Identifying Poorly Located Outlets and Switches – Part Two

This is Part Two of a two-part post. If you missed Part One, read that first here.

In this series, we began to list a few of the most hazardous places for outlets and switches, as well as the importance of a quality home inspector training program to provide you with the skills you need to help your clients. Let’s continue where we left off in Part One with more unsafe outlet and switch locations.

Poor Location Near the Furnace

Switch Closer To Door Than Furnace Is: Most areas require a separate shut-off switch for furnaces. For oil and gas furnaces, it’s good practice to have the switch between the furnace and the furnace room entrance. Someone shouldn’t have to walk past a dangerous or malfunctioning furnace to shut it off. Furnaces in basements should have the furnace switch between the basement stairs and the furnace.

Furance switches

Don’t Turn On Or Off Switches If You Smell Gas: With natural gas, some people feel that when you smell gas as you come down to the basement, you should turn the furnace off so that it won’t come on and create a gas explosion. Others feel it is dangerous to flip this switch if there is a gas odor. When switches are opened or closed, there is a small spark within the switch. If the gas/air mixture is within the upper and lower explosive limits, flipping a switch could ignite the mixture.

Don’t Use Telephones: Most believe that when there is a gas odor the best action is to walk out of the house without activating any switch (including one that might be activated when you make a telephone call to the gas company). Leave the door open and phone the gas company from your cellular phone from a remote location. We believe this is a good approach.

Strategy: Checking the location of the switch for the furnace can be thought of as part of the electrical or the heating inspection. You should find out what is accepted in your area as good practice.

Poor Location in the Bathroom

Away From Tub: Switches in bathrooms should be out of the reach of people standing in showers and bathtubs. They should be at least 3 feet away, typically. An exception to this is a switch built in to a whirlpool bath. These are often special switches with built-in safety features. For example, some of them are pneumatic.


These light switches are located too close to the bathtub

Strategy: Where you see switches close to tubs or showers in bathrooms, recommend relocation. If it is close to a whirlpool bath, recommend checking the suitability of the arrangement first and relocating if necessary.

By knowing how to identify these poorly located outlets and switches, you can help to keep your clients and their families safe—and by caring about your clients, your business will thrive.


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