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Kansas City Electrical
Service And Inspections

The Most Shocking ⚡ System In Your Home

There are 5 major areas in every home.  And no matter how big or how old, they are always the same:

1. Foundation
2. Plumbing
3. Roof
4. Electrical
5. HVAC

And because the electrical system is the one most tampered with, it’s also the most dangerous.

Depending on the size and age, a Kansas City home will either have 60-amp, 100-amp, or 200-amp service.

There are also a few unsafe main electrical panels (breaker boxes) in circulation and a small chance you could end up with aluminum wiring (which isn’t usually as scary as it sounds).

This is what you can expect.

60-Amp Electrical Service

This was the standard service size of homes during the 1950s and 1960s.
It can supply enough power for lights, outlets, range, and dryer in a small home but not enough to include electric heat.
This is too small for the demands of today’s modern home, but plenty of older homes with 60-amp service can still be found around Kansas City.
If you happen to find one, it’s important to know that many insurance companies will require an upgrade to at least 100-amps before they will insure the home.

100-Amp Electrical Service

This is the minimum service size for today’s homes.
It can supply enough power for lights, outlets, range, and dryer in a small home but not enough to include electric heat.

It’s a common misconception that 100-amp electrical service delivers more power than 60-amp electrical service. 

Actually, the biggest difference between the service sizes is the number of circuits they make available.

60-amp panels have fewer circuits (4) than 100-amp panels (20) which have even fewer than 200-amp panels (42).
The bigger the home, the greater number of lights, outlets, and electric appliances, so the greater number of circuits needed.

200-Amp Electrical Service

This is the standard service size for today’s new homes.

It became popular in the 1980s and designed to handle multiple large appliances, air conditioning units, and other electrical devices simultaneously and still have room for more circuits in the future. 

This service requires a larger electrical panel and heavier gauge wires. Upgrading an older property to 200-amp service can be complex and expensive.

Recalled And Unsafe Electrical Panels

ITE/Pushmatic/Bulldog Distribution Panels

These panels were popular from 1950-1980 and were never formally recalled, but the problems they’re developed have been serious enough to give them a reputation of being unsafe.
For example, their push button breakers are known to lock up instead of tripping.  This is a fire hazard.
ITE breakers bolt onto their buss bars. This allows wires to bypass the breaker and screw directly to the buss bars.  This is also a fire hazard.
There are no main breakers in any of them.   In order to turn power off to the home, all the circuit breakers have to be turned off manually.  This is a safety issue, especially if any of the breakers fail.
Replacement breakers are only available in the aftermarket, which makes them expensive to replace (about $80 each).
These breakers should be tested monthly. 
Electrical Systems And Inspection
Pushmatic panel
Electrical Systems And Inspection
ITE panel

Federal Pacific Distribution Panel

Distinguishable by red tipped breakers that open backwards,  this panel was recalled in 2002 following a series of lawsuits that included loose, arcing, and failing breakers.
If you have this panel, be careful to listen for arcing and buzzing before trying to remove the cover. 
If you do, go slow since it has a tendency to trip the breakers.
Aftermarket breakers are about $50.

Zinsco/Sylvania Distribution Panel

This panel was also recalled in 2002. 
These were originally made in Puerto Rico and installed in homes and apartment buildings throughout the United States during the 1960s and 70s.
Major Problems:

1) Circuit breakers freeze (it’s been known to take 60-amps to trip a 15-amp breaker).  This is a fire hazard.

2) The buss bars are made of aluminum and easily corrode.  This is a fire hazard.
3) The buss bar coating sometimes fails and causes weak circuit breaker connection.  This is a fire hazard.
4) Circuit breakers aren’t locked into place.  This lets them slide up and down.  This is a fire hazard.

Aluminum Branch Wiring

For as long as we’ve had electricity, we’ve had copper wires.  But when the price of copper spiked in the mid-60s, aluminum started to look like ice cream on a hot day.
But things didn’t stay that way.  Aluminum acted differently than copper by making lights flicker and switch plates hot.
They soon realized special parts (labeled AL/CU) were needed to handle these problems.  And they worked. 
At least until they ditched aluminum and  went back to using copper in the mid 1970s.
So if your home has aluminum wiring, don’t worry too much.  As long as it’s got the right switches, sockets, breakers, and connectors your home is safe.
Look for the AL/CU markings on the outlets, switches, and circuit breakers.
Electrical Systems And Inspection
CO/ALR plug and switch

The Electrical Service Inspection

There are 2 parts to the electrical service inspection:
  1. Outside the home
  2. Inside the home

1. THE ELECTRICAL INSPECTION OUTSIDE THE HOME:

The electrical systems inspection starts outside the home at the pole and service mast. 

The pole is checked, the service cable is inspected for clearances, and the service mast is studied for damage.

Then the service cable is inspected to make sure it’s attached to the house and undamaged and the meter is checked to make sure it’s sealed and not pulling away from the siding.
If there is no pole, the service conduit is checked for damage and movement away from the meter base.
We also start to determine service amperage and voltage at this point.

Check all exterior outlets for GFCI protection.

2. THE ELECTRICAL INSPECTION INSIDE THE HOME:

Once inside the electrical systems inspection starts in the attic and continues to the basement.
Open junction boxes and exposed splices are a common problem in attics and basement.
Throughout the home, each outlet, light, and switch are tested for safe and proper operation.

The garage, bathrooms, kitchen, and basement outlets are also checked for GFCI protection.

Finally, the main panel is checked by removing the cover (if possible) and checking for moisture, rust and corrosion.

We check the circuit breakers and wiring.  The hot and neutral wires are inspected along with the panel bonding and grounding components to make sure they’re tucked in nice and tight.

We jot down the type of panel along with the condition of the circuit breakers and their wiring.  If an unsafe or recalled panel is installed, we’ll check for unsafe conditions and any past problems.
If there are any sub-panels, they’re also inspected to make sure they’re wired properly (sub panels are wired differently than main panels).

Electrical Service Frequently Asked Questions

Yes.

Yes.  That's an important part of the home inspection.

Yes. 

14/2 wiring is the size for 15-amp circuit breakers.

12/2 wiring is the size for 20-amp breakers.

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