Electricians are expensive and for good reason. Unlike the person you hire off the street to scrape paint from your house, the electrician is a trained professional. State requirements vary, but in many states, a General Journeyman certificate requires 4,000 experience hours, plus an exam, for a residential trade. Based on a 40 hour week, that is just under 2 years. By comparison, master's degrees take that long.
You will not easily escape paying substantial money for a qualified electrician. But there are ways to shave down those costs to make them more manageable.
Create or Update Your Circuit Directory
There is a major, costly problem with your electrician spends more time being a detective than being an electrician. The electrician arrives, looks at your service panel (circuit breakers), and is confronted with a non-existent list of circuits or a list that is so grossly outdated that it is meaningless. The electrician spends half an hour or longer trying to determine which circuits feed your remodeled basement.
Saving the electrician from this work is a guaranteed way to save money on your electrician bill. Why hire an expensive professional to do what you can do for free?
In advance of the electrician's visit, create a spreadsheet or document on your computer with two columns: Circuit number and places that the circuit services. Work with a partner who can go through the house and verify that things turn on or off as you flip the breaker on or off. The electrician may not treat your directory literally, but it will greatly narrow things down.
Clean Work Area and Prepare It for Actual Electrical Work
Imagine a situation where the electrician comes into the work area and finds such a mess that electrical work is difficult to do. Junk clutters the floor and drywall boards lean against open walls. The electrician spends precious minutes shifting drywall away from the area simply to gain access to the needed work.
In essence, your electrician has just become a very expensive house cleaner. Move everything out of the way so that the electrician can start as soon as possible. Consider a half-circle radius of 6 feet as being the bare minimum working space for the electrician. But the more space you can provide, the better.
Another part of supplying a comfortable work environment to the electrician is to generally leave the electrician alone. Anyone who works needs enough breathing room to do that work. Hanging over the electrician's shoulder will not speed up the job. But always stay within shouting distance if the electrical has a question.
Define What You Want in Advance
One costly scenario is when the electrician comes in and you sit down and talk about lights, switches, outlets, and wiring paths for an hour or so.
Electricians are not your partners in design, brainstorming over your home theater build or gorgeous small bathroom remodel. While their store of knowledge is invaluable, the more decisions you can bring to the table means less time spent talking.
Supply Your Own Devices
It can be a costly problem when you have managed to limit the time the electrician spends in your house, yet you still end up with a bill far higher than you expected. One reason might be because you are using electrician-supplied materials.
For example, if you want to install an electric baseboard heater, you can purchase your own in advance at your local home center. Or if you want stylish light switches or outlets, you can buy those on your own. Many electrical devices that meet code can be supplied by you, to be installed by the electrician.
Be careful, though. If you purchase the incorrect item, be prepared to accept the electrician-supplied device. Check ahead of time with the electrician. Also, do not purchase items that might be considered tools of the trade, such as wire, staples, wire nuts, or electrical boxes. Unless you have a prior arrangement with the electrician, you may be making the electrician's job harder by purchasing unfamiliar items.
Find a Reputable Electrician
Even if they are licensed and in good standing with local authorities, this does not mean that all electricians are good electricians. Licensing and background checks only weed out the worst of the worst.
When you go to an online contractor matching service, you will be presented with a short list of electricians interested in working on your project. Start by looking at reviews and testimonials attached to that online service. But dive deeper and check out other platforms that may give you information on those contractors. Cross-reference these review sites with your original findings to narrow that short list down to just two or three electricians.