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How to Choose an Electrician

Who do you think should do the work for your next electrical job?

A.  A licensed (and bonded) electrician.

B.  A licensed and (bonded) handyman.

C.  An electrician or maintenance person who does side work.

D.  Yourself, someone in your family, a friend or neighbor.

Who you choose should depend on what type of work needs to be done.

A simple task like resetting a GFCI or a circuit breaker can be done by anyone.

Replacing a receptacle, a single pole light switch, a light fixture or ballast could be done by a handyman, electrician or someone with the appropriate experience. Be careful about replacing a 3-way or 4-way switch. If it is not done properly, even an experienced electrician may have problems fixing it.

Installing a new circuit or a new electrical panel should be done by an licensed electrician.

When hiring an electrician, word of mouth is a good place to start. Ask your friends if they know someone who they can recommend. Always check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website www.bbb.org. The BBB will give the company a grade (A+ thru F). They will also give you general information on the company and the complaint history for the last 36 months. Avoid using a company that is not listed unless you have good references for this company. A company with an “A” grade does not guarantee you will be satisfied with their work.

For bigger jobs, get bids from three contractors and make sure you sign a contract for the bid you accept.

Why should I Hire a Licensed Electrician?

A contractor with a current state license usually needs to post a bond and have insurance. Check with your state contractors board for more information. If you hire someone who is not licensed and bonded, you may be responsible for any injuries that happen on your property whether you own or rent.

If there is a problem after the work is completed, a licensed contractor is supposed to remedy the situation. If the contractor does not remedy it, you can file a complaint with the state licensing board and/or the Better Business Bureau www.bbb.org.

Contractor Quote vs Hourly Rate

Quote - A quote is a fixed price for a job. The contractor estimates the number of hours and the cost of parts. There should be an invoice showing the work to be done and the total cost including parts.

Hourly - The contractor charges hourly for the time it takes to do the job plus the cost of parts. This is commonly referred to as T&M (time and materials). Hourly work is usually done if it is difficult to determine how long a job will take and what materials are needed, or if it is an ongoing project. You should receive an invoice showing the hourly rate for the job.

Ask how much the parts are to be marked up. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can supply the parts if you know which parts you want (the contractor will not guarantee the parts you buy). It is reasonable for the contractor to mark their parts up about 100% on parts they provide to cover the time and expense of acquiring them. Some contractors will charge more.

You may be asked to pay about half of the total bill up front for bigger jobs, to cover the cost of materials. With smaller jobs, you pay the full amount when the job is completed. Never pay the total amount until the job is completed.

Do I Need a Permit for Electrical Work?

Permits are sometimes needed for bigger jobs like installing a new circuit for hot tub and/or swimming pool, new addition to a house, or an electrical panel upgrade. Check with your local building department or with the contractor you will be using. The contractor can apply for a permit, or you can do it yourself. A diagram and a description is provided to the building department for the work to be done. If this gets approved, then a permit is issued.

When the work is done, an appointment is scheduled for an inspector to come out and look at the work. If the inspector approves the job (pass), then it is considered complete. If the inspector does not approve (fail), then a report is made showing what items need to be corrected. Corrections need to be made and a reinspection scheduled.

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