What I'm Seeing Now

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Electrical Stress Manifests Itself As Heat

We all know that electrical stress manifests itself as heat.

With a thermal camera many times electrical or mechanical damage can be predicted by finding something to be unusually hot.  Thermal cameras are excellent predictors!

A fun definition of stress says that it is the confusion created when one's mind overrides their natural instinct to unceasingly wring the neck of some stupid jerk who utterly deserves it.

While that definition surely works for me (!), it doesn't exactly describe the electrical problem I am pointing out.

Looking into a panel box the other day I noticed that one breaker was different.

It was newer.  Can you see it?  The second from the bottom.

It's the right brand and all, but newer and different.

When I see new or different in a panel box, that always indicates someone was inside and probably did something.

What was done in this case was to replace a previous circuit breaker.

I never know why.

So I took the cover off to have a peek.

Looking more closely one can see stress.

It manifested itself as heat, but heat happening really quickly!  This was heat in a flash!  In more ways than one.

When this happens the connection, breaker and perhaps what it is servicing are all compromised.

This breaker should have been replaced immediately. 

But, could this stress be the reason the first breaker was replaced with this newer one?

And if so, what is causing the problem?

Certainly I don't know, and can only recommend that a licensed electrician investigate this further.  It might be that a fixture or appliance is causing the problem.  This could be ongoing!

It represents a serious problem, and perhaps future a fire hazard.

My recommendation:  when opening the door of a panel box, look for continuity of age and brand of the breakers inside.  If there are changes, someone has been in the box for some reason, changing or adding breakers.  It's a good idea to know why.  And if, IF, the person replacing the breaker(s) was a professional!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 43 commentsJay Markanich • August 27 2013 03:50AM

Comments

Jay, oh my... it makes me wince! Although I like to use electricity, the end result that is, I am scared of it. Like spiders... but this would make me call a licensed electrician who knew his/her stuff right away!

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 5 years ago

Andrea - why would a spider call a licensed electrician?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

THAT would surely be on a list for a service visit by a LICENSED electrician.  I don't know how many times I would include the word "safety" or "urgent" in the Repair/Replace list.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 5 years ago

Well, give me an over/under Lenn.  Three?  Six?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

That is one of the most common areas we see problems...the infamous "double tap" !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 5 years ago

Thank you for the information. I hope home owners will read it so that they can address these issues for their own safety.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 5 years ago

Double taps are allowed on some breaker brands S&D, and the one in the photo is one of those brands!

Gita - that's the idea here!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Good morning Jay,

I am not a licensed electrician and have done a lot of rewiring; but this one I would be making a call to one.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 5 years ago

Jay, congrats on the feature and another well written article!  Live how you work humor into the mix.  True, electricity is something to take a close look at and any repairs done by a licensed professional.

Posted by Matt Kombrink, Your #1 Source For Real Estate (RE/MAX All Pro) over 5 years ago

Thanks for explaining electrical stress.  Something like this happened at my home.  However, it had to do with the loose electrical connection to the home from the power grid rather than inside the circuit box.  Fortunately, it was caught in time before the situation could have gotten worse.

Posted by Andrew Payne Realtor® Richmond VA Homes For Sale~804-938-5257~, Richmond, VA, Real Estate, SRES®, NAR Green (Coach House Realty) over 5 years ago

And it would be a smart call Raymond!

Thanks Matt.  It could be that breaker was installed by the home owner!

Looseness causes resistance Andrew.  Electricity resists flow.  That causes heat too.  And damage.  Good thing that was caught!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Wait, I know this one. So they don't get fried and eaten?

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 5 years ago

Right!  That, or turned into pink and blue fuzzies Andrea!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Jay, this what probably caused the old breaker to be replaced. New breaker, same old problem.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 5 years ago

Hence der questionfunken Mike - what's the problem?  I no know!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

looks like it had a loose screw and not having a clear connection to me. .

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 5 years ago

I hope that they didn't increase the breaker size to help solve the problem Jay.

It sure looks to be an ongoing problem that needs a professional electrician to remedy.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 5 years ago

Just a theory, Jay, but I would say someone changed the breaker and didn't have it tripped off when they started to insert the wire.  That inital tap likely sparked leaving the evidence you see. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 5 years ago

Metaphorical but true Fernando!

That is sometimes the solution Tom.  Not goodo.

Mike - perhaps, but unknown.  This might be the fourth breaker!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Hi Jay,

Only one way to be sure. Replace the existing breaker and the problem may be solved. If the problem remains after a time. Then an electrician needs to investigate the issues that lie within the homes system.

Have a good day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 5 years ago

Jay what a good catch and something we should be aware of, never knew about stress in an electric panel before.

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) over 5 years ago

How many times has this breaker been replaced prior Clint?  One doesn't know, obviously.  Now is the time to call the electrician.

David - there is only one way to know - hire a home inspector!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Jay, my mantra is: A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Too many home owners hear something and say, "I can do that myself"

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) over 5 years ago

Jay continues to brings "eye openers" that benefit us all...good post Jay

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 5 years ago

Jay, as always, great post. This is a must for all home owners! 

