FireFold Blog

Knowing When You Do and Don’t Need an Electrician

Dealing with electrical wiring and various components isn’t something that the average layman can, or should, try to tackle.  Electrical systems can be complex as well as dangerous, which is precisely why experienced, knowledgeable electricians are needed.  For those with a home project in mind that requires electrical skills, hiring an electrical contractor may be a necessity.  However, while there are projects better suited to the skills of an electrician, there are those that you can either do yourself or that will require an electronics expert.  If you do require an electrical contractor after all, it’s helpful to know the sort of skills they need to have mastery over and the kinds of projects they’re capable of taking on.  We’ll discuss these topics and more as we take a closer look at what makes for a quality electrical contractor today.

The Versatile Electrician:

Electricians have to handle a wide range of electrical jobs, from small home-product installations to the wiring of complete electrical systems.  A licensed electrician has to have a broad understanding of electrical currents and the way in which they operate, as this is the basis for proper electrical installation.  Knowing the way in which electrical circuits move, how they can interact with one another, and how they can be grounded for safety purposes is extremely important in not only ensuring that electrical systems and various product systems will operate properly, but also that no dangerous situations are set in motion.  Without understanding how electrical currents can flow through a system, an electrician runs the risk of either damaging various electronic devices drawing on main power sources or even causing a fire.

Electricians who are called in by homeowners or builders are usually needed in order to wire new construction or rewire existing electrical systems in preparation for new updates.  If integrated electronic systems are going to be used, such as whole-house stereo systems or computer controlled systems for lighting, HVAC, and so on, then an electrician will likely be the one that does the basic prep work.  This means they’ll run all of the necessary wires from the home’s breaker to the places where different electronic devices will be installed.  Once the electrical groundworks are laid, an electronics specialist will be able to come in and install the system.

Skills a Good Electrical Contractor Lives By:

While an electrician obviously needs to understand things like currents, voltage, and the likes, they also need to have the ability to understand the mechanical aspect of the various components they encounter.  When dealing with an electrical system, pinpointing a problem or finding a way in which you can safely add to the system is likely going to have a lot to do with how the electrician understands how the system’s components are constructed.  Many times, certain components need to be taken apart in order to achieve the end goal that an electrician has been assigned, so understanding the rudimentary mechanics behind the components they’re dealing with is going to be integral to the success of a project.

We think of electricians as being very hands-on people and in many ways they are.  However, electricians deal with complicated systems and have to have excellent critical thinking skills in order to solve complex problems.  Knowing how much power devices their client plans on installing draw or the way in which external factors may affect the home’s electrical system is important in allowing electricians to anticipate possible problems and create solutions before these issues even surface.

For electrical contractors especially, communication skills are an absolute must.  Not only does an electrician need to have the ability to explain in precise, methodical detail electrical situations to other colleagues and professionals, but one also needs to have the ability to explain these situations to clients.  For this reason, electricians almost become translators of a sort, as the technical language that they understand may not be comprehensible to those who aren’t familiar with the electrical trade.  Electrical contractors have to be able to explain the important technical aspects of the job they’ve been hired for as well as help clients understand the situation in terms of what they’re paying for.

The last thing that we should talk about here involving particular skills is an electrician’s knowledge and understanding of various electrical codes and the laws regulating them.  Many projects will require permission from city planning offices, for which they’ll issue a permit approving the project.  An inspector will also have to come by to make sure that whatever the electrical contractor has done meets all of the code requirements for their trade.  If these requirements aren’t met then this can lead to more money and time being spent on a project as well as possible legal problems should code violations not be remedied.

What to Look for in an Electronics Expert:

While an electrician will be able to get basic wiring ready for the installation of larger electronic systems, like large home theater setups, whole-house stereo systems, and so on, it’s going to be up to an electronics expert to complete the install and setup process.  Oftentimes, the company that you’re buying an electronics system from will provide a technician who will complete your install and setup process.  Other times, such as a situation in which you’ve bought your own electronic devices independently, you can still find a reputable company that has a lot of electronics know-how that will offer installation services.  You definitely want to choose a company that has experienced, well-trained technicians, as electronics that are not installed and wired properly could become irreparably damaged or even cause a fire.

