When there’s a noticeable problem with your home wiring or electrical appliances, the need for a professional electrical inspection is obvious. Flickering lights, a smoky outlet a breaker that just keeps flipping unexpectedly, or a dead appliance that’s still plugged in are obvious signs of an issue that’s gone unaddressed.

Yet unseen or seemingly minor problems might not throw up an immediate red flag that tells you it’s time for an electrical inspection. Of course, there are also some home safety codes, building codes and other regulations that require one.

What Is An Electrical Inspection?

An electrical inspection is a comprehensive process performed by a professional electrician to examine your home’s electrical system. This often includes attached or detached garages, outbuildings, barns and electrical features on your property. In rural areas, the inspection might also include making sure things like well pumps are up to code and in good working order.

It’s essentially a thorough checkup of your residential electrical connections as well as the wiring throughout your home and outbuildings.

When Is An Electrical Inspection Required?

Regardless of whether you’ve noticed an obvious problem in your home, there are times when you are required or legally obligated to have an electrical inspection. If you don’t have an inspection performed or you are a “Do-It-Yourselfer” and there’s an electrical fire, it could void your homeowner’s insurance coverage of the incident. Even if there isn’t an immediate issue with a DIY electrical project, your home will likely need to be inspected before you can sell it.

The following are times when it’s either very wise or regulations legally require you to have a professional electrical inspection performed.

As Part Of A Major Home Remodeling Project

If you are going to be adding onto your home, or perhaps putting up a garage or other type of outbuilding that needs electricity, you will need to have existing electrical wiring inspected. This might include an inspection to make sure that your residential electrical system is capable of supporting all the new outlets and fixtures.

In the case of adding an outbuilding or a garage, your local building codes will likely require an electrical inspection as part of your building permit application.

An Older Home With An Outdated Electrical System

Electrical safety codes and requirements are constantly changing. At the same time, older wiring and electrical systems are more prone to faults and short circuits. A good rule of thumb is to have your home’s electrical system inspected if your home is more than 25 t0 30 years old.

This will help catch anything that is out of date or not up to current electrical code standards. It’s also a good idea to have an older home inspected every 5 to 7 years to catch any minor issues before they become a major problem.

What If An Electrical Inspection Wasn’t Included In Purchasing Your Home?

Some people will opt not to have an electrical inspection performed as part of the process of purchasing their home, only to later notice some questionable things.

This might include:

  • Finding someone else’s DIY electrical work
  • An older circuit breaker panel
  • After a previously unreported water leak
  • Flickering lights or apparent smoke stains
  • Intermittent problems with an otherwise properly functioning appliance
  • A circuit breaker that frequently trips
  • Lightbulbs burning out quickly

When Your Home Has Suffered Storm Damage

Severe weather is one of the more common causes of home damage. While things like a fallen tree or a nearby lightning strike, damaged power pole, or major physical damage are obvious signs that an electrical inspection is needed.

You also shouldn’t underestimate the damage potential to your electrical system from a leak or water intrusion event. Even something like a damaged gutter, minor roof leak, or water in the basement can affect the wiring and electrical components in your home.

As Part Of Your Homeowner’s Insurance Coverage

These days an increasing number of homeowner’s insurance providers are putting language in their policies that require periodic inspections of your homes electrical, plumbing or foundation. If you don’t have the inspection performed within the designated time frame it could void your coverage or result in a much higher annual premium.

If a professional electrical inspection finds a problem, you will likely be required to have it repaired within a specific timeframe. If you don’t provide the insurance company with verifiable proof that the repair was completed to standards, they could cancel your policy altogether. This could cause further problems if you have an active mortgage that requires you to maintain a seamless homeowner’s insurance policy.

How Often Should I have An Electrical Inspection Performed?

If your home is more than 30 years old, it’s a good idea to have an electrical inspection performed. Especially if you have a historic home or your home is more than a century old. You should then consider having an electrical inspection performed every 3 to 5 years.

What’s Required To Pass An Electrical Inspection?

An electrical inspection is not something you can perform on your own. Most insurance providers and municipal organizations require home upgrades to be documented and certified by a licensed professional electrician, or similar accredited individual.

A professional electrical inspection often involves the following things:

  • A thorough inspection of electrical outlets, light fixtures, and switches
  • Examining wiring for signs of an impending fault, or short circuit
  • Inspecting circuit breakers and fuse elements
  • Testing switchgear
  • Proper labeling inside the circuit breaker
  • Double-checking the Earthing/Grounding system
  • Ensuring that all wires of a circuit are properly grouped
  • Testing all 220 Volt breakers and outlets
  • Electrical connections to HVAC units
  • Testing electrical heating elements
  • Inspecting GFCI outlets and other outlets in potentially wet locations

How Much Does An Electrical Inspection Cost?

Prices can vary depending on where you live in the United States. On average most home electrical system inspection costs range between $150 to $200, however every situation can be different. Offset this against the cost of repairing a fault, loss of insurance coverage increased homeowner’s insurance premiums or an electrical fire, and there’s an easy return on investment.