by Bob Pace – Commercial Real Estate Inspectors
edited by Jodi Summers
There are various aspects to consider when evaluating the condition and remaining useful life of electrical systems: moving parts and unmoving parts, whether the equipment is kept outside or inside the building as well as the age and type of wiring and fixtures just to name a few. The quality of the parts used as well as the quality of the workmanship also has an impact on the useful life.
If the equipment is kept outside it needs to be resealed and painted every 20 years. If not done it will rust and not last at which point you can be faced with tens of thousands of dollars in replacement costs. Indoor equipment lasts longer because it’s protected from the elements and requires less upkeep.
Moving parts generally wear out more quickly than unmoving parts. An example is switches which wear out in 20-30 years depending on the quality and type used.
Unmoving parts, such as wiring, can last 40-70 years depending on the type. If the building contains cloth covered wire, which was used up until the 1950’s, it is at or past its useful life. Knob and tube, which we see in much older buildings, would be well past its useful life.
Outdoor fixtures generally last 10-15 years. Indoor fixtures vary wildly but rarely last over 20 years because of changes in technology.
When you hire an experienced inspector with a solid background in the construction fields he is more likely to notice important indicators that go beyond a familiarity of industry standards and the type of equipment that was installed.
For example, a recently inspected building had indoor fixtures that were installed outdoors; these will have virtually no life. They quickly rust and become “electrocution magnets”.
Another example is a recently inspected vacant cabinet shop. The electrical looked good and properly installed. From past experience the inspector knew to pull apart one of the sub panels and saw sawdust inside at the connections. Although overall serviceable, the system needs to be serviced, cleaned and all connections checked for safety. A spark inside could short out the main panel and cost tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and lost time. All of which could be prevented by under a $1000 in repairs.
Bob Pace, Co-Owner
Contractor License #461030
Commercial Real Estate Inspectors
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