Common Electrical Problems in your Los Angeles Home

Our trusty San Diego Home inspector, Russel Ray, has come up with a baker’s dozen of his most common electrical recommendations

His two most recent posts about electricity (“What’s the #1 thing you would do?” and “What color are YOUR circuit breakers?”), several people are interested in common electrical problems around the home.

Below are Russel’s  recommendations concerning the most common problems he finds:


    1. Create an emergency plan for shutting off electricity, gas, and water.
    2. Know where your main circuit breaker is so that you can shut off electricity to your house if there’s an emergency. Shut off now, ask questions later.
    3. Make sure that your electric panel has an interior cover and an exterior cover. If you have an older electric panel that has no cover – i.e., exposed circuit breakers – it’s time to upgrade it!
    4. Upgrade outdated electric panels, such as Bulldog Pushmatic, Zinsco, Federal Pacific Electric (see picture at right), and residential electric panels that include fuses. If you’re home was built more than 25 years ago, it might be time to upgrade your electric panel.
    5. If your electric panel is located in a closet (see first picture again), move it out of there. If that’s not practical or financially feasible — and often it’s not — install a protective covering over the electric panel to keep your combustible clothes from touching that metal panel, which sometimes becomes energized and hot.
    6. Make sure your circuit breakers are labeled! All of them! Properly! And be specific. Don’t say “kitchen” on five circuit breakers when they should read dishwasher, disposal, stove, outlets, trash compactor.
    7. Upgrade your ungrounded 2-prong outlets to grounded 3-prong outlets.
    8. Make sure you have GFCI protection in the bathrooms, kitchens, bars, garage, laundry room, spa bathtubs, pools, hot tubs, water fountains, and outside. If your home was built after around 1990 or so, you probably have such protection. GFCI outlets look similar to the picture at right. Sometimes the GFCI protection is via a circuit breaker in the electric panel.
    9. Install AFCI protection for your bedrooms. If you have a home built within the last five years or so, you probably already have it. AFCI protection comes via circuit breakers similar to the picture at right and uses modern technology to detect conditions that could result in a fire.
    10. Upgrade old pushbutton light switches to modern switches. With older pushbutton switches, the contact points are probably worn and might be arcing each time you push the button, possibly finally resulting in a fire (see #9).
    11. Replace outlets, light switches, and outlet/switch covers that are damaged or even missing. Damaged or missing components can expose live electric parts, possibly shocking or electrocuting someone unintentionally, and also can result in loose components which then could result in arcing (see #9 again).
    12. Make sure you have an outlet on each wall. This ensures that you won’t do stupid things with extension cords (see picture at right).
    13. On long walls, make sure you have outlets no more than six feet from other outlets. This also ensures that you won’t use extension cords as permanent wiring (see picture below):

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