Nationwide Electrician Directory
31 Oct 2016

6 Electrical Repairs You Should Never Do Yourself

Electrical shock is very serious. It can make your entire skeleton glow in a brilliant flash of light, after which you slump to the floor with your hair smoking. Or maybe that’s just in the cartoons. In the real world, a good zap is a lot less cool, although it is theoretically possible for your hair to smoke. So what’s the best way to prevent a life-threatening jolt? Calling an electrician, of course. If you don’t like that plan, at least do whatever you can to avoid the following no-nos, and understand that this is NOT a complete list.

1. Mess with the service lugs in a breaker box

First of all, if you don’t know what service lugs are, you shouldn’t be doing anything in your breaker box (service panel) except resetting tripped breakers, if that. If you happen to know that the lugs are the big screw terminals or posts securing the service cables, you should also know that they’re always hot (energized), even after you shut off the main breakers. Obviously, you should stay well away from the cigar-size cables connected to the lugs, too. Definitely not a good smoke.

2. Work on the weatherhead

This is another one for the “don’t even think of it” category. The weatherhead, also called the service mast or periscope, is the metal pole or other structure that connects the electrical service lines leading from the utility power pole to your house. Since this is part of your house, you might be tempted to upright the pole if it’s leaning or tighten a bolt here and there. Can the thought of 200 amps coursing through your body convince you otherwise?

3. Do any wiring with the power on

If you’re a reader of builders’ magazines, you’ve certainly seen photos of someone doing something dangerous without the recommended protective gear, along with the caption: “Don’t do what this guy’s doing.” (And more often than not, the “guy” happens to be the author.) The point is, just because electricians sometimes work with hot wires doesn’t mean it’s safe for you to do it. It’s not safe for them, either.

4. Repair appliances

Appliances are safe as long as you turn off the power or pull the plug, right? Ever heard of a capacitor? It’s a device that stores electricity to help boost the startup (and other functions) on some appliances, especially big ones like air conditioning units. Cutting the power to the appliance doesn’t discharge the capacitors, but a metal tool touching the contacts surely will. Yow.

5. Tinker with electric (or hybrid) cars

On the heels of this year’s auto show—and the many new electric vehicles—keep in mind that the electrical systems in both plug-in and hybrid cars aren’t just complicated beyond your wildest nightmares, they’re also extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.



23 Oct 2016

Generator Repair

Just like anything else, a generator can malfunction or fall into disrepair. However, because they are the item you count on in an emergency, generator repair is extremely important if you want something dependable powering your home when disaster strikes. Keeping your generator in good working order is a dual process of regular maintenance and prompt repair when a problem is noticed. Knowing more about generator repair can give you the performance you need when the chips are down, and peace of mind when they’re not.

Generator Repair: Maintenance and Prevention

Similar to other large devices like air conditioners and furnaces, one of the most important aspects of generator repair is not calling someone when a problem occurs, but before anything goes wrong. By getting your generator inspected annually, you’ll be able to diagnose any problems that might arise in the near future and identify any existing problems before they get bigger. Having you generator inspected is inexpensive, and could save you a lot of money in the long run (and a lot of worry when the lights go out).

If you live in a place where power outages are frequent or harsh weather is an annual inevitability (coincidentally, these are often the same areas), you may use your generator far more frequently than residents in milder environments. Your yearly generator inspection, therefore, might be slightly more expensive because the likelihood of finding a malfunctioning part or component is greatly increased. It is a good idea to call your generator repair person before harsh weather is expected; waiting until the inclement weather season begins will most likely mean a longer wait for service (or a sticky situation if your generator is needed, but can’t perform).

Major Generator Repair and Generator Replacement

Homeowners with a relatively new generator will probably not need to worry about any serious repairs for several years. However, if your generator is more than a decade old and you are regularly spending hundreds of dollars each year on repairs, it might be time for a replacement generator. There are several things to consider about your home, and even your lifestyle, when looking for the perfect generator.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your generated power, remember that anything that makes heat with electricity (electric heat, water heaters, dryers, etc.) uses relatively huge amounts of power compared to other loads. If your house heats with electricity, consider another heat source or be prepared to buy a large generator.

