Electrical Work Cost Guide: What you can expect to pay

The cost of hiring an electrician

Electricity is the lifeblood of any home. Homeowners rarely understand just how much they rely on electricity until they need to have electrical work done. Whether you are buying a new home, upgrading your current home’s electrical system, or adding new features such as a fan, outlet, or generator, you’ll likely need to hire a licensed electrician to do the work.

Some homeowners may be tempted to perform electrical work themselves. DIY electrical work is rarely a good idea, even for the most technically-inclined homeowners. Your home’s electrical system is complicated and dangerous; even if you’re doing something that seems simple such as adding an outlet, you could accidentally electrocute yourself or start a fire unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Plus, most professional engineers insure their work, so even if something goes wrong, you won’t be paying for the damage.

Therefore, though if hiring a licensed electrician seems expensive, it’s usually worth the cost. Even so, if you’re like most homeowners, you want to know what goes into the cost of what you’re paying for. This electrical work cost guide goes over everything you can expect in terms of cost when hiring an electrician, as well as how you can keep electrical work cost down as much as possible. 

The average cost of hiring an electrician

A licensed electrician in the United States typically charges $50-$100 per hour for electrical work, though that figure varies in different parts of the country. It also doesn’t take into account additional charges, such as the cost of the material itself or the cost of travel time. Overall, the average American pays $334 for a visit from an electrician, though the typical range of hiring an electrician is $161-$522. 

Paying $50-$100 per hour to an electrician may seem like a lot, but an electrician’s salary is only part of what goes into the cost of electrical work. In fact, an average American electrician makes $26 per hour, sometimes more or less depending on experience and licensing. The cost of hiring an electrician includes other factors, such as overhead, equipment, and insurance. Most electricians also include their travel time in their costs. Travel costs may come in the form of a flat “trip fee”, or they may come in the form of a higher rate for the first hour, or even a minimum fee for each visit.

If you’re on a budget, it may be tempting to hire an electrician solely based on his hourly rate. However, it usually pays to take other factors into consideration, such as the electrician’s skill level and the satisfaction of previous customers. Besides doing a poor job, a cheaper electrician that is less skilled may spend more time on a project than a more experienced electrician. It would be preferable to pay a skilled electrician $100 for one hour of work than a less skilled electrician $50 per hour for two or three hours of work. 

Installing new wiring or an electrical panel

One of the most common jobs for an electrician is to wire a new home. Every house that is built needs an electrician to install wiring and an electrical panel. But electricians don’t just wire