Many electronic devices can be linked to one another in order to share information and create larger multimedia networks.  An understanding of things like HDMI and WiFi technology will help electronic technicians properly integrate these devices for their clients as well as suggest possible setups or operations that their client might find useful or engaging.  HDMI is definitely important because so many electronics use it these days, meaning that using HDMI cables and adapters, or even setting up wireless HDMI systems, will be something that electronics experts are bound to experience.  Just as with an electrician, electronics experts need to have a broad, comprehensive understanding of their field, but also the ability to translate their technical understanding to clients in a way that makes sense to them.

Before Hiring an Electrical Contractor:

Hiring someone to tackle an electrical project in your home is a serious undertaking, as who you hire will directly influence the quality of the work done, how well you can use electronic devices and other electric items, and how safe everything actually is.  With this in mind, there are a few things you need to do before contacting a contractor as well as certain questions you need to ask anyone you’re thinking about hiring.

Firstly, you need to do your research.  Checking out reviews is going to help you pinpoint which electricians seem reliable and which ones you’d rather not deal with.  When reading reviews, try to focus on those that spend time talking about technical issues rather than just venting drama.  You may notice some reviewers giving lower scores based on things you don’t find that important, even though they credit an electrician with a great job regarding the things that are important to you.

When you’re assessing an electrical contractor make sure that they have a license, not only to work as a certified electrician but also to work as a contractor in people’s homes.  When speaking directly to a contractor you should ask to see proof of this which you can in turn check up on before hiring.  Another great question to ask at this point is whether or not the electrical contractor has insurance.  If they don’t have insurance then you may want to look elsewhere, as you don’t want to find yourself liable for damages they cause or injuries they sustain while on the job.

If you have a specific project in mind, try to find an electrician that has experience with such things.  Having an electrician who has already completed projects just like yours without any problems can be an indication of smoother sailing ahead.  If they haven’t dealt with a project like yours before, find out what kind of education and training they’ve had and the sort of projects that they have undertaken.  You may find that even though yours is new to them, they’ve handle projects similar enough to understand the basics of what you need done.

Getting a price estimate is a crucial early step as projects typically hinge on the kind of budget you have in mind.  Don’t feel obliged to make a commitment right away to the first contractor or two you talk to.  Look around and speak with several electrical contractors in order to find the right combination of price and quality for you.  Also pay close attention to what’s included in a contractor’s estimate.  Sometimes contractors will only include the main and initial expenses of a project and leave out others that will inevitably pop up later down the road, potentially costing you much more money than you budgeted for.  This is also a good opportunity to see if they offer any kind of warranty regarding their work.

Once you’ve found someone that you feel good about, ask if it would be possible to see a project that they’re already working on.  This will give you the chance to assess their skills and job demeanor in action before committing to anything.  It’s also a great chance to see certain techniques or features you were unaware of that you might like incorporated into your own project.  Apart from this, if possible you may have the opportunity to talk to their client and get some straight answers regarding the services rendered.

More You Might Want to Know:

Part of getting a quality job performance out of a contractor or technician, as well as ending up with a project that isn’t a nightmare, stems from what you do with the project yourself.  In many cases homeowners will try to complete various electrical tasks themselves in an effort to reduce the amount of work they’ll have to hire a contractor to complete.  This is a situation that can lead to major issues.  For one, as we mentioned earlier electricians are licensed professionals that have the necessary training and education to perform these tasks.  You, most likely, don’t have these skills (which is kind of the point of hiring a contractor).

While it may seem like you’re going to save money after having completed some of the initial work yourself, if you’ve wired or connected anything improperly or installed something in some way that violates code, then a contractor is likely going to have to redo what you’ve already done in addition to the work that’s left to be completed.  This can lead to setbacks in both time and cost, not to mention possibly creating dangerous situations for the electrician as well as those in the home.

To make things simple, let an electrician deal with the actual electrical wiring of the house, and then look to saving some money on your system installation and setup by perhaps buying equipment and various components yourself, then having an expert technician install them if you’re unsure about the installation process.  Connecting devices with HDMI cables and the likes is typically very straightforward and something you can do yourself, as is setting up wireless systems.  Fully integrating various devices to make a larger system or network can be a bit more complicated, especially if you aren’t sure about all of the various features you could be benefiting from.  This is precisely when you need to call in an experienced technician.

Also try putting yourself in the perspective of the electrician or electronics expert throughout the project.  If you’re constantly micro-managing everything then this only slows things down and adds unnecessary stress to the electrician’s task.  Remember that anything you change in the middle of the project will likely affect time and money, but if you can keep to the advice here and know what to look for in a contractor or technician, then you’ll likely have an amazing experience.