The electrical service comes onto the property via service drops. These service drops are overhead or underground and typically can handle up to 200 amps. We do not find issues with underground installations, but we find numerous problems with the overhead service drop. Vegetation in contact with the service drop is dangerous and can lead to failure. Do not try cutting this vegetation yourself because it is unsafe, have a qualified contractor perform the work.
The smart meter installed by the utility company talks directly to the company eliminating meter readers. An interruptible power meter can be installed on certain HVAC equipment. In exchange for a 20% price break the utility company can shut off the power to the interruptible power meter only on 15 minute cycles for no more than 8 consecutive hours. You will never notice the interruptions.
The main power panel is usually located in the basement. I have seen installations in garages and utility closets. I remove the panel cover if it is safe, look inside, note defects, take photos and put the cover back on. Common issues include double tapped circuit breakers, missing cable bushings and hot white wires. Panels can be overloaded, not grounded, and lack sufficient clearance. I tell my customers who have 100 amp services that they will upgrade to 150 amps or more some time soon.
I walk through the rest of the house testing outlets, switches and fixtures. I note the presence (or absence) of smoke detectors and GFCI protection. If a light switch is behind a door it gets noted. I am surprised by the number of incandescent light bulbs that are still in service.
In my inspection reports for older houses the Electrical section is usually the largest one. Why? Electrical has evolved the most over time. The ‘50s and ‘60s housing stock did not have grounded outlets, smoke detectors, GFCI protection and carbon monoxide monitors. The technology behind heating air and water is 15,000+/- years old without significant changes.
Electrical is the trade where evidence of unlicensed electricians doing work is noticeable and frightening. Cables improperly secured, overloaded outlets, and inoperable switches are common. Exposed light bulbs, open ground outlets, and fixtures hanging by their wires get written up. The list goes on.
If you are doing some renovation work that involves electrical have a qualified electrical contractor perform the work. You will be safer.