Motors that start under light load (well and septic pumps, many fans) require two to three times the starting power than they do to run while those starting under heavy loads (refrigerators, compressors) may take as much as five times to start. A “rule of thumb”: Allow 2 to 3 KW of generator power per horsepower of electric motor.

Tech-heavy homes should be aware that electronic loads (particularly newer computers) take relatively little power, but that power must be clean and stable (well-regulated voltage and frequency with low harmonics). But computer electronics have properties that produce difficulties for the power source. If you are planning backup power for computer networks the “rule of thumb” is the total electronic load should not exceed 50 percent of the generator’s capacity.



13 Oct 2016

Electrical Panels 101

In your home—in everyone’s homes, in fact—the seat of electrical power takes an unassuming form. Concealed by a nondescript metal door, the breaker box doesn’t look very impressive, but it’s the reason you can turn on the lights, the blender, the air conditioning, and the TV. The breaker box, or service panel, operates as a central relay point: It takes power from the street, then feeds that power to the different electrical outlets and hard-wired appliances throughout your residence.

Most people open the breaker box only when there’s a problem—for example, when a circuit needs to be restored after tripping. And that’s the way it should be. Homeowners are wise to be hands-off with electrical elements, especially those they don’t understand. Make no mistake: The breaker box is dangerous. Hire a licensed electrician if you think the panel needs attention. The goal of this article is merely to explain a bit more about all of those mysterious wires and switches.

Double Pole Service Disconnect
At the top of the breaker box, the switch that’s bigger than the others is commonly referred to as the “main.” (Technically, it’s called the double pole service disconnect.) This is where, after passing through your electricity meter, two hot wires from the utility company hook up to your house. Each wire carries 120 volts. If you were to put this switch into the off position, the electrical current to your house would be broken and your dishwasher would suddenly stop running. Turn the switch back the other way, and your dishwasher—not to mention your refrigerator, home office computer, and bedroom alarm clocks—would come back to life.

Hot Bus Bars
From the main breaker, each one of the two hot lines from the utility company passes into its own bus. To the eye, a bus looks like a regular metal bar. One bus runs vertically along the left side of the panel. The second bus runs vertically along the right side.

Neutral Bus
A third metal bar, the neutral bus, receives the electrical current back again after it has exited the breaker box and flowed throughout your home doing its work.

Circuit Breakers
The circuit breakers straddle the hot bus bars, and if there’s an overload—say, from too many appliances running simultaneously—the affected circuit trips and automatically suspends the electrical current. In addition, circuit breakers serve as the origin points for the wiring that runs to different parts of your home. That’s why there are labels (with the names of rooms or major appliances) next to the individual switches. Each circuit has two hot wires feeding into the breaker, as well as a neutral wire that connects to the neutral bus. Together, these three wires exit the breaker box and go on to provide the juice for their designated circuit.

There are two main types of breakers:

• Single Pole: These consist of one switch, handle 120 volts, and can be either 15 or 20 amps.

• Double Pole: Handling 240 volts with amperage ratings from 15 to 70, these look like two switches joined together.

Hardwired lighting, electrical outlets, and baseboard heaters typically require 15- or 20-amp breakers. Water heaters and dryers are best served with 30 amps. Meanwhile, electric ranges take 40- to 50-amp breakers, and such things as the air conditioning system may be served by an even larger breaker or a subpanel.

The wiring into a breaker must correspond to its amperage. Twelve-gauge wire suits 15- to 20-amp breakers; 8-gauge wire goes with 40- or 60-amp two-pole breakers.

In the maze of wires that inhabits your breaker box, there’s one more to be aware of: the grounding wire. Typically a bare copper wire, it connects the neutral bus to a metal water pipe (or to a metal rod buried in the earth). Grounding prevents currents traveling through frayed wires from carrying on to metal surfaces they weren’t intended to reach.



03 Oct 2016

5 Things You Should Know about Electrical Wiring

The electrical wiring system within any building can look incredibly complex to anyone not well-versed in the way such systems work. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a residential area or in a commercial complex – people are dependent upon power yet know very little about it. Here are some things we thought you should know about electrical wiring in general.

Wiring Codes

Electrical codes seem like a pain, but they were created to help protect both you and your home. The codes, first established in 1891 in New York state, were put in place to ensure that the right type of wiring is used in each area. This reduces the risk of a malfunction or surge in your electrical system – one that could cause damage like electrocution or fire.

