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We are discussing the purchase of an existing house in France (built in 1948 and in good conditions overall), where the law prescribes that each aspect of a building is inspected by a professional inspector.

He has found some issues about the electrical system:

  • The envelope of at least one material is missing or damaged.
  • The electrical installation includes at least a connection with a bare active part under voltage accessible.
  • The rated current (rating) of the protection against overloads and short circuits of at least one circuit is not suitable for the section corresponding conductors.
  • At least one protective device against overcurrent is not placed on a phase conductor.
  • At least one circuit (not supplying outlets) is not earthed.

And he also added:

  • There is no high sensitivity differential device < or equal to 30mA.
  • At least one receptacle is not a shutter type.
  • At least one socket outlet does not have a 15mm well.

My question is, are these problems serious enough to require to be fixed immediately or they are to be expected for a house that it is not new?

I am going to ask to some electrician about them, but they may have an interest in pushing me to carry out some work immediately, while I would be more than happy to postpone them to next year.

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    Having the wrong size overcurrent device for the wire size should be fixed and is easy. Not having tamper resistant receptacles, or an RCD these devices were not available when your home was built. It sounds like the inspector is calling out finger safe devices again these are recent improvements that have only been around ~30 years and do they need to be changed ? I would possibly consider updating receptacles if I had small children. inspectors in my location flag many things that are not required to be updated and other than the circuit with no or wrong breaker it sounds this way by to me.
    – Ed Beal
    May 9 '21 at 17:57
  • Thank you @EdBeal May 10 '21 at 8:01
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  • The envelope of at least one material is missing or damaged.

  • The electrical installation includes at least a connection with a bare active part under voltage accessible.

Sounds like a missing cover or crumbling insulation on a wire. The latter is urgent, the former, it depends who spends time in your house and whether they have curious fingers.

The rated current (rating) of the protection against overloads and short circuits of at least one circuit is not suitable for the section corresponding conductors.

Urgent, and easy.

At least one protective device against overcurrent is not placed on a phase conductor.

Urgent, and probably easy.

At least one circuit (not supplying outlets) is not earthed.

There is no high sensitivity differential device < or equal to 30mA.

The latter means no RCD aka "whole house GFPE". (I hate to call it a GFCI since it's barely that).

Either one of these things I wouldn't consider urgent. But both together -- Studies of aviation accidents find it usually takes several problems overlapping to down an airplane. The airplane could do fine with 2 of 3 of the problems, but when all 3 coincide... They talk about "several slices of Swiss Cheese, and the holes happening to line up".

These two failure conditions are 2 holes already lined up. Your defense-in-depth is gone. One more thing fails and you're done.

So yeah, fix at least one of those things, and the RCD is the easier path unless there are serious wiring defects. One could also do 5mA RCBOs on a per-circuit basis; that is in fact equivalent to American GFCIs, and the more sensitive detection makes it more useful for human safety.

5ma detection is too sensitive for a whole house, which is why whole-house RCDs are 30ma. They are mostly there to detect parallel arc faults.

At least one receptacle is not a shutter type.

At least one socket outlet does not have a 15mm well.

Only an issue around children. European socket defense is actually pretty good without tamper shutters.

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  • Good points. Considering that Swiss cheese holes are slices of an air/gas pocket, don't they -so to say- by definition line up?
    – P2000
    May 9 '21 at 18:22
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    @P2000 I think the metaphor presumes you are building a sandwich of randomly oriented slices. May 9 '21 at 18:40
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica I can only say: thank you! May 10 '21 at 8:00

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