Basic Electrical Troubleshooting/ Money Saving techniques

Ever wondered why it costs so much to call in an electrical expert to install simple things? For instance changing a light in a hallway could cost the consumer anywhere from $150 to $250 for a simple one-bulb fixture. Changing outlets or switches can cost around the same but the time and amount of work hardly seems worth it. If you have ever called an electrical contractor and were awestruck as to how quickly he/she performed the work, and then were surprised to see how much it cost on the invoice, then this article is for you. In this short essay I will explain how you can cut the cost by almost 50%! And these are the simple things that may not have come to mind when it was time to get the work done.

If you are having troubles with something simple, like a light not turning on, most of the time it can be fixed by the homeowner. You wouldn’t want to hire a professional to come in, take one look at it and have him/her ask if you changed the light bulb. It would make you feel pretty stupid if you just paid $150 for someone to change a bulb! So, before you go looking through the phonebook, try to fix the problem yourself. First, attempt to find a switch for the inoperable fixture/receptacle. If it’s not the bulb, maybe it’s a problem with the lamp. You should attempt to plug the lamp into another receptacle. This will also help you determine whether the problem could be the lamp, or the receptacle itself even.

Once you have figured out whether you have a broken product, or worn out electrical receptacle (plug), you may not even need an electrician. Simply replace the item that’s inoperable, if, in fact, it is an item you plug in. Most homeowners are afraid to play with electricity. If it’s the plug that is the problem, calling a professional is a good idea, not only to for the safety of self, but also for the safety of your home. To make it considerably cheaper, take the time to hit Home Depot, or Lowe’s and find the plug and cover plate you wish to replace it with. If you get it from the electrician you hire to fix it, it could cost you quadruple what you’d pay for it yourself at the local hardware store.

If you’re looking to replace a simple hallway light, kitchen light, or ceiling fan it would be a good idea to remove the old one yourself. Electrical estimators will include the removal of said fixture in their estimate. Taking down a light fixture is simple, but you must be sure the power is off. A simple way to do that is to turn off the switch that is supplying the fixture with power. To avoid someone turning that switch back to the ‘on’ position while you are attempting to remove it, simply place a piece of colored tape over the switch in its ‘off’ position. For further safety, you can go to your main electrical panel and turn off the breaker. To remove a light fixture is as simple as unscrewing a few screws and twisting it off the ceiling. Since you won’t use the fixture anywhere else, it doesn’t matter if you do any structural damage to it.

Once the fixture is down, make sure to replace the wirenuts that connect the fixture wires to the house wires. Twist them back onto the house wires for safety purposes. This little activity could save you almost $100. It could even build up your confidence, so you could replace the fixture yourself. It goes the same way with ceiling fans. Simply remove the canopy from the ceiling to expose the connections, replacing the wirenuts on the house wires every time. Also, most electrical contractors do not provide the fixture to replace the old one. It’s time to hit the hardware store again! Having the contractor provide the light will raise the cost, and it may not be what you are looking for.

As an electrician, I am always looking for the easiest way to do my job. I am also trying to make it cheaper for the homeowner so that in the future I will be called on for my services. Electrical work, for the most part, is simple. Make sure the white wire from a fixture connects to the white wire in the electrical box, and the same goes for the black wire. But do not be mistaken, many boxes contain several blacks and whites, in which case one would be better off calling in the professionals to make sure all connections are made properly and there are no code violations.

We electricians know the code. We are here to make sure there are no fire hazards within the electrical system. When you have an electrician over to work don’t hesitate to ask them to look over anything you think may be a hazard. Electrical panels are where most fires occur. If you think your panel is out of date, by all means, let an electrician look at it and ask his opinion. He will have to go inside the panel, check connections, and make sure there is no corrosion or overheating.

I’ll continue to help make home improvement easier on you. Please look for my next submission where I will discuss other tasks such as walkway lighting, garden lighting, light poles, A/C disconnect checks, surge protection, NEC codes for everything from kitchen appliances to Christmas light receptacles, Ground-fault circuit interrupting receptacles, and much, much more. Electricity is nothing to take for granted. Think of it as a pet: It must have ample nourishment (main panel), it must be groomed (switch & plug replacement), and it must not be treated badly (damaged). And always remember, if you can’t do it yourself, call an electrician.

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