Posted by Jeff Stevens, Jeff Stevens REALTOR®/Associate Broker (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Mexico Properties) over 5 years ago

Part of what you say may be due to all the TV shows which show how "easy" home repairs are Tom!  Not...

Thanks Richie.  All our eyes should be open all the time!

And thank you Jeffrey.  Home inspections are essential.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

I try to stay away from most electrical repairs because I don't like to get bit! Great information.

Posted by Gerard Gilbers, Your Marketing Master (Higher Authority Markeing) over 5 years ago

Good practice Gerard!  Nobody likes the bite!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Jay,

Thermal cameras have many uses beyond homes and electricity.  I use mine for excessive heat in animals, especially horses.  It is quite effective!  The other lesser known but still highly effective area is as an alternative to mammography.

Posted by Sara Homan, Realtor, Homes, Farms & 55+ (Coldwell Banker Ellison Realty 352-209-4044) over 5 years ago

Jay: Such a great cautionary post, and one that all of us in real estate should read. We agents need to at least be able to look inside a panel box and look for this "problem" of a different breaker and mention it in our disclosure.

Posted by Hella Mitschke Rothwell, Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker ((831) 626-4000) over 5 years ago

Jay -- I was disappointed, in that I was expecting an image from your thermal camera, showing the heat of that connection.    However, as you point out, this one is pretty clearly a problem!

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 5 years ago

Jay, hard to believe that someone would risk such a fire hazzard by using a sub-par pannel or not using a professional such as yourself to do a proper install.

Posted by Ralph Gorgoglione, Hawaii and California Real Estate (800) 591-6121 (Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes) over 5 years ago

Sara - I have been contemplating getting into the equine side of thermal imaging for a couple of months now.  And for years I have taken images of my wife.  We have years of base line and I have not noticed any changes.   I guess that's good news!

Hella - agents probably should not go inside one, but on a home inspection insist that it be viewed.

I don't know if there was heat Steven!  But no matter.  It's a problem!

Who knows who did the install Ralph.  But still, it needs professional attention now!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

People in your area are fortunate to have a good Home Inspector. You appear to have a lot of expertise and I am sure this saves buyers a lot of trouble down the road.

Betty

Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) over 5 years ago

Betty - thank you very much for those kind words.  I try very hard to do a good job!  And then be instructive in posts.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago
Jay, my clients are strongly encouraged by me to get a home inspection. The electrical system of a home is nothing to guess about.
Posted by Nick T Pappas, Madison & Huntsville Alabama Real Estate Resource (Assoc. Broker/Broker ABR, CRS, SFR, e-Pro, @Homes Realty Group, @HomesBirmingham & Providence Property Mgmnt, LLC Huntsville AL) over 5 years ago

For sure Nick.  I seldom have to talk my clients into the inspection as they call me.  But when they ask what we do I spend a lot of time explaining the need for electrical inspections!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago
Jay, It is good news! I am not am expert by any stretch but fear and pain, along with radiation exposure are all very strong deterrents for many woman to have a mammography. those concerns are valid. This is the wonderful part of thermography, there is no radiation and no pain. As for horses thermal imaging is an amazing tool! I have seen Vets, Trainers and many owners astonished by the outcome of thermography, it is an edge to health that we can all benefit by.
Posted by Sara Homan, Realtor, Homes, Farms & 55+ (Coldwell Banker Ellison Realty 352-209-4044) over 5 years ago

Interestingly Sara, I was discussing equine thermography with my wife ust jlast night, as I am considering the training (extensive and expensive).   She asked if I might also consider breast examinations and I just don't think I want to.  First, I have no training and don't know where to get it.  But secondly, you have to create proper conditions for an exam, which would mean an office or some place that is dedicated to the proper environment.  And then third I am not in the medical field and think I would feel more comfortable examining horses than women.

The equine reports are fascinating and the examinations of the horses are pretty complete.  And they discover things the owners simply did not know prior.  The cheap and non-invasive technique is surely appealing.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago
Jay, There are resources to get trained to do breast thermography, however, it is costly and I totally understand your reservation. As a woman I have a level of discomfort with it, yet I feel it is more appropriate that a woman perform them. Horses are easier and more fun but a bit more dangerous. Nevertheless thermography is a great field and very beneficial to all.
Posted by Sara Homan, Realtor, Homes, Farms & 55+ (Coldwell Banker Ellison Realty 352-209-4044) over 5 years ago

If I branch out Sara, it will be to horses!  I agree.

Here is the new camera I have picked out:   click.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Very nice camera Jay!  Does it do video?  Good choice to stick with horses :)  It works well with other tight haired animals as well but people are more willing to cluck over their horses.  The looser the hair the more it attenuates the heat and causes inaccurate readings... Just a tip you might know already lol

Posted by Sara Homan, Realtor, Homes, Farms & 55+ (Coldwell Banker Ellison Realty 352-209-4044) over 5 years ago

It does it all Sara, and for that price it should also make me lunch!  I do my dog all the time, for fun of course.

The camera actually creates a report inside and can send it to my computer at home!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

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