Electrical Wiring Color Codes

Electrical wiring comes in different colors for a reason. Each color tells us something specific about the wire and what it is used for. The most common colors are black, red, blue, yellow, green, and bare copper.

  • Black wires indicate that a wire is hot. They usually lead to outlets and switches.
  • Red wires also indicate a hot connection. They’re commonly used with appliances that require a 220 volt connection. They can often be found connected to ceiling fans or hardwired alarms like smoke detectors.
  • Yellow wires and blue wires are also used for hot connections, but they are used in switches that have three or four-way connections. You’ll often see these connected to lights and fans.
  • Bare copper and green wires are usually used to create safe connections during grounding.

There are a few exceptions to the wire color rules. White wires, for example, often indicate something is neutral, but they can also be used as hot wires where an additional is needed. If you use a wire for something other than it’s normal, color-coded purpose you should mark it with a piece of colored electrical tape so that it matches the normal coding.

Aluminum Wiring is Outdated

Older homes were wired with aluminum wiring but today’s codes call for copper wiring. Sadly, many homes built during the Vietnam War timeframe used aluminum because copper was being used by the military. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates, on average, that a home with aluminum wiring has a 50x higher risk of developing a fire hazard issue. If that’s not a reason for an electrical upgrade, we don’t know what is.

Downed Wires are Still Energized

Do not assume that a power line is de-engergized simply because it is down or because the power in your house has gone out. They might be without energy, but they may still be holding a low level of energy. There is also no way of knowing if the power will suddenly kick back on. Your best bet is to stay away from downed wires until the pros arrive on the scene.

Rewiring a Home is a Huge Project

We’re often asked why rewiring the entire electrical system in a home is so expensive. Sadly, if you need your entire house rewired your electrical contractor will have to open up all of your walls in order to get to the old wires, replace them, and reconnect them to your outlets and switches. They they, of course, have to put your home back together again. You can save yourself some cash if you rewire your home during a remodeling project, but if you don’t have one planned and don’t have the budget for a total re-wire, you can help yourself out by making upgrades here and there so that you don’t end up subjecting yourself to a fire hazard.

Wiring can be tricky and messy, but with a talented residential or commercial contractor or electrician on your side you can’t go wrong. Never make an assumption when it comes to your household wiring. Call a pro and get the right answers the first time.



23 Sep 2016

Electrical Basics 101

We depend on electricity to light our homes, turn on our television sets, and even cook our meals. When the power goes out because of a storm, a short circuit, or another problem in the electrical circuit, understanding what the basic components of an electrical system is a must. Do you know what a light switch, an outlet, a range outlet, a dryer outlet, the difference between the cords is, the difference between a 15-amp and a 20-amp outlet, etc… As you can see, the list can go on and on.

Understanding how things work in the electrical system will educate you in the choosing of the appropriate devices needed to safely and effectively power your home and devices. It’s also important to know things like who is responsible for what portion of your electrical service components. The utility company services the line portion of your electrical service, but not the load side. For service after the attachment point, you’ll need to call an electrician. Let’s take a good look at the electrical breakdown to make you more informed of its parts.

1.  Electrical Service Connection

Your homes’ electricity starts with the power service. This is where the electric company connects their wires to your homes’ feeder wires that attach to the meter on your home or power pole. This is the device that measures the amount of electricity your home uses and determines the amount of money the electric company charges you on a monthly basis.

From here your meter either feeds a disconnect switch or a main breaker or fuse panel. A typical home has a single phase service consisting of an “A” phase and a “B” phase, a neutral and a ground wire.

2.  Disconnect Switch

A disconnect switch is mounted on the outside of your home close in proximity to the meter on the outside of your home or power pole. The advantage of having a disconnect switch is for safety. In the event of a fire or flash flood, you can shut the power off from the outside of your home verses having to enter a burning home or a flooded basement.

The other instance is having a transfer switch in which you can switch between live power and a generator for backup power.

3.  Breaker and Fuse Panels

A breaker panel consists of a main breaker that is sized according to your homes’ load needs. Typically, homes have a 100 amp or a 200 amp service.

A main breaker of 100 amps will only allow 100 amps to flow through it without tripping. In a tripped state, no current will flow throughout the panel. It is the interrupt between the service and the branch circuits of the panel.

