Electrical Photos
I have found the electrical system to be the most target-rich area for problems in a home.  As tools, conductors, components, fixtures and how-to books are readily available from any hardware store or home improvement center, many folks feel qualified to perform modifications to an electrical system (read "mangle") after a short glance at an electrical wiring book.  However, there is much more to an electrical system than black wire goes to the circuit breaker.  Homes built prior to the early 1960s may not be adequate for a modern family as older electrical systems often cannot support the plethora of appliances common to many households.  In addition, unsafe modifications are often perpetrated on older homesSome of the images in this section are downright scary.  Please, hire a licensed and qualified electrical contractor to perform any work on your electrical system.
One of my favorite photos, prized for its shock value (get it?).  A bit hard to see, but an extension cord has been run from (or to... not sure which) the underwater pool light at this Santa Rosa home.  What a stupendously bad idea.The next two photos show the little known line of Hamms landscape lighting.  Homemade out of a couple of beer cans and rubber light sockets, this setup was attached to the perimeter fence of a Santa Rosa home.  Clever, but NO!The owners of this Santa Rosa home are frankly lucky to be alive and have a home.  These five photos show charred attic insulation and improper wiring connections that nearly resulted in fire.More charred lumber and insulation at this Santa Rosa home inspection site.The old redwood bark insulation was charred adjacent towiring and this junction box in the attic.  I have been told that redwood bark is fire-resistant, which is why it was originally used.  I have some difficulty believing that, but fire-resistant is not fireproof.Any electrical splice should be made in an approved junction box.The wires should be fully enclosed and the box should have a cover.Knob & tube wiring utilizes individual, insulated conductors that are supported on ceramic insulators.  The lower section of this page has more information.I believe that knob & tube wiring was used in this area up until the late 1940s, however the use did continue in some areas of the U.S. well into the 1960s.  The wiring under this Petaluma home was more than a little scary for me personally.  The next photo has a little more information.  These hanging wires were energized and I received a little shock as I brushed against them.  Got my heart racing a bit, I can tell you.Commonly used in the 1960s and even into the 1970s, the split bolt at the bottom of this panel has been used to connect the equipment grounding conductors together.  However, split bolts are only approved to connect two wires.  Obviously, this would have been designed for two rather large wires.Yes, I know this is an air conditioner.  However, the electrical disconnect box is why I put this photo in this section.  The disconnect box should be accessible.  In this case, it would be necessary to reach over the A/C to disconnect the power.  One or the other should be moved.This service panel was at the exterior of a Petaluma home that makes an appearance in the foundation photos.  The poor ventilation in the foundation area had allowed water to condense on the interior of this panel.  You can see the droplets at the top of the image and on the main breaker.  Not the easiest thing to see, but there is some incorrect, and potentially hazardous wiring in this panel.  While the conditions in many of the other photos here are pretty obvious to anyone, the conditions in this panel would need an experienced inspector to detect.They make those little plug thingys for a reason.  Please don't do this.While I am sure that there are a few people that find rodents to be cute and cuddly, when they infest a home, they can cause significant damage and even unsafe conditions.  The nonmetallic sheathed electrical cable in this photo has been gnawed by rodents, leaving the copper conductor exposed.Ok, you just have to wonder "what were they thinking?"  In this case, the hardwood floors were being refinished and the workmen had clipped their large floor sander directly into the electrical panel.  I rather doubt that this is Cal OSHA approved.  This one took even me by surprise.  Terminated electrical wiring under a house is not unusual.  Taping the ends with foil tape is.  I thought it was common knowledge that aluminum will conduct electricity.  Really, I don't make this stuff up.Poor or loose wiring connections led to the damaged receptacle outlet from this Santa Rosa home.  Fortunately, the owner found it before it caused a fire.  The electrical splices to this electric cook top became overheated.  Probably a poor wire nut connection.  A poor connection will result in arcing and eventually, fire.  Homes constructed prior to the mid 1960s typically had nonmetallic sheathed electrical cable that did not include a grounding conductor.  On occasion, I will find where the ground on a 3-pin receptacle outlet has been "bootlegged" back to the neutral.  This is not acceptable and should be corrected.Extension cords are a common sight.  While acceptable for temporary use, these are not designed/intended for extended/permanent use.  They degrade over time and will become hazardous.  Permanent electrical fixtures should be installed by a licensed electrical contractor.I removed a plug-in type "air freshener" from an outlet and found this scorched area in a Windsor home.  I recommend NOT using these devices.
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Knob & tube wiring is the earliest wiring system used in residential construction.  Originally designed by Thomas Edison, this type of wiring uses individual cloth-wrapped copper conductors that are supported on ceramic insulators.  Ceramic tubes are used when the wire needs to pass through wood framing.  A few concerns about knob & tube wiring exist.  One is that these systems were designed and installed prior to the introduction and use of the vast number of electrical appliances that adorn most modern homes.  As a result, the electrical system often cannot handle the strain placed upon it by high amperage appliances, such as hair dryers, toasters, plasma televisions, microwave ovens, etc.  Problems arise when unskilled individuals try to add onto the existing wiring, often creating more problems than they resolve.  Another concern is the age of the insulation on the conductors, which can be brittle and/or missing.  Serious consideration should be given to replacing knob & tube wiring with new.  At a minimum, I feel the wiring should be evaluated by a licensed electrical contractor and any problems corrected.  Be aware that some insurance companies may impose higher premiums or even deny coverage on homes with this type of wiring.