25 Things Your Electrician Wishes You Knew
Before you attempt to DIY a power problem in your home, be sure to read what these electricians have to say.
I’m not unskilled labor
I’ve spent four to eight years in apprentice school learning how to plan, install, inspect, and repair electrical products. Don’t insult my intelligence by implying otherwise.
Please don’t try to do it on your own
Electricity is complicated and dangerous. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could start a fire or get electrocuted—sometimes fatally. Pretty much anything beyond plugging something into the wall should be left to a professional. The cost of my visit is nothing compared to the price of your safety. Here are 12 more home improvement projects you should never DIY.
Don’t turn off your main breaker immediately
Even if you do go ahead and try to solve your electric issues by yourself, don’t shut off only your electric panel’s main circuit breaker, which is usually the top switch. Turning that off before all the miniature circuit breakers (the smaller switches that control a specific outlet or part of the home) means the entire load of electricity suddenly has nowhere to go, which could overload the panel—and that’s an expensive fix. Shut off each individual circuit first, then turn off the main breaker.
Call as early as possible
Don’t call at the end of the day if you want same-day service. After 4:30 or 5:30 p.m., I need to pay my workers overtime, so I’ll charge you more to make up for it. Calling first thing in the morning lets me fit your job into my day—and you’ll see a lower bill.
My license protects you
Even if a business without a license can charge you less, it’s worth looking for a licensed electrician like me. Most states require professional electricians to be licensed, so a person without one is a red flag. He or she might not have insurance and could stop picking up the phone if something goes wrong. As a licensed electrician, I will be held accountable—which is good news for my customers. Check out these other 35 things every homeowner needs to know.
Look at reviews, not just price
Online reviews are useful when you’re on the hunt for a trustworthy electrician. If the person with the lowest quote also has the worst ratings, it’s worth shelling out a bit more. If that cheaper electrician messes up, you’ll just need to call me (and my higher price) and pay more overall.
I can’t fix everything
I don’t specialize in installing dishwashers or washing machines, so please don’t call me about them. You’re better off finding a plumber.
Have everything on hand that I recommend
I’ll try to fix your old item if I can, but I might ask you to have a new replacement on hand just in case. Don’t skip the shopping trip because you’re banking on me being able to fix the old one. If it’s beyond repair, I’ll need to come back (and charge you) for a second visit once you get to the store instead of finishing the first time around, ultimately costing you more. You’re better off buying it and returning it if we don’t need it. Just don’t bother with these 32 home upgrades that are a waste of money.
You might get a better deal in the winter
My busy season is when people are spending their tax returns and spring-cleaning, but I’m slower in the winter months leading up to that. Call me then, and I might be able to offer you a lower rate if I’m desperate for business.
The cheapest option might not be best
Power outlets in homes—but not businesses and other buildings—are required to have tamper-resistant receptacles, which prevent kids from getting hurt when sticking objects in the slot. At first glance, the tamper-resistant receptacles don’t look different from the ones without the safety feature, so read the label closely if you need to buy a new one. They’re a little more expensive, but I’ll send you back for another if you don’t shell out the extra money up front.
Get as local as you can
The farther I need to travel to get to you, the more time is taken out of my day—and I’ll factor that into your bill. Finding someone closer to your neighborhood might be able to charge you less.
If the job gets bigger, don’t argue if the bill gets higher
My original quote is based on the project you called me in for. If I find out there’s actually a larger issue at hand, I’ll need to increase my price to match the scope of the project. I’m not ripping you off, I’m just making sure I get compensated for the extra work.
Stop trying to guess what I’m thinking
Before I bring the tools out, I’m going to ask you questions to get an idea of what’s going on and where to look. You might have your theories about what’s wrong and what my questions mean, but don’t give roundabout replies to match those assumptions. Giving me straight answers will save us both time.
Give me the pay I deserve
Some customers get sticker shock, but I’m not trying to rip you off. You only see the half-hour of work I did in your home, but that’s not the whole story. I spent years training, and now I need to pay my crew (who went out of their way to get to your home), plus deal with marketing and other costs of running a business—and my prices reflect that. Learn 11 more secrets contractors wish homeowners knew.
Prepare the work area in advance
Clearing the work space and moving any furniture before I arrive means I can get in and out faster, so I can charge you for less of my time.
We’re happy to help with seemingly simple tasks
Installing a ceiling fan might not sound complicated, but it’s nothing like putting together a barbecue yourself. You’re trying to figure out the motor while hoisting a 70-pound fan 12 feet above the floor. Call me up—I can finish the job faster and safer than you could.
Pick your own parts
Don’t describe the kind of ceiling fan or light fixture you’re looking for and expect me to find one that fits your vision perfectly. Go to the hardware store and pick up your own items so you can guarantee they’re what you want. Just get in touch with me before you buy it in case it won’t fit correctly. Plus, find out what electricians wish you knew about batteries.
Think about possibilities before I come
Did your kitchen light stop working soon after the closet light? Did you change a light switch last month? Facts about recent electric changes in your home could lead me in the right direction, so it’s helpful if you can list them up front. (Don’t miss these 41 secrets home inspectors won’t tell you.)
If you’re happy, tell your friends
One of the best ways to show your appreciation is telling your family and friends about me. My business thrives on word-of-mouth recommendations.
Please be careful with space heaters
I get called in all the time for problems with space heaters. If you leave the house while the heater is running, the connection could get loose and burn up the plug, which could start a fire. Give your space heater the space it needs, and turn it off when you aren’t using it. Learn more about how to use a space heater safely.
Don’t blame me for your future problems
If I was working on your bedroom lighting and an outlet in your basement stops working a few days later, that’s just a coincidence. I’ll come back for the second project, but don’t expect me to do it for free because I “broke” it the last time. If I wasn’t working with that circuit, this new problem is unrelated.
Your air conditioner uses a ton of power
Window AC units blast for hours at time and use massive amounts of energy. An extension cord—and usually even sharing the circuit powering your AC with something else—overloads the wires. If they get too hot, the wires could short out and start a fire. Make sure the unit gets its own circuit, meaning a switch on your electrical panel dedicated to your AC and nothing else. Here are 11 more home safety risks and how to avoid them.
Your light bulbs might not fit the fixture
Older light fixtures won’t necessarily work with energy-efficient CFL and LED bulbs. If you want to stay away from incandescent light bulbs, you might need to replace the whole fixture.
Have your circuits labeled
Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock
Labeling the switches on your circuit board will save me guesswork (and time). Hiring either me or another electrician will make the job easier in the future, so we don’t need to turn every single one off before getting to work. Learn why skipping these other home maintenance tasks could cost you thousands.
I’m not an evil corporation
Most of us come from family-owned companies who are just trying to do right by the customer.
Sources: licensed mechanic-level electrician Joe Amato; licensed master electrician Johnny Goudie, owner of John Goudie Electric in White Plains, Maryland; master electrician and electrical contractor Al Hildenbrand, owner of Al’s Electric works in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Dmitri Kara, senior executive of London-based Fantastic Handyman