This main breaker protects the main service wires from damages that would occur given an overload. In that case, the wires would heat up and eventually could cause a fire.

4.  Switches

Switches are the devices that turn on and off lights and fans in your home. These switches come in many different styles and colors to suit your design needs. There are single-pole, three-way, four-way and dimmer switches. Their purpose is to alter the flow of current to your lights and fans in a home.

5.  Outlets

Electrical outlets are used to plug portable devices into. Televisions, lights, computers, freezers, vacuums and toasters are all good examples of devices that can be plugged into an outlet.

Outlets consist of a hot feed, a neutral and a ground. Some outlets are used especially for wet areas.



13 Sep 2016

Electrical 101

Many homeowners are afraid to tackle simple electrical projects – and rightly so. Electrical projects can be intimidating. But jobs like light fixture replacements can be easy and safe. The following offers some basic information every homeowner can benefit from – nothing too scary.


Getting Started

When working with electricity always:

  • Turn OFF electricity at the main fuse box (or the circuit breaker box) that controls the power to the fixture or the room you’re working on.
  • Test the wires to ensure the power is OFF.
  • Place the wall switch in the OFF position.
  • All electrical connections must be in agreement with local codes. Check with local authorities to see if a permit is required.
  • If in doubt, consult a qualified electrician.
  • Do not use bulbs with wattage greater than specified for this fixture (if applicable).

Remove the wall plate and switch mounting screws so the switch can be pulled from the wall and the wires exposed. Don’t touch any of the wires until you’ve confirmed they aren’t carrying electrical current.


Two-and Three-Wire Cables

In contemporary wiring, individual wires run in a sheathed cable. Two-wire with ground and three-wire with ground cables are available. Two-wire with ground cables have a black wire, a white wire and an uninsulated ground. Three-wire with ground cables have a black wire, a white wire, a red wire and an uninsulated ground. Older houses may have knob-and-tube (K&T) wiring-a two-wire system. With this system, individual wires are insulated with white or black treated fabric.

Regardless of the type of wiring in your home, the white wire is usually the neutral wire, the black wire is “hot,” and the exposed copper wires are ground wires. The white wire is sometimes used as a hot wire because some wiring installations require it. In this case, the white wire should be coded black with paint or electrical tape. Note, however, that it is possible that whoever did the wiring may not have coded the wire. If a red wire is present, it should also be hot.


Electrical Switches

A switch is what opens or closes an electrical current to a light fixture, ceiling fan, garbage disposer or other electrical device. There are single-pole, three-way and multi-location switches, double switches and dimmer switches. Switches may be wired at the end or in the middle of a circuit.

If only a single cable enters the box (or one set of black and white wires), the fixture is at the end of the circuit. This is usually, but not always, the situation with ceiling light fixtures. If two cables enter the box (or two sets of black and white wires in older K&T installations), the fixture is in the middle of a circuit. A third cable (or set of black and white wires) may also enter the fixture, depending upon the installation. The placement of the fixture within the circuit affects how it is wired.

The black, or hot wires, are connected to the brass screw terminals on receptacles and switches. The neutral wires are connected to the silver terminals. Ground wires should not be ignored. They should be connected to each other, to the grounding screw terminals (painted green) on receptacles, and to grounding screws in metal electrical boxes when metal boxes are used.

Pigtail Leads

Pigtail Leads

Pigtail leads are short wires which are connected to terminals on receptacles or switches. The leads are then connected to the home wiring using plastic wire connectors. Codes in some areas require that pigtails be used on all standard receptacle connections. Always use pigtails when more than one wire must be connected to a single terminal.



03 Sep 2016
YOKOSUKA, Japan (June 2, 2011) Interior Communications Electrician Fireman Michael Colonna, left, from Sterling Heights, Mich., and Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Anthony King, from Nacogdoches, Texas, checks for voltage on an aircraft carrier elevator bell buzzer circuit during a dock trial aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). George Washington is the U.S. Navy's only full-time forward-deployed aircraft carrier, homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, and ensures security and stability across the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Cheng S. Yang/Released)

How Much Does it Cost to Hire an Electrician?

Are you frustrated because you need an outlet where there is none or have an outlet where you don’t need it? Want to install a dimmer? With technology booming and becoming a more prominent fixture in our lives, adding or updating your electrical outlets and fixtures in your home is becoming more of a necessity.

