What to Expect During an Electrical Inspection

An electrical inspection is an important process that helps ensure the safety and proper functioning of a building’s electrical system. When buying a new home or undergoing electrical renovations, an electrical inspection provides peace of mind and can prevent potential hazards.

Knowing what to expect during an electrical inspection allows homeowners to be prepared and aware of the scope of the process. This extensive guide will outline what happens during a standard electrical inspection, tips for before and after, and how to get the most out of your inspection.

Overview of the Electrical Inspection Process

An electrical inspection examines the electrical system against electrical codes and standards. While inspection requirements can vary between jurisdictions, there are general stages that take place:

Visual Inspection

An inspector will:

  • Examine visible electrical components to check for defects, damage, or decay. This includes things like:
    • Electrical panels
    • Wiring
    • Outlets
    • Switches
    • Light fixtures
  • Look for violations of electrical code requirements like:
    • Proper wire and breaker sizes
    • Safe clearances around electrical components
    • Proper circuit labeling
    • Presence of GFCI outlets near wet areas
    • AFCI protection where required


An inspector will test electrical components using special tools and devices. Common tests include:

  • Voltage testing – Measuring outlet voltage to check for proper supply.
  • Continuity testing – Verifying electrical connections and identifying open wires.
  • Polarity testing – Confirming proper “hot” and “neutral” connections.
  • Ground testing – Checking for appropriate grounding pathways.
  • Load testing – Operating devices like A/C units under load to check voltage drop.


The inspector reviews results against electrical code and notes any issues or deficiencies. Common problems found during inspections include:

  • Undersized wiring
  • Lack of GFCI/AFCI protection
  • Improper grounding
  • Overloaded circuits
  • Hazards like exposed wires or damaged components

The inspector will outline any findings, needed repairs, and recommended upgrades to bring the system up to code.

What is Checked During an Electrical Inspection?

Electrical inspectors conduct a thorough review of a property’s electrical system. Key components and areas checked include:

Electrical Service Panel/Breaker Box

The main service panel or breaker box is closely examined. Checks include:

  • Adequate size for the home’s electric needs.
  • Double lugging of circuit breakers is prohibited.
  • Amperage and voltage ratings of the panel match supply.
  • All circuits are properly labeled.
  • Panel wiring is in good condition without modifications.
  • Grounding and bonding look appropriate.
  • Breakers are in good working order.


Inspectors look at the condition of wiring and electrical connections.

  • Cables should be in good shape, not damaged, spliced, or undersized.
  • Wires are properly secured and supported.
  • Color coding matches circuits.
  • Concealed wires running through walls are inspected at accessible points.

Outlets, Switches, and Fixtures

All electrical fixtures and devices are examined.

  • Proper operation when tested.
  • Secure connections and mountings.
  • Covers and plates installed and in good condition.
  • Proper polarity and grounding.
  • GFCI protection where required.
  • Proper clearance space maintained.

Grounding and Bonding

Inspectors check that appropriate grounding and bonding exists.

  • Presence of ground wires or conduits.
  • Ground clamp properly secured to grounding rod.
  • Bonding jumpers installed correctly.
  • Continuity between ground pathways verified.

Proper grounding is crucial for safety and performance.

Specialized Equipment

Additional electrical systems may be inspected including:

  • Backup generators.
  • Solar PV systems.
  • EV charging equipment.
  • Low voltage lighting.
  • Appliances like A/C units.
  • Pool or hot tub equipment.

Equipment is checked for proper sizing, installation, and electrical connections.

Tips for Before Your Electrical Inspection

Preparing for your electrical inspection allows it to go smoother and faster. Consider these tips before the appointed time:

  • Clear access – Make sure all electric components are easy to reach and uncovered. Remove furniture or obstructions blocking breaker panels.
  • Have documentation ready – Have any electrical plans, permits, and receipts available for the inspector.
  • Clean equipment – Clean dirt, dust or debris from equipment so hazards are easily visible. Shut off power and use a dry cloth.
  • Verify function – Test that all switches, outlets and electrical items are working properly beforehand. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
  • Label circuits – Use circuit labels or marker to identify all breakers and disconnected wires so the inspector can understand the layout.
  • Check repairs – If you got a pre-inspection and made fixes, double check workmanship on any repairs.

