Follow This Home Inspection Electrical Checklist Before Buying Your Next Home

Kate Fann
Written by Kate Fann
Updated May 12, 2023
A female electrician checking a central heating
Sturti/E+ via Getty Images

Here’s what to expect when you're inspecting your electrical systems

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Nervous about what an electrical inspection might reveal about your potential new home? Following our home inspection electrical checklist can help ease your mind. 

The regulations for electrical systems are complicated, to say the least, making it tough to know the right questions to ask a local licensed electrician during an inspection. Reading over a pre-inspection checklist can help you feel more in control and knowledgeable about the process. Here’s what you can expect from an electrical inspection. 

What Is an Electrical Inspection and Why Do I Need One?

An electrical inspection is a detailed review of your home’s electrical components, including wires, systems, and appliances. It goes above and beyond what a traditional home inspection covers. Along the way, inspectors also ensure the home meets all legal standards and the National Electrical Code (NEC). 

Here’s who often hires out for extra electrical expertise: 

  • Buyers interested in a fixer-upper, or if the house is more than 40 years old and the electrical system needs updating.

  • Cautious buyers who need more reassurance, especially if they’ve experienced fire safety issues in the past.

  • Buyers who want to make their home more energy efficient

  • Buyers who want to understand the property’s electrical system and get tips on how to prevent problems.

Electric Meter

Your electrician will closely examine your outside electrical meter to ensure everyday weathering or curious rodents haven’t done significant damage. Your inspector will look for problems such as: 

  • An unstable attachment

  • Broken seals

  • Signs of water intrusion and rust

  • Damage from chewing creatures like squirrels and mice

Electrical Wires

An informed electrician will also examine the overall condition of the service cables to ensure they’re not damaged or deteriorating. Inside, the electrician will look for other common yet expensive problems like:

Other Wiring Hazards

Your inspection should also cover additional wiring hazards, including the following:

  • Outside wires leading into the house and other outdoor electrical systems like porch lighting 

  • Overloaded power strips or extension cords

  • Unprotected or exposed wiring in lesser-visited places like the attic, basement, and crawl space

Electrical Panel and Circuit Breakers

The electrical panel (aka the circuit breaker panel) houses all circuit breakers, which prevents electrical currents from exceeding safe levels. Your electrician might recommend upgrading the circuit breaker panel if you’re buying an older property, especially if the main panel is missing a surge protector. Keep in mind that inspecting these panels can be dangerous; you shouldn’t remove an electrical panel yourself. 

They will also test your electrical panel against a number of issues, including:

  • Insufficient clearance

  • Improperly sized circuit breakers

  • Oxidation or corrosion

  • Aluminum branch wiring

  • Overheated components

  • Evidence of moisture

Federal Pacific Brand Service Panel

Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) was a common circuit breaker panel manufacturer in earlier decades, and if you live in an older home, you might have an FPE panel. If you have one in your home, the electrician will closely inspect the panel because there is a history of failure to provide proper protection.

FPE panels could pose an electrical fire risk because they have been found not to turn off when overloaded. If you have this panel, you can ask the electrician to make a recommendation on whether it should be replaced or not for your household’s safety.  

Electrical Outlets and Switches

Close up of electrician checking a domestic light switch
Photo: monkeybusinessimages / iStock via Getty Images

An electrician tests all electrical outlets in your home for safety and functionality. They also inspect the outlet plates’ condition, paying close attention to: 

  • Reversed polarity

  • Ungrounded circuits

  • Unsafe wiring

  • Discoloring

  • Damage

  • Looseness

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) Outlets

If you’re like most people, you probably don't know about the difference between a GFCI outlet and an AFCI outlet. Both outlets are crucial to your home’s safety, but each serves a different purpose. After the inspection, ask your electrician to show you where they are in your home for future referece. 

  • GFCI: A GFCI outlet prevents electrocution. These outlets contain small circuit breakers that shut off when overloaded or if there is a short circuit. Look for these in your basement, garage, kitchen, and bathrooms.

  • AFCI: An AFCI device helps prevent fires caused by loose or damaged electrical connections and wiring. They are required in most rooms, including the kitchen, family, dining, and living rooms, bedrooms, and laundry rooms.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector Testing and Placement

The electrician will verify whether the house has enough protection and that each unit works properly. Proper placement for each detector is also important. Your inspector will confirm that:

  • Carbon monoxide detectors are between knee and chest height.

  • Combination carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and stand-alone smoke detectors are placed at ceiling height.

  • Each bedroom and every floor is covered under adequate protection to detect warning signs of danger.


During the electrical inspection, the electrician will check that major, built-in appliances are operating correctly. They likely won’t evaluate small appliances, such as a microwave or coffee makers, but you can expect them to check the:

  • Refrigerator

  • Dishwasher

  • Oven and range

  • Garbage disposal

Light Bulb Wattage

If any light fixture in the home uses the incorrect light bulb wattage, it can cause wire damage within the home. The electrician will check that all fixtures are using the appropriate bulb wattage. Luckily, this is an easy fix for homeowners. Check each light fixture for the recommended maximum wattage rating to ensure they contain the proper light bulb wattage.

What Should I Do if the Electrical Inspection Uncovers Problems?

After recording their findings, your electrician will put together a report itemizing each issue they’ve uncovered, plus their recommendations for fixing the problems. Usually, your electrician will rank them by priority. Then, as the potential buyer, you’ll have options for how to use the information. 

  • Request the current homeowners fix the issues before the sale.

  • Talk with your real estate agent about negotiating a lower sale price to fix the repairs on your own.

  • Walk away from the deal, depending on the language in your contract and severity of the electrical issues.

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