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Electrical Problem Diagnosis, Repair And Choosing A Good Electrical Company

Maintaining and repairing your home is a major part of life for homeowners, and when electrical problems arise you have to proceed with extreme caution. Even if you are able to safely complete minor electrical repairs on your own it is much safer to use a licensed electrician who can ensure there are no lingering hazards that could cause future fires or outages in your home.

Why You Need A Certified Electrician For Most Electrical Problems

There is no question that hiring a certified electrician is the best choice for any type of electrical work and it is their job to stay trained and keep your homes electricity within local safety codes.

Know the Local Laws: The laws change from one area to the next, one reason for this is because a particular area may have had a spate of common or similar problems in that past that now need to be regulated. There are usually distinctions made between what you as the homeowner may be allowed to do and what a licensed electrician can do. These jobs could vary in their level of difficulty; appliance installation is one thing, hanging a chandelier is another, and rewiring your entire kitchen may have different restrictions on who is permitted to do the job.

Know the Local Codes: Local electrical codes will vary based on external factors such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, the local water table, and the type of building materials. If your electrician lacks over two years of experience in your area then these local code issues could come back and cost you more down the road.

How Much Does an Electrician Cost?

Depending on the scope and the nature of the job you require the cost of an electrician can vary widely. For example, simple jobs around the house like replacing a wall panel can cost anywhere from $1,200 - $2,000, or rewiring an entire house could easily set you back between $8,000 - $15,000 and much more depending on the size and age of your home.

The price of a job will depend greatly on what you need to have done as well as the type of guarantees they offer. Electricians also take into consideration the urgency of the job and how fast you need it done. The average cost of electrical services nationwide is around $400 with a minimum cost hovering around $100 and a maximum cost of around $800.

Still, those figures may not accurately reflect your needs. Most electricians charge by the hour so you'll have to factor in the speed of the worker into the costs as well. Hourly wages can also vary from one location to the next and the level of skill and experience of the electrician you hire, with a low average cost for a Master Electrician at around $40/hour and a high at about $100. A licensed journeyman average pay is around $22 - 24/hour and an apprentice electrician making around $10 - 19/ hour. The type of electrician you hire mostly impacts this price difference.

Recognizing Electrical Hazards

Electricity can be one of the most dangerous things you can deal with; it can kill instantly or cause major damage to your property. There are however some very simple precautions that everyone can take to avoid catastrophe. The main hazards when working with or near electricity are:

  • Electric shock or burns: This can happen when you come in contact with parts of equipment or wiring that still has current running through it. Make sure you cut off the circuit before touching any exposed wiring or equipment first.
  • Fire from faulty equipment or installations: When electrical wiring or equipment is not installed properly, there is always the risk of a fire erupting from defective work. An electricians work should be covered by by a warranty, usually from 6 months to up to 2 years.
  • Explosions: This can be caused by static electricity coming in contact with flammable vapors or dust like spray paint or faulty electrical equipment.

Signs of Potential Electrical Problems

Of course, because most of us are not experts in handling electricity we may not be aware that we need to call in help until it's too late. Here are a few things that can tell you if your home electrical system is in good working order.

How old is your wiring? Old wiring is a major cause of electrical fires in a home. Have your wiring, cables, switches, sockets, and other related accessories checked on a regular basis. Any of the following are signs that you need to update your wiring and make some additional changes:

  • Cables coated in black (1960s)
  • Cables coated in lead or fabric (before 1960)
  • A fusebox with a wooden back, cast iron switches (before 1960)
  • Older pin sockets and round light switches (before 1960)
  • Wall mounted light switches in bathrooms (before 1960)

Other signs that you may have a problem: Burning smells, sounds of buzzing or crackling in the walls, fuses blowing frequently, or circuit breakers tripping. Warning - always call an electrician at the first sign of a problem.

Important Tips To Avoid Minor Problems

Always watch out for the little things that you contribute to electrical hazards in your home:

  • Fixing appliances: Always unplug appliances before you begin to work on them.
  • Trailing cables under the carpet: Never run cords or cables underneath anything flammable. Cords can sometimes get hot and spark a fire.
  • Drying clothes on an electric heater: Water can drip on electric parts and could cause an electric shock or fire.
  • Drilling in walls: Never drill into a wall unless you know what's behind it. Electrical wiring, cables, and even gas and water pipes can all spark if a drill comes in contact and start a fire.