What do you need done?

Often, an electrician will charge a minimum trip fee for a job, plus additional labor and parts. Since you may be paying a minimum fee just for the visit, it’s better to get a quote for everything you want at one time instead of piecemeal one-off bids. Do you want to install a ceiling fan? Add an outlet? Rewire a plug? Do you need dedicated circuits for your high-end electronics? The possibilities are endless and doing a quick walk-through of your home to see where you might need work might save you time and money in the end.

Pricing and Guarantees

Licensed electricians can charge anywhere from $50-$100 an hour depending on experience level and complexity of the job. This does not include additional costs for parts or minimum trip fees. An apprentice electrician could charge less than this for simple jobs.

Get detailed bids on the price of parts and labor for each project in your home. Additionally, make sure all expectations are in writing and that you completely understand the terms and conditions of the work to be done. Talk to your contractor about what happens if you aren’t satisfied with the work or if unforeseen circumstances cause changes in the bid. See what kinds of warranties are offered and make sure you understand what is included in the price of the estimate.

Want to save money?

Light dimmers provide control over your lighting design and may add some extra savings on your electric bill and allow you to adjust the light to meet your needs. Light timers and motion sensor light controllers are another great way to enhance your home’s lighting design and an easy way to reduce your energy spend. Have you thought about energy efficient ceiling fan installation? Ask your electrical professional about these and other great ways to reduce your energy consumption.

Urgent Repairs

It’s very disconcerting to plug in an appliance and see a spark shoot out, or to flip the bathroom light switch and nothing happens. These are all potential fire hazards and need to be looked at by a qualified professional as soon as possible.

Choosing the Right Electrician

Choosing the right electrician doesn’t have to be scary and you shouldn’t live with dangerous problems for fear of choosing a bad contractor. Make sure the person you hire is licensed and ask for references to ensure their work and reliability. Meet the electrician and make sure that you feel comfortable with that person in your home or office. Trust is an important factor in your choice. Make sure that you see their insurance policy as well as any insurance policies they have for their employees and ask about their liability in the event of property damage.

23 Aug 2016

Appliance Repair & Maintenance

Appliance repair vs. replacement

Major appliances are the cornerstones of modern life. Without these trusty devices, people would be reduced to washing their clothes by hand and cooking meals over an open fire.

It’s no wonder that a broken appliance can amount to a pretty big problem in most households, and the question of whether to repair or replace these devices can even create a lot of anxiety.

When it comes to repairing appliances, every device eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns. If it’s cheaper to fix an appliance than replace it, the smart money is usually on the fix. However, it doesn’t make sense to fix a device that is likely to break down again in the near future or become technologically obsolete.

Considerations when deciding whether to opt for appliance repair or replacement:

Age: The age of an appliance needs to be considered when deciding whether to repair or replace. Most appliances have an average life cycle and once an appliance passes that point, it’s usually a good idea to replace. Antiques and some high-end appliances are the exceptions to the rule, as they may be extremely expensive to replace.

Warranty: Determine if your appliance is under warranty, because you might be able to have it repaired at a reduced rate or free of charge. Warranties are important because replacement parts are expensive and can even cost more than the cost of purchasing a new appliance. Make sure your warranty is covered by a factory-authorized appliance repair shop.

Price: Appliance repair professionals say when the price of the repair totals more than half the cost to purchase a new appliance, you’re better off replacing the appliance.

You should consider appliance repair when:

  • The appliance is under warranty.
  • The appliance is an antique that would be difficult to replace.
  • The repairs are minor and will extend the life of the appliance for several years.

It’s time to replace an appliance when:

  • The appliance is not under warranty.
  • The repairs are extensive and add up to more than half the price of the appliance’s original cost.
  • The appliance is technologically obsolete.

Preventive maintenance tips

The best way to keep your appliances running smoothly is to practice preventive maintenance. Many appliances fail because they are overused or misused by the consumer.

Appliance repair professionals say homeowners should read the operational manuals that come with appliances and follow instructions for proper use and preventive maintenance.