Advance preparation makes for an efficient inspection process.

What Happens After the Electrical Inspection?

The steps after an electrical inspection will depend on the findings:

Passing Inspection

If no major deficiencies are found, the system will likely pass inspection. The inspector will deliver a certificate of approval. Any minor issues may be noted for repair but won’t need re-inspection.

Failed Inspection

If code violations or hazards are identified that make the system unsafe, the inspection will fail. The inspector outlines faulty areas and required fixes to pass re-inspection. Unsafe conditions must be repaired before electrical service resumes.

Partial Pass

Sometimes major components like the main panel pass but specific circuits or areas fail inspection. The usable parts can be approved while the faulty wiring gets repaired. The corrections are re-inspected before final approval.

The inspector will review the results and next steps before leaving. Make sure to discuss any open questions. Obtain paperwork showing inspection status.

How to Get the Most from Your Electrical Inspection

Your electrical inspection offers the chance to explore your system’s safety and functionality. Make the most of it with these tips:

  • Ask questions – Don’t be afraid to ask the inspector to explain testing methods, electrical issues found, or the process in general. Their expertise is valuable.
  • Take notes – Document any problem areas or fixes needed so you remember details. Have the inspector clarify unclear items.
  • Consider upgrades – If small upgrades like GFCI outlets or arc-fault breakers are recommended, consider doing them during repairs for added safety.
  • Discuss future work – Thinking of an electric vehicle or addition? Discuss plans with the inspector for guidance working within your existing electrical system.
  • Learn to DIY – Watch the inspector testing equipment so you can check things yourself. Learn to reset tripped breakers.
  • Verify repairs – Once repairs are made, check workmanship yourself before calling for re-inspection. Look for sloppy wiring, loose connections, or unfinished work.

Leverage the inspector’s seasoned electrical know-how to learn about your system. Their insights can help you make informed upgrades and feel confident addressing electrical issues down the road.

FAQs About Electrical Inspections

Electrical inspections raise common questions for homeowners. We answer some frequently asked questions below:

How long does an electrical inspection take?

Electrical inspections typically take 1-3 hours depending on the home’s size and number of circuits. Complex custom systems can take longer. Preparation and accessibility can help speed up the process.

How much does an electrical inspection cost?

Electrical inspection fees vary but are often $100-$200 though large homes can be $300+. Cost depends on your area and factors like special equipment needing inspection. Get an estimate upfront so you can budget accurately.

When are electrical inspections required?

Major electrical work like new circuits, upgrades, or additions need an inspection. New construction and renovations need inspections. Home purchases or sales often involve an inspection as well.

Can I make repairs before re-inspection?

Yes, you can complete repairs needed after a failed inspection before calling for re-inspection. Just ensure qualified electricians handle complex issues. Review the inspector’s notes so all violations get corrected properly.

What causes an electrical inspection to fail?

Common reasons for failure include improper wiring, lack of GFCI protection, overloaded circuits, inadequate grounding, hazardous wiring conditions, or outdated panels. The inspector’s report will detail specific reasons.

Do I need to be home for the electrical inspection?

You don’t need to be home but it can be helpful, especially if doors need unlocking or items moved for access. Discuss with the inspector. Make sure outdoor panels are accessible. Dogs should be secured.

How can I get a copy of my electrical inspection report?

You should automatically receive a copy of the inspection findings from the inspector or county. If not, contact the inspection department. Keep the report with house records to document system status.

When was my home’s electrical system last inspected?

Check with previous homeowners. Request records from the county permits department. Labels on the electrical panel could indicate an inspection date. If unknown, a new inspection can assess current conditions.

