One of the more common home improvement projects homeowners take on is updating their electrical systems. In fact, homeowners spend around $1500 on these updates each year.
Of course, there is a stark difference between getting this kind of work done and doing electrical work yourself. That’s why so many homeowners find themselves asking, can I do this myself or should I hire an electrician.
As easy as DIY gurus may make it look or sound, hiring an electrician is often the smarter and safer choice for electrical work. Keep reading for our guide on when and why you should call in a pro and when you can probably do it yourself.
Doing any kind of electrical work is dangerous if you don’t understand how to do it safely. That holds true for simple repairs and major electrical projects.
The typical home has around 200 amps of electricity coming into it. Although, that number can go up or down depending on the age, size, and electrical demands of your home.
It takes less than one amp of electricity to prove potentially fatal. Since most circuits in a home are 15 or 20 amps, any work on your electrical system has the potential to kill you.
Any time you work on anything electrical in your home, you should shut down the power to the entire house at your breaker box or fuse box. Not sure how to do that? This is when you hire an electrician.
DIY-Friendly Electrical Projects
While safety should always stay in your thoughts with electricity, there are some electrical projects that most cautious homeowners can take on.
Some older homes still sport a fuse box, although these are rarer and rarer as electrical codes phased out fuse boxes. Changing a fuse is one job that a homeowner can take on in relative safety. You typically unscrew the old fuse and screw the new fuse in with your hand.
Light fixture and overhead fan styles come and go. That means most homeowners will want to replace them at some point.
Your basic light fixture or fan only has a few wires, which are color-coded for ground, neutral, and power in most modern homes. Ceiling fans with lights may include a fourth wire for the light itself. Color match the wires and your new fixture or fan should work as expected.
Outlet replacement is another project most homeowners can do on their own. You can get an outlet tester to make sure you installed it correctly.
Again, make sure you turn off the power to the entire house before starting any electrical repairs or replacements.
Right at the top of the list of reasons to hire a residential electrician is a major rewiring project. Maybe you’re turning an old storage space into a small office or converting a bedroom into a home gym and want more outlets. For a project like this, you’ll need new wiring installed.
Installing new wiring isn’t just about connecting wires to a circuit or running new wires from the breaker box. You must also understand electrical loads.
Remember, your house gets a certain amount of current through your breaker box, which only supports so much current. If you already use most of that current, adding new circuits can cause problems across your electrical system.
An electrician can evaluate your home for projected electricity usage based on appliances and fixtures. In theory, your home should get enough current to support having everything in the house turned on at the same time. That means you may need a new breaker box, not just new wiring.
Do I Have to Hire an Electrician?
Most locations put strict requirements in place about wiring work, such as who can do it, permits required, and mandatory inspections.
Some locations simply require that an electrician perform all major electrical work. This ensures that the new wiring meets the electrical code and won’t endanger your home.
Other locations let homeowners do the work, but require that you get the same permits and schedule an inspection after the work is done. Not getting the permits and inspections can come back and bite you if you want to sell your home.
The basic home inspection that every home sale requires will often reveal the new wiring work. If you can’t produce permits and inspections for the work, you typically can’t sell the home until you get the inspection.
Unexplained electrical problems can leave homeowners frustrated and confused. This is another case where you want to leave the problem to a professional.
Tracking down an electrical problem typically means tracing and testing wires while the electricity is on. If the problem is that rodents chewed on a wire, you can end up putting your hand on an exposed hot wire by accident.
In older homes, you can find that wiring isn’t color-coded like modern wiring. Some homes also have abandoned wiring that was never properly capped off. That makes the tracing and testing more complicated and more dangerous.
All of these potential issues make dealing with faulty electricity a non-starter for the DIY-minded homeowner.
While electrical work doesn’t rise to the level of plumbing repairs for unpleasantness, it’s necessarily a good time. Dealing with wiring can mean crawling around in your basement, crawlspace, or attic.
Dealing with the dirt, dust, and often spiders that come with that territory is more trouble than it’s worth for most homeowners.
It’s Usually Best to Hire an Electrician
Most homeowners can take on basic projects like replacing a ceiling fan or putting in an outlet as long as they remember to turn off the power to the house.
In most cases, though, it’s best to hire an electrician. Electricians possess the knowledge to deal with the wiring safely, evaluate electrical loads, and deal with any permits required. Hiring one protects you and your home from mistakes.
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