Washing machine

  • Make sure not to overload the machine, or it could prematurely wear out.
  • Set the water level to an appropriate setting based on the amount of clothes in the washer. Failure to do so can put additional stress on the motor.
  • Check pockets before placing clothes in the washer. Many problems are caused when foreign objects become lodged within the washer.
  • Appliance repairmen suggest replacing the washer fill hose every five years.


  • Clean out the lint trap after each load to improve efficiency and reduce the chance of a fire.
  • Have the outside vent inspected annually.


  • Clean the condenser coils. When these coils become caked with dust, the fridge has to work harder which puts more stress on the unit and increases energy consumption. Use a vacuum to remove dust, pet hair and dirt.
  • Check the door seal. The fridge’s door seal is responsible for keeping food cold and maximizing efficiency. Replace the seal if needed.

Range, stove or oven

  • Instead of using the self-cleaning function, appliance repairmen recommend cleaning up spills as they occur and using drip pans to catch spills.


  • Clean your dishwasher’s filter to remove hard water deposits and debris.
  • Clean your dishwasher’s filter to remove hard water deposits and debris.
  • Clean your dishwasher’s filter to remove hard water deposits and debris.

Garbage disposal

  • Keep the blades sharp by running cold water and sending a cup of ice down the disposal.
  • Run cold water for 10 seconds before inserting food into the disposal and for 30 seconds after each use. Cold water helps solidify grease and fat so they can be chopped up by the disposal.

Hiring an appliance repair service

There are many factors consumers need to consider before hiring an appliance repair service. Home appliances are expensive, and you want to ensure the company you hire is reputable and has the skills required to complete the fix in a timely and efficient manner.

Tips for hiring an appliance repair service:

Research potential hires. Get at least three estimates and compare the bids based on price, parts, labor and warranty. You also want to research how long the company has been in business, check reviews on Angie’s List and speak with past clients.

Inquire about costs. Expect to pay up to $100 for a typical service call. Additional parts and labor charges will apply if you hire the company for a repair, but many companies will deduct the service charge.

Check skill level. It’s important to hire a company whose employees have the training to complete the job. Ask if the employees are factory trained or certified in appliance repair.

Is the work under warranty? Check to see if the repair service guarantees its work, and determine how long. Most warranties vary from 90 days to one year.




13 Aug 2016

5 Tips for Hiring an Electrician

Every home needs electrical repairs from time to time, but because of the dangers involved, these repairs don’t make safe do-it-yourself projects. Most folks will be better off hiring professional electricians. And because these services are expensive, here are some tips on how to get the most bang for your buck:

1. Don’t be Mislead by an Electrician’s Hourly Rates

Many people pay too much attention to the hourly rate electricians charge. This amount can vary from $30 to $70. However, a truly skilled, well-equipped electrician with a truck full of parts that charges $65 an hour can be a much wiser choice than an inexperienced hack, working with inadequate tools and no parts, but charging $35 per hour. The hourly rate only has meaning when it is considered along with the firm’s work quality, equipment and experience.

2. Compare the Electrician’s Travel Charges

Travel charges can have a big impact on your costs and are in some ways easier to compare than hourly rates. Many electricians spend a third or more of their time navigating traffic. So every electrician has to find a way to pay for expense of driving all over town each day.

Some charge a higher rate for the first hour, some charge a flat “trip charge,” some charge a minimum for each visit, and some simply compensate for travel time by charging a higher hourly rate.

When you first call the professional, ask how and what they charge and see if it makes sense for your situation. For example, a trip charge and a relatively low hourly rate make sense on a longer job. For a shorter job, you’ll do better with someone who absorbs travel costs by charging a higher hourly rate.

3. Bundle Electrical Repair Jobs Together

To save money and time on electrical work, bundle projects together. Any time you discover an electrical problem, put it on a list.

When you feel it’s time to call an electrician, review your list and then conduct a mini-inspection of your home. Look for faulty switches and dysfunctional or crowded outlets. When the electrician comes, you’ll save money and time by getting everything taken care of at once.

4. Get Prepared Before the Electrician Arrives

The less time the electrician spends dealing with inconveniences, the more money you will save. Before the electrician arrives, prepare a precise list of items you want serviced. Also, make sure the electrical panel box is accessible and clear away fragile items and knickknacks from areas where you expect the electrician to work.

