Electrical system installation is performed by licensed contractors and in accordance with state and national electrical codes. The electrical code dictates safety requirements predominantly to prevent fires and minimize the chance of personal injury.
The builder cannot be responsible for what an owner plugs into an electrical outlet. Builder is also not responsible for what an owner has added to the electrical system.
2. Common Defect or Problem – Lights and fans do not work.
Performance Standard – Wiring to fixture must be operative.
Builder Repair Responsibility – Builder to repair defective wiring to lights and fans. If it is found that the fixture is inoperative, it would fall under a manufacturer’s warranty. If the fixture was builder supplied, the builder would be responsible for the service call. If the fixture was owner supplied, the owner would pay the service call.
3. Common Defect or Problem – Lights dim or flicker in parts of building.
Performance Standard – Lights may dim or flicker during starting of some motor driven equipment.
Builder Repair Responsibility – Check wiring for installation per standards of State Electrical Code. If flickering/dimming does not occur when motor driven equipment is turned off, the owner should notify the builder to check if the wiring is per Code. If nothing is found, the owner should contact the electric power company for possible defects in supply source.
Craig’s Comments: A common cause of dimming or flickering lights is a drop in voltage to the light. This can occur when a motor starts, when too much power is being used elsewhere, or when a wire is too small to handle the necessary amount of power. Dimming and flickering is a serious situation and should be corrected. Overheating of wires, fire and damage to electronic equipment and appliances is possible.
4. Common Defect or Problem – Lights dim/flicker in entire building.
Performance Standard – Lights should not flicker throughout entire building at one time.
Builder Repair Responsibility – Builder should first check internal wiring as necessary. If internal wiring is proper, owner should then notify the electric power company for possible defects in supply source.
Craig’s Comments: See #3 above. This is probably a problem with the power coming to the house or a problem at the main meter base. In either case, get it fixed now!
5. Common Defect or Problem – Circuit breakers trip out.
Performance Standard – Circuit breakers should not disengage under normal usage except in cases where they may be an overload of portable appliances. (See #6 re: GFI circuits).
Builder Repair Responsibility – If it is determined that there is not an overload of portable appliances, builder to repair or replace breaker.
Craig’s Comments: Circuit breakers are protection devices. A breaker keeps too much electricity from flowing and overheating the wire. Do not install a larger breaker than the electrician installed (which was hopefully installed based on the size of the wire.) Plugging too many things into an outlet or group of outlets can trip the breaker. Plugging a defective device into an outlet can trip a breaker. Sometimes breakers go bad and need to be replaced.
6. Common Defect or Problem – Ground fault interruptor (GFI) circuit trips frequently.
Performance Standard – Ground fault interruptors are sensitive safety devices installed into the electrical system to provide protection against electrical shock. These sensitive devices can be tripped very easily.
Builder Repair Responsibility – Builder shall install ground fault interruptor in accordance with approved electrical code. Tripping is to be expected and is not covered, unless due to a construction or product defect.
Craig’s Comments: GFIs are electrical safety devices commonly used in kitchens, bathrooms and other wet areas. Usually they trip when a defective device is plugged into them. A home inspector or electrician can verify that they are installed correctly.
7. Common Defect or Problem – Fluorescent lights hum.
Performance Standard – Some fluorescent ballast will hum.
Builder Repair Responsibility – Excessive hum must be checked by an electrician.
Craig’s Comments: The hum comes from the ballast. Electronic ballasts hum much less than magnetic ballasts, and some magnetic ballasts hum more than others. If the hum is too annoying, switch to an electronic ballast (which may also require switching to a different light fixture or bulb.)
9. Common Defect or Problem – Drafts from electrical outlets.
Performance Standard – Electrical junction boxes on exterior walls may produce airflow whereby the cold air can be drawn through the outlet into a room.
Builder Repair Responsibility – None. Owner can place a foam type insulation behind cover plate to cut down the infiltration.
Craig’s Comments: With all the air tightening, draft stopping and fire stopping code language and requirements, electrical outlets should not leak enough air to be felt. If an outlet leaks, someone forgot to seal a hole somewhere. Drafty outlets are common where an interior outlet and an exterior outlet fall within the same stud cavity. Pulling cold air into a room through a leaky outlet (per SC RCS) will not be much of a problem in our climate, but pulling warm, humid air in during the summer will be a problem.
Condensation and mold growth within the wall and around outlets are common symptoms of summer air leaks through outlets in air conditioned houses. Blower door testing can help find leaky outlets, which can usually be sealed either from the inside with foam gaskets or from the outside with caulk or expanding foam. To help prevent air leakage, specify a sprayed-in-place wall insulation such as cellulose or spray foam, or require that the house be tightened to below a certain level and verified with a blower door system.
Bottom line: In Craig’s opinion, air leakage at outlets is a violation of IRC 2000 section N1102.1.10, and should be corrected by the builder.
10. Common Defect or Problem – Water leaks into basement at builder installed conduits going through walls.
Performance Standard – Water leaks into basement should not occur at conduits assuming owner has properly graded around foundation.
Builder Repair Responsibility – Builder to repair, providing grading is not at fault.
Craig’s Comments: Water leakage through or near an unsealed conduit can happen if the lot is sloped towards the house (either from grading, settlement or the natural grade) or from settlement or movement of the house/conduit joint. In almost every case, this is a defect in the water handling characteristics of the house and the leak should be corrected by the builder.