Electrical Systems, Service Entrance and Panels

Open Breaker Slot in Service Panel

Occasionally, I run in to open breaker slots in the service panel.  This deficiency is a safety hazard that can cause serious injury or death.  As a homeowner, you should have open breaker slots repaired by a licensed electrical contractor as soon as possible.  Do not attempt to make the repairs yourself.

Usually open breaker slots are the remnants of do-it-yourself home repairs.  The danger in open breaker slots is that there is no protection against incidental contact with live electrical conductors or wires within the panel.

Open Breaker Slot
The picture above shows an open breaker slot.

Another problem with missing breaker slot covers is that animals like lizards, snakes, and mice can enter the panel.  When animals enter the panel, they are usually electrocuted, and their presence can cause arcing which can lead to fires.

A metal insert plate should be placed in the open slot where the breaker has been removed.  The insert plate should be from the same manufacturer as the panel itself.

Call Blue Star Real Estate Inspection Services today at 361-462-9018, or visit our website at www.blue-starinspections.com to schedule your inspection today.

Electrical Systems, Service Entrance and Panels

Double Tapped Circuit Breakers

A double tapped circuit breaker occurs when two conductors are found connected to one circuit breaker lug that is designed for only one conductor.  The problem with double tapped breakers is that one or both of the wires could eventually come loose.  The chances that a conductor works itself loose is even greater when two different sized conductors are attached to the same breaker lug.  When this happens, arcing occurs.  Arcing is the discharge of an electrical spark between two conductors that is caused by an electrical discharge into the air.  Arcing can cause heat, sparks, or even fire, and creates a very dangerous situation.

The picture above shows a double tapped circuit breaker.

Not all breakers with two conductors connected are a deficiency.  Some models of breakers are designed to receive two conductors.  In these cases, the breaker should be labeled as such.

double breaker
The picture above shows a circuit breaker designed to receive two conductors.

Reasons why someone would double tap a circuit breaker include such things as; there was not enough room to add a new breaker in the panel, the homeowner did the addition himself and didn’t know any better, or just plain laziness.  Correcting this deficiency is fairly easy.  Acceptable methods include adding another breaker to the panel, adding a subpanel, or upgrading to a larger service panel that has enough space for the additional breaker.  As always, never attempt to do any electrical repairs yourself.  All electrical work should be done by a licensed electrical contractor to avoid electric shock, burns, or death by electrocution.

At Blue Star Real Estate Inspections  we always have your best interests in mind.  You can trust that we will give you the information you need to make an informed decision on your home purchase.  Call 361-462-9018 to schedule an inspection today.

Electrical Systems, Service Entrance and Panels

Main Disconnect Switch

One thing I run across often is the lack of a main disconnect breaker in the electrical service panel.  There should be a means to shut off power to the residence in the case of an emergency.  It is recommended that you are able to shut off power with no more than four (4) hand movements.  The main breaker should be switched to the “off” position when performing any work on the electrical system.  Do not attempt to remove the cover panel or “dead front” panel, as there is a possibility of electric shock or electrocution.  Instead, call a licensed electrician to assess any electrical problems you may have.Missing Main Breaker

In the photo above, there are four main breakers for disconnecting power to the service panel.  This is an acceptable practice, though normally only seen in older homes.

main breaker

The photo above shows the main disconnect breaker.  You should know where your main breaker is located, in case you need to disconnect power to your house in an emergency situation.

It should be noted that main disconnect breakers are not required in sub-panels, only in the main service panel.  The main service panel will have thicker cables entering it from the meter and service company either overhead or underground.  The various sizes of service entrance wires are listed in the table below.