Whenever I read or hear that there has been substantial remodeling done on a home, I find that one electrical problem leads to others - it did here.
Often it has been done by a homeowner.
Often it has been done without a permit.
Often it has been done by a contractor who is not an electrician.
Often it has been done incorrectly.
Often it is obviously incorrect.
Often it is dangerous, and the people living in the house don't even know.
WHILE IGNORANCE MAY BE BLISS, IT CAN BE DANGEROUS!
I found the sub panel first.
Predicting the most common problem, where the white (neutral) lines and ground lines are combined on the same bus, it turned out to be true.
People think I'm a genius when that happens.
Not really - it is, as I say, the most common problem.
And a big indicator that no electrician worked on this sub panel.
Sub panels are different than main panel boxes and the grounds and neutrals should be separated.
There was another bus in this box, left totally alone.
But this is what got my attention!
Scorching is not good!
This is the main shut off for the sub panel.
It is a 100amp breaker, probably big enough for a newly-finished basement and the other things in the box.
There can be many reasons for it being hot.
But improper wiring is the likely reason.
I did find low voltage (less than 60volts) in lots of the house. And a huge voltage drop.
That could be a neutral problem.
The neutral is the white wires that makes the system alternating - it carries electricity back.
And looking in the main panel box I was not surprised.
Let's see, that's the neutral connection!
The bare wire is the original ground line to the panel box.
The copper wire is the new neutral for the sub panel.
We have a galvanic problem where the aluminum and copper are connected inappropriately and can cause deterioration through oxidation.
We have two cables composed of many smaller cables.
The original was twisted, necessarily, to provide the best connection.
The new copper has not been twisted.
So it is loose.
And this tapping together is not good, and also not allowed.
Sending these photos to an electrician friend (I was asking about it's probably being the source of the voltage drop and low voltage) he said,
"Yes it could be the problem because copper/aluminum under the same lug could cause it to be a loose connection which could heat up your other connections and cause lower voltage."
So, there you go!
My recommendation: when you see remodeling has been done, ask about permits that have been both pulled and closed. A closed permit is one that says the local jurisdiction as been by and approved all the work. They would have caught this problem early one, before any scorching and possibility of danger. And the permit requires that this would all have been done by an electrician, not a neighbor, homeowner or contractor who is not electrically licensed.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560