Frequently Asked Questions
When should I call an electrician?
Many people think that you only need an electrician when you are constructing a new home, but this is simply not the case. In fact, if you have anything in your home that has to do with electricity and it needs repairs, it is far better to call in an electrician and to get them to fix it for you. If you make a mistake while trying to fix your own wiring and the like, such an error can be quite costly and in the worse case, dangerous to your health. Not only is the risk of electrocution very real, the bigger danger is improperly doing a repair or upgrade which can create a potential fire hazard in the future.
Electricians go to school and learn everything they need to so that your wiring is correctly and safely installed in your home. Newer homes must undergo inspection, as do those that have had recent additions. If the wiring is not correctly placed, you can run into increased financial costs to fix errors when you attempt to sell your home.
Some typical examples of situations when a professional electrician is required include:
- Fuses keep blowing or circuit breakers keep tripping.
- GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets are not installed in your kitchen, bathrooms, garages or outdoors.
- Extension cords are required because there are too few outlets in a room or they are spaced too far apart on the walls
- There is rust on or near your main service panel indicating water damage.
- Lights dim when appliances are turned on.
- Electrical switches or outlets feel warm or tingly, or do not work.
- You want to add more outlets, switches or light fixtures in a room.
- Appliances with 3-prong plugs can’t be used because your outlets only accept 2-prong plugs.
How do you choose an electrician?
Choosing the right electrician, or anyone in the trades, to do work on your home can be a frightening proposition. Many people live with frustrating, and sometimes dangerous, problems because they are afraid of choosing a bad contractor.
Even though there are quite a few people out there who will do poor work by using cheap materials, overcharging , or not showing up at your home when they promised, you will be happy to know that there are just as many , if not more, people who are honest, hard working, punctual, and take pride in doing a great job.
Here are some steps you can take in choosing the right electrician:
- Always make sure the person you hire is a licensed electrician in Minnesota. The easiest way to check is to ask the person for their Minnesota electrical contractor license number (e.g., CA84778) and then checking that the license is current at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry web site (https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/licensing/licensing.aspx ). Verify the license is current (i.e., it has not expired) and that it is a Class A electrical contractor license. Other types of licenses (e.g., Class B) do not allow the person to work on high voltage circuits which is typically the type of work required to be done in a home (e.g., fixing an outlet, rewiring a light switch, etc.). Licensed electricians are required to carry a contractor’s bond and liability insurance which protects you in the event of problems.
- Ask for references. Most people who have a pleasant interaction with a contractor will happily testify to their experience. If the person you are hiring can’t provide a list of references upon request, that is probably not a good sign. Ask customers if they were satisfied with the work. Did the contractor come back promptly to address any problems?
- Ask how long they have been in business. If they have been in business for several years, chances are they have been doing good work for quite a while (bad contractors usually go out of business quickly). Also, you want to hire someone that has done your project before (or at least something similar) to give you confidence that they will be able to solve your problem quickly and the correctly.
- Evaluate the person during the estimating process by asking LOTS of questions. Before you sign up a contractor for any work, evaluate them on how they performed BEFORE the work is done. Did they show up on time for their appointment? Did they answer all your questions? Did they tell you exactly how much all the work will cost or is just an “estimate” with the final cost to be determined after the work is completed? Did they explain in detail all the work they are going to perform? Chances are if you had a good experience during the estimating process, you will also have a good experience when they do the job.
What are common terms used to describe a home electrical system?
Here are some common terms you will hear, and what they mean, when people describe the electrical system in a home:
- Service, main or electrical panel – This is the metal box in your home where electricity enters your home (from the power company) and is then distributed to the outlets, lights and appliances. Inside the panel is either a set of fuses (for older homes) or circuit breakers which limit the amount of current that can go to each circuit. Typical circuits are rated for 15 or 20 amps, however, larger circuits (e.g., 50 amp) are used for major appliances (e.g., air conditioner, range, etc.). A typical home will have 1-3 circuits per room, depending on the size and power requirements of each room.
- GFCI or ground fault circuit interrupter – A special type of outlet that automatically shuts off when a short circuit to ground is sensed. These are required by code in certain environments such as kitchens, bathrooms, garages or outdoors. They can be typically recognized by the “RESET” and “TEST” push button switches located on them.