Hiring an Electrical Contractor

Oct. 1, 2008
Find out what you need to know before bringing in a pro

Any electrical contractor that you hire should be technically proficient, reputable, and financially stable, and should demonstrate a thorough understanding of your business. The following suggestions can also help you find the right electrical contractor for any electrical job, whether it's new construction, an upgrade, or maintenance.

Codes, Regulations, and Processes
The two most important considerations for any electrical installation are electrical safety and electrical-system reliability. The electricians who directly perform the work, and the contractors who employ them, should follow recognized standards of safety and quality.

The National Electrical Code® (NEC) is the nationally recognized electrical-safety standard, and has been adopted by the wide majority of building-inspection authorities at state and local levels. Your electrical contractor, and the contractor's employees, should be licensed in the jurisdiction in which your project is located. This means that the contractor fully understands and complies with the NEC, and that the work will be inspected under the standard, resulting in a safe installation.

Reliability means you can be sure that the installed electrical systems will continue to perform for a long period of time and as they were designed. Make sure the people who install your electrical work are adequately trained to ensure safety and reliability.

References and Experience
You're looking for a contractor who is financially sound and has a good reputation. Make sure you talk to customers in your industry who have done business with the contractor.

Electrical work falls into four general areas: power, control, information processing, and communication. Electricity is also an integral part of other building systems, like HVAC and lighting. Owners and facility managers who have existing relationships with an electrical contractor, either in terms of maintenance or new installation, have immediate access to a professional who can perform an energy audit for their building. The electrical contractor will determine how much power is being used and which systems require the most. The electrical contractor can then offer a list of options for reducing power use or improving energy efficiency.

Warranty and Insurance
Finally, inquire about the contractor's warranty and insurance, and get it in writing. Does the contractor guarantee that the work will be installed to meet code? Will the contractor correct work that doesn't meet applicable standards? Insist on a written estimate and a copy of the contractor's insurance certificate. Make sure the proposal or contract specifies that the work to be performed will comply with the NEC and, where applicable, National Electrical Installation Standards.

A good flow of information between the customer and the electrical contractor is critical to keep a construction job on schedule and budget. A contractor needs to be a business owner first and foremost, capable of managing the materials and labor in order to the keep the project on schedule. Working with a licensed electrical contractor ensures that any electrical work performed will be done safely and will function according to the client's specifications.

Rob Colgan is executive director, marketing, at Bethesda, MD-based National Electrical Contractors Association.

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