Basics Every Homeowner Needs to Understand About Electricity

While most electrical projects are best left in the hands of trained electricians there are a few basic lessons that every homeowner should understand. The fundamentals of how your electrical system works and what is safe to do and what is not are a must in every household so you can identify when it is necessary to contact a professional.

Electrical Service Panels: The metal box that is mounted somewhere on the wall (often in the garage on along the side of the house) contains either circuit breakers or fuses that control all the electrical wiring in your home. It should also include a main breaker or fuse that will cut off all the power controlled by that panel. Its purpose is so that you can limit the amount of electricity that flows through the house in the event of electrical shock or fire. When you want to cut the power to a certain area, simply flip the labeled breaker switch and the power is cut.

The National Electrical Code: Any electrical work whether it be wiring, repairs, replacement of parts, etc. must comply with the National Electrical Code, which is intended to ensure that the electrical wiring is not only functional but safe. If you have an electrical problem that you think you can fix yourself, it would be wise to find out if you can comply with this code. Anything short of their listed requirements would be considered illegal and a hazard which could affect your homeowner's insurance and property values as well.

No matter how well and attentive you are about your home's electrical needs, there will inevitably come a time when you'll need some type of electrical work done. If you are knowledgeable enough and the job is within your realm of expertise, you should have no problems making the repairs yourself, however, there are some common mistakes that many homeowners often make that could cause major problems later on if they're not careful. Correcting them will ensure you have a safer home and peace of mind.

  • Wrong wire size: For the average person, a wire is just a wire. Wires however, are rated for the amount of amperage they can take. The wiring for any job in your house must match the rating for the fuse or breaker in order to prevent the risk of fire. If the circuit breaker is rated for 20 amps, the wire must be the same.
  • Fuse replacement: If the fuse keeps blowing or your circuit breaker keeps tripping, the tendency is to buy a larger fuse. Breakers are specifically designed to protect the amperage in the wiring so if you decide to up the amps on your breaker, you can overheat the wire and spark a fire. Find out the actual cause of the problem and fix it rather than taking a short cut.
  • Light bulbs: On most light bulb sockets, the appropriate wattage is posted for the type of bulb you should use. If your socket has a 60-watt limit and you screw in a 100-watt bulb, you're setting yourself up for disaster.
  • There are many other mistakes that you might be making with your electrical systems in your home. It would be smart to take the time to check these things out and make sure that what you're doing is not causing a hazard for your household rather than helping.

Electrical Problems You Can Fix Yourself

Even though there may be some severe restrictions for a homeowner to do DIY electrical work in their house there are precautions that can be taken to increase safety in the home:

  • Visual Checks: Always check the condition of any electrical equipment you use in your home. If the plug or connector is damaged in any way, replace it or have it repaired.
  • Use Products Properly: Most of the safety mistakes in a home are the direct result of using products in a way that was not intended. Always read the instructions on the products you use and make sure that you're in compliance.
  • Don't Overload an Outlet: In the past, a home had one TV set, perhaps a radio and a toaster oven; today, they have a TV in every room a DVD player, a computer, and chargers of all shapes and sizes. It is easy to live your life with an extension cord as your best friend. Avoid overloading your outlets to ensure that you don't cause a fire or overheated wiring and jeopardize your home.

What to Expect When You Hire an Electrician

When you set out to have an electrician work on your home it is critical to answer a few questions:

  • Do they have adequate education? Most reputable companies will require that their electrical staff attend regular training sessions so that they are up to date on any new changes in the electrical code as well as new equipment, tools, materials, or techniques that will replace old methods.
  • Do they have the proper licenses and permits? A permit is required in local counties and is issued from the power company while the licenses are required by the state. Make sure that the electrician you hire has both.
  • Do they have adequate insurance? Insurance protects not only your home but the electrician as well. Make sure that their insurance coverage is sufficient and up to date.
  • Do they warranty their work? Again, most legitimate electricians will offer at least six months coverage on work they complete.

The Inspection: The electrician should inspect your electric meter for defects, the wires for fraying or damage, the main panel box for insufficient clearance, oxidation or corrosion, overheated components and the presence of moisture, and wall switches for reversed polarity and ungrounded circuits.