Electrical systems are one of the most key features of a building, and are increasingly responsible for powering other key building features that were once analog, like security and device control. Because of this, electrical system inspections are an important preventative tool used to keep the entire building functioning as intended.
The term “electrical system” can sound vague, given that so many components of a modern building interact with electricity in some way. In order to understand the inspection procedure, it helps to understand what the system is defined to include. The electrical system inspection includes an inspection of the “service drop, service entrance conductors, cables, and raceways, service equipment and main disconnects, service grounding, interior components of service panels and subpanels, conductors, overcurrent protection devices, a representative number of installed lighting fixtures, switches, and receptacles, ground fault circuit interrupters and arc fault circuit interrupters.”1 It is notable that only a representative number of certain building fixtures are to be inspected, so any noted problem areas should be dealt with directly and not assumed to be noticed in every inspection. The inspector is also tasked with recording the location of electrical mains, amperage rating, and other system design parameters1.
Just as important as understanding what the inspection entails, is understanding what it does not- renewable energy systems such as rooftop solar panels are notably excluded from this service, and are serviced by specialty maintenance teams instead. Additionally, although many safety and security devices may be wired-in to the centralized building power distribution system, these devices themselves are not tested during the electrical system inspection. Their presence is to be noted and recorded by the inspector for purposes of evaluating the entire electrical system as a whole, but the functionality of such security features is not tested or guaranteed. Again, there are specialized contractors certified to provide this service separately1.
Finally, while the inspector is not required to inspect “ancillary wiring systems and components not a part of the primary electrical power distribution system,” they will inspect and determine the branch circuit layout and wiring method1. In this way, the inspector makes the most effective use of limited time and budget constraints by gaining an understanding of the most broad electrical features without getting mired in the countless ancillary systems a building may contain.
The electrical system does not exist in a vacuum. Electrical system inspections are linked with other building inspections such as HVAC testing and backup generator testing; if there are any issues with the underlying electrical to the main building, other tests may fail to obtain relevant results or proceed inefficiently. For example, if a fan is operating weakly causing depressurization of the HVAC system, an HVAC technician may be forced to waste time searching for duct leaks when the problem is with the underlying electrical foundation of the HVAC system. In this way, commissioning an electrical system inspection service can enhance any other service performed afterwards, and promote the most efficient use of time and funds.