Hiring an electrician

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What do I need an electrician for?

Electrical work around the home is very tempting for ambitious do-it-yourselfers, probably because most people would not pay an electrician to come and change a light bulb. However, this does not mean you should attempt any electrical work beyond this! Badly done electrical installations can kill, and dangerous mistakes are not always obvious to the amateur. Besides the very real danger of frying yourself to a crisp, attempting fixed electrical installations (those involving wiring and appliances that are fixed to the building, such as sockets or fuseboxes) is illegal if you’re not a qualified electrician.

What’s a qualified electrician then?

Among other things, qualified electricians are knowledgeable of the national safety standard. You’ll know this because he or she will be registered in a Government approved body, such as NICEIC (the Electrical Safety Council), ECA (Electrical Contractors’ Association) or JIB. See below for websites to all these organizations.

Pricing and costs

As with all other contractors, prices depend on the nature of the job. As electricians can be called in for anything from changing a light bulb to a complete rewiring of a home, this price range is quite broad. However, some things are predictable:
  • An hour’s labour should cost you from £20 to £25
  • Minimum charge (the proverbial light bulb) will cost you from £25 to £60.
  • The call-out fee (for coming in to look at the problem) can run £16 to 30.
  • Electrical inspections (inc. certificate) usually cost around £100 - £150.
All these prices are of course meant to be a rough guideline only. Prices can vary a lot depending on whom you ask and where you live.

Some electrical work you can safely do yourself

Checking a few simple things before calling an electrician can save you money. Here are a couple of common problems and how to solve them. Try these easy steps in order:
  • A ceiling light doesn’t work - See if the bulb has blown and needs replacing. If it does, it will appear smoked on the inside. Just replace it, remembering to turn the light switch to ‘off’ before you do. Otherwise, try turning on a ceiling light in another room of the same floor. If it won’t work either, then look in the fusebox (consumer unit). Open the cover and you should see the circuit-breakers, they look like big plastic switches. Sometimes circuit-breakers will switch themselves off (‘trip’) because of a blown light bulb. If one of them has tripped, switch it back on again and the ceiling light should now work.
  • Socket-Outlet doesn’t work - Plug something else (lamps are good for this) in the socket to make sure it’s to blame. Try other outlets too, as sometimes the whole circuit can be affected. If several don’t work, check the circuit-breakers (see above), unplugging everything first, because a faulty appliance will trip the breakers again. If unplugging everything doesn’t work, it’s best to call a registered Electrical Contractor.
Remember, if you feel unsure about any of this it's better to call an Electrical Contractor. Also, if a breaker keeps switching itself off it’s a sign that something needs to be looked at by a pro. Safety first!