We get asked all the time, “Do you know a good electrician?”
The answer of course is, yes. We know many electricians. Most of the electricians we work with – and we’ve worked with dozens and dozens over the years – are highly trained, highly skilled professionals who know what they’re doing. If they’re not, then they usually don’t last long.
Having said that, there are bad electricians, just like there are bad lighting distributors! Here are a few things to look for to make sure you get a qualified electrical contractor:
1. Make sure they’re licensed and bonded
Nothing is more important than this. And since we get asked all the time about what this means, it’s worth taking some time to explain.
To legally work in the state of Iowa, an electrician must be licensed. The types of licenses include electrical contractor license, Class A master electrician, class A journeyman electrician, Class B master electrician, Class B journeyman electrician, apprentice electrician, special electrician and unclassified person.
The difference between a Master’s and Journeyman’s license, according to the Iowa Electrical code, is that someone with a Master’s license, has “the necessary qualifications and technical knowledge to properly plan, lay out, and supervise the installation of electrical wiring and equipment for light, heat, and power.” A Journeyman electrician is “a person having the necessary qualifications to wire for or install electrical wiring and equipment.”
So what’s the difference? Experience and skill – the Master electrician has pretty much seen it all and done it all. The Journeyman, while skilled, is still learning.
The difference between Class A and Class B is that a Class A license “will not have any restrictions placed on the license.” A Class A license “requires that the electrician meet the requirements of the Board for experience and that they have passed a written, supervised licensing exam.” In other words, the Class B license will have restrictions, since you don’t have to pass a written exam to get it. Some electrical work can’t be done by someone with a class B license, some can.
So what’s an electrical contractor? It’s someone who works for an electrical business who is either certified as a Class A or Class B Master electrician or who has one on staff, who has also registered with the State of Iowa’s Division of Labor, as a contractor.
For a more in-depth explanation, go to the Iowa Department of Public Safety web site, at: http://www.dps.state.ia.us/fm/electrician/license_verification.shtml
2. Check the referrals
Any electrician worth his wire cutters will have a long list of customers you can contact. Make sure you call at least half a dozen. Ask them about their experience – was the electrician prompt, did he do the job he said he’d do, was his pricing fair, would you use him again? There are also multiple review sites on-line. Most electricians who’ve been in the biz long enough will have racked up multiple customer comments on several review sites. Overall, good electricians leave a path of satisfied customers, who will be more than happy to share their experience with you.
3. Make sure they look the part
Looks can be deceiving. But in the case of electricians, the way they look and carry themself, usually tells a pretty accurate story.
An electrician who takes pride in their work will usually take pride in their appearance. Look for a company logo, or at least a business card with pertinent information including phone number, web site and license number.
4. Good electricians don’t cut corners
We like to save money as much as you do, but cutting corners, especially on electrical work, is no place to pinch pennies.
Be weary of electricians who will do things that seem unsafe, in order to accommodate your budget. Instead, a good electrician will be willing to modify plans but still stay within code, in order to save you money.
5. Good electricians use good materials
The quality of the products your electrician uses, make a difference. When trying to stay within your budget, a less than scrupulous electrician may suggest he use sub-standard equipment. That’s not a red flag, that’s a race stopper. Good electricians insist on using the best materials, because they want your project to be safe and to last.
6. Trust your instincts
If you meet an electrician and get a “bad vibe,” then trust your feelings and look elsewhere. There are literally hundreds of electricians in the phone book – a lot of skilled fish in the contractor sea. So don’t feel obligated to use the first one you find.
There are plenty of good electrical contractors out there. Do your due diligence and you’ll find one. And if you need a referral, just ask us. We’ve got ’em.
Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com
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