of the contract were attacked or rejected. A motion to dismiss was kicked out on arbitration issues. Limited Liability issues were not accepted by the court.
If I had not succeeded in settling my way out of this case my a$$ would likely be fried in front of a jury, regardless of my doing the inspection by the book!
If I was found not guilty, my cost for defence on the numerous ludacris allegations made up by the plaintiffs’ lawyer could unlikely be paid for by a bankrupt plaintiff, and I would have likely just upped my Lawyers bill to try to collect.

Buy the way to add insult to near injury, I was almost killed conducting a re-inspection in this case when a defective electrical panel, identified in the HI Report was not repaired by a Licenced Electrician and exploded in my face.

Very nice statement David

I do not depend on the sop to CYA I depend on my ability to perform a good and knowledgable inspection thru training in all aspects of a Full House Inspection from ridge line to the foundation. I was inspecting long before SOP became a part of the way we do business in this state and I did not adjust the way I inspect after SOP???