5. Install Money-Saving Electrical Fixtures

  • By switching from ordinary incandescent light fixtures or bulbs to fluorescent ones, you can substantially reduce energy consumption in your home.
  • Motion detector switches can help you save money on outdoor lighting while at the same time providing very cost-effective security to your home.
  • Creative landscape lighting and indoor accent lighting can make your home more appealing to you, your guests and potential buyers in the future.



03 Aug 2016
Young repairman fixing an industrial air conditioning compressor.


Finding a home electrician

Most homeowners call electricians in an emergency or if they’re building or remodeling. It’s important to research a contractor and find a skilled electrician before you need one. By building a rapport with an electrician, you can be sure that they will be there to help when you need their services. So, you’ll want to hire an electrician for regular inspections before an emergency takes place. A good electrical contractor will become familiar with your home’s systems and possibly discover emerging problems before they become major situations.

Hiring an electrician is an important decision because they work with critical home systems that affect nearly every aspect of the building and can cause significant inconvenience, damage or even house fires if the work goes wrong.

As always, homeowners should get multiple bids to ensure they received the best price for the service. To vet the companies, homeowners should ask about the following items:

Up-to-date education: A reputable company will require staff to attend regular training courses and stay current on the National Electrical Code, which is amended every three years.

Pulling permits: A permit is usually required in most counties and from the power company any time you’re replacing a home’s main electrical equipment or doing a significant amount of rewiring. The cost of the permit is often included in your electrician’s bill, but be sure to ask. With the permit comes an inspection to ensure the work meets code.

Legitimate licensing: If your state requires electricians to be licensed, check that the license is current. Poor wire connections, overloaded circuits, improper grounding and broken safety elements on an electrical panel are just a few of the problems that can arise from bad workmanship. To check an electrician’s licensing, refer to the Angie’s List License Check tool. You should also protect yourself by verifying the hold the appropriate bonding and insurance, including general liability and workers’ compensation coverage.

Specialization: Since companies specialize in different areas and scopes of work, it’s important for homeowners to hire the right company. If a homeowner only wants to replace outlets and switches, then he or she probably shouldn’t waste time calling commercial electricians that wire large buildings.

Find out who’s doing the work: You’ll want to know if the electrician does the job themselves, if they employ helpers or apprentices, or if they use subcontractors. In the case of helpers and apprentices, verify that a licensed electrician will supervise them, and in the case of subcontractors, make certain their insurance covers you as well.

Ask about their warranty: Highly rated electricians say a good contractor will offer a parts and labor warranty to show that they stand behind their work.

Most electricians learn on the job through an apprenticeship program of several years, which tends to vary by state. Most state licenses require a certain number of hours of on-the-job training. The path of how to become an electrician depends on several factors, including whether the company is union or non-union, state regulations and the demand for more electricians in that region.

The path on how to become electrician usually starts either with an apprenticeship or a term as an electrician’s helper. Electricians in training observe their mentors at work, take on some of the task, learn the roles of electrician’s tools and take on greater and greater responsibility as they progress. Their salary also increases by year until they’re reader to take the test to acquire their electrical license. They can also undergo specialized education at a technical school or a union training facility, which usually involves matching the trainee with an appropriate electrical contractor.

Electrical projects

Unless you know what you’re doing exceptionally well, carefully consider the prospects if you’re planning on do-it-yourself electrical work. You can easily get in over your head, causing costly damage, creating potentially dangerous hazards and run afoul of local or state electrical code and regulations. In general, electricians say you can handle installing receptacles, outlets and lighting fixtures as a DIY job if you have a clear idea what you’re doing, but more complex work requires expert help.

Electrical work covers a wide variety of tasks, ranging from major jobs like home rewiring or breaker box replacement to minor work like installing fans or upgrading electrical outlets with USB ports.

Though the basics of electrical work have not significantly changed in the last few decades, electrical contractors and homeowners alike face new challenges as advancing technology creates heavier demand on electrical loads and presents new opportunities for major upgrades such as home automation.

Electricians can also conduct home electrical system inspections that will identify problem areas, future trouble spots and areas of immediate concern. Such an inspection can take place before you buy a home or any time afterwards to check your status.