Connect with your electrical inspector to get answers to your specific questions. Their expertise provides guidance for your situation.

Ensuring Electrical Safety

Electrical inspections aim to prevent hazards and safety issues:

  • Fire prevention – Faulty electrical work is a major fire hazard. Inspections identify potential dangers.
  • Electrocution risk – Improper grounding, exposed wires, and faulty components can put lives at risk.
  • Reliable power – A sound system avoids power interruptions that can disrupt daily life or business activities.
  • Equipment protection – Problems like voltage spikes and surges can damage expensive appliances and devices.

While inspections focus on code compliance, their purpose is preventing catastrophe. Take all identified repairs seriously, prioritizing any safety risks.

Signs You May Need an Electrical Inspection

Homeowners don’t need to wait until an inspection is required to have their system assessed. Consider getting a professional inspection if you notice any of the following:

  • Frequent tripped breakers or blown fuses
  • Lights flickering or dimming
  • Uncomfortable shocks from outlets
  • Unusual buzzing, smell, or heat from electrical components
  • Cracks, stains, or scorch marks around outlets
  • Tingles from metal items like sinks or tubs
  • Older or outdated electrical equipment
  • Lack of ground fault or arc fault protection

These signs suggest potential deficiencies a qualified electrician should examine. They likely indicate areas not up to current code.

Safety should be the top priority when debating electrical upgrades or inspections. Contact a professional promptly about concerns.

How Homeowners Can Do DIY Electrical Checks

While a professional electrical inspection is best, homeowners can do occasional basic checks themselves:

Visual Inspection

  • Look for damage like loose sockets or cracked cover plates.
  • Check for stains or burns around outlets which can indicate overheating.
  • Ensure wires have no exposed copper.
  • Verify outlets have the recommended clearance around them.

Outlet Testing

  • Test outlets with a multimeter or outlet tester to check for proper voltage and wiring.
  • Ensure outlets are securely mounted with no movement or loose connections.
  • Test GFCI outlets by pressing their “Test” button to trip then reset them.

Circuit Breakers

  • Check that all breakers are clearly labeled.
  • Ensure breakers fully engage and aren’t warm or making noise.
  • Turn off appliances and test each breaker trips when overloaded.
  • Verify grounding wire connects to ground bus bar.

Conducting simple checks can reveal minor issues before they become larger problems. However, some homeowners don’t feel comfortable working with electrical systems. When in doubt, call an electrician.

Hiring a Qualified Electrical Inspector

Choosing the right inspector helps ensure your inspection is complete, professional, and provides maximum value:

Licensed Electricians

Look for licensed master electricians. They have extensive training on code requirements. Confirm licenses are current.

Local Experience

Find inspectors familiar with regulations in your area since codes vary. Local knowledge aids inspection.

Independent Inspectors

Independent inspectors avoid potential conflict of interest issues. Don’t use contractors doing your electrical work.

Detailed Reports

Ask about their inspection report format. Look for thorough documentation of all system aspects.

Explains Findings

Choose an inspector willing to fully explain their testing process, findings, and answer questions.

Professional Organizations

Seeking inspectors affiliated with professional groups like the International Association of Electrical Inspectors or International Code Council shows commitment to quality.

A knowledgeable electrical inspector provides safety and gives you confidence in your electrical system’s status. Their inspection forms the foundation for any future electrical work.


Electrical inspections provide an expert assessment of a property’s electrical safety. Understanding the comprehensive inspection process allows for an efficient experience. Inspectors check all aspects of the electrical system ranging from the main panel to individual outlets looking for any deficiencies compared to electrical code.

Preparing in advance enables inspections to proceed smoothly. Work with your inspector to make the most of their know-how through questions and discussion. If issues are found, address all repairs meticulously using qualified electricians when appropriate before calling for re-inspection.

Though not a daily exercise, periodic electrical inspections give homeowners peace of mind and help identify risks before catastrophe occurs. In the end, electrical safety helps protect families while maintaining a comfortable home environment.