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Reuben Saltzman

Don’t Remove The Panel Cover? Yeah Right!

Today I’m going to share a bit of home inspector folklore, and I’m going to set the record straight on electrical inspections.

Panelboard1We Can’t Remove Panel Covers?  I’ve heard from several other home inspectors in Minnesota that we’re not supposed to remove electric panel covers.  Yes, that’s right.  They say that only a licensed electrician is allowed to do this, and we as home inspectors have no business removing panel covers.  This means that the inspection of the electrical panel is limited to looking at the panel cover and the circuit breakers… and that’s about it.  It would be like inspecting a house, but not actually looking inside.

Where Does This Information Come From?  The closest document I’ve ever seen that could possibly comment on a home inspector removing a panel cover in Minnesota is a document called THE LAWS AND RULES REGULATING LICENSING OF ELECTRICIANS AND INSPECTION OF ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS. There is a section in this document on page 15 that reads

Subd. 12. Unlicensed individuals. (a) An unlicensed individual means an individual who has not been licensed by the department to perform specific electrical work. An unlicensed individual shall not perform electrical work required to be performed by a licensed individual unless the individual has first registered with the department as an unlicensed individual. Thereafter, an unlicensed individual shall not perform electrical work required to be performed by a licensed individual unless the work is performed under the direct supervision of an individual actually licensed to perform such work. The licensed individual and unlicensed individual must be employed by the same employer.

So what is electrical work?  This same document actually defines electrical work:

Subd. 17. Electrical work. “Electrical work” means the installing, altering, repairing, planning, or laying out of electrical wiring, apparatus, or equipment for electrical light, heat, power, technology circuits or systems, or other purposes.

Removing a panel cover to inspect the inside does not constitute electrical work.

Inspecting the interior of electrical panels is also required by the Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI).

ASHI SOP (7.1.A.5) says the inspector shall inspect interior components of service panels and subpanels.  

NAHI SOP (9.2.3) says the inspector will inspect the main and branch circuit conductors for proper over-current protection and condition by visual observation after removal of the readily accessible main and sub electric panel cover(s).

The bottom line is that if your home inspector is a member of ASHI or NAHI, or even claims to follow their standards of practice, they should be inspecting the interior of the electric panels.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minnesota Home Inspector


No responses to “Don’t Remove The Panel Cover? Yeah Right!”

  1. Roger Williams
    September 15, 2009, 7:37 am

    You Go Reuben! -Roger W.

  2. Reuben Collins
    October 12, 2009, 1:20 pm

    What’s your #1 tipoff when inspecting breaker boxes that an unlicensed person has been working in it?

  3. Reuben Saltzman
    October 12, 2009, 4:35 pm

    Reuben – my #1 tipoff that an unlicensed person has been working on a panel is probably seeing wires coming in to the panel that aren’t stapled like the rest of the wires. This is usually a dead giveaway.

  4. Observe and Report? That's for Mall Cops, not Home Inspectors | Structure Tech Home Inspections
    July 10, 2012, 3:48 am

    […] Home inspectors wouldn’t remove electrical panel covers. […]

  5. Elle
    October 31, 2013, 11:02 pm

    Does your training advise you to open the main breaker before you remove the panel cover and do your visual and photos?

  6. Reuben Saltzman
    November 1, 2013, 4:05 am

    @Elle – no, we don’t shut off power to the panel before removing the cover. We’re not doing any ‘work’, only inspecting.

  7. Elle
    November 1, 2013, 7:46 am

    It sure seems to me that “inspection” is “planning” and so is “work.” Regardless, I was pretty uncomfortable when I learned my home’s inspector (in preparation for a home sale) left the main breaker shut as he removed the panel cover, inspected and photographed. Why not open the main breaker to optimize safety?

  8. Reuben Saltzman
    November 3, 2013, 6:19 am

    Elle: It sure seems to me that “inspection” is “planning” and so is “work.”
    Inspecting is not planning.
    Elle: Why not open the main breaker to optimize safety?
    Exactly what is your concern? If the power is shut off to the property, the inspector doesn’t have any light. Also, any computers, clocks, printers, modems, routers, DVRs, etc would get reset. For every one person who is concerned that we don’t shut the power off, we’d have a thousand angry people if we did shut the power off. It’s an industry standard to not shut the power off.

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