Your home may be giving you several clues that you need immediate help from a professional electrician. If you feel mild shocks or tingles from appliances, you may have a ground fault issue that requires attention (although shocks after crossing a carpeted surface aren’t cause for concern.) If your ceiling fixtures are warm or lights are flickering, that may be a sign of loose wiring. Light switches or receptacles that turn on and off at random could be signalling a problem with loose wiring or internal damage. If any outlet emits a burning odor or sparks, shut down the electrical panel right away and call an electrician for help, as you could be at immediate risk for fire.

Many homes built before 1950 contain old-fashioned knob and tube wiring, which is widely believed to pose a hidden risk to homeowners. It was the primary wiring method from the 1880s through the 1930s, and still used into the 1970s for some new home constuction. This form of older wiring creates a risk of faults and fires, and often can’t handle the electrical load of modern houses. How much does replacing knob and tube wiring cost? You can expect to pay between $8,000 and $15,000 for an average-sized home.

Electricians can also install whole house surge protectors for between $300 and $1,000. Whole house surge protection blocks incoming surges at the breaker box and can protect your electronics and appliances from damaging electrical surges if you live in an area prone to lightning strikes.

Older and outdated breaker boxes often present problems such as fire hazards or overloaded circuits. Licensed electricians say a breaker box replacement will range from $500 to $3,000 depending on the sie of the house and the type of box.

Electricians can also install and upgrade outlets for safety purposes. An arc fault circuit interruptor (AFCI) outlet cuts off power in the breaker box as soon as it detects a sharp spike or drop in voltage. This prevents dangerous sparks or excessive heat, which is a common cause of residential electrical fires. AFCI upgrades cost about $40 per breaker plus labor, so electricians estimate this work should cost between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars, depending on the scope of the replacement. A ground fault circuit interruptor (GFCI) outlet detects disturbances in current and shuts off electrical flow quickly. This protects against electrical shock by breaking the circuit immediatley, faster than circuit breakers or fuses. They are typcially installed in areas that come in contact with water, like kitchens or bathrooms, but can be installed anywhere. Although they primarily protect against electrocution, they also provide further protection against fires and damage to appliances. A GFCI outlet can normally be identified by the “reset” and “test” buttons on their face.

Types of electricians

Although the study of electrical phenomena goes back to ancient times, it was not until Thomas Edison’s era that electrical currents could be sufficiently controlled to be used in homes.

Edison wasn’t the first inventor to build a light bulb, but he developed the first electric-powered bulb that would actually stay lit and not burn itself out after a few minutes of use. He patented his invention in 1880 and soon afterward founded Edison General Electric.

Many other electric companies quickly sprang up across the U.S. and in Europe as the race was on to generate electricity and disseminate it to businesses and homes. Natural gas light fixtures and kerosene lamps were phased out as the electric networks grew.

This rapid growth also created a demand for a new profession — the electrician. Even today, the job of electrician can be dangerous and even deadly. In the early years there were not yet many safety features, so electrocution and fires were not uncommon. However, today’s electricians , electrical engineers and linemen are extensively trained to provide the safest possible service.

Electricians are trained to recognize a variety of important elements, including staying familiar with the most up-to-date version of the National Electric Code and knowing what the electrical wire color codes mean. Modern-day electricians need continuing training and education. They fall into different classifications:

Residential electricians install, maintain and upgrade electrical equipment in apartments and houses. They may also install outdoor landscape lighting. Their scope of work covers everything from outlet improvements to breaker box upgrades and total home rewirings. They also work on construction jobs to install wiring and boxes in new homes. Many states also have a special subset of electrical contractor license to cover installing home security systems and alarm work.

Commercial electricians work on construction sites, in commercial buildings and on mechanical electrical systems. Most commercial electricians perform some installation work, which may involve water heaters, commercial security systems and electronic key systems.

Journeymen electricians work with mechanical connections, lighting installation, power supplies, security systems and communications in both residences and commercial buildings. Journeymen electricians have completed several years of on-the-job training and acquired the appropriate license in their state. They are qualified to work in a wide variety of electrican contracting tasks and can usually oversee apprentices or helpers. A journeyman electrician may also work on overhead lines.

Master electricians are highly skilled electricians who generally work in a supervisory role or own contracting businesses. Many states require seven years of experience as an electrician or a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering for certification as a master electrician. Licensing specifics vary by state, but in numerous cases, a business with numerous journeyman electricians must have a master electrician who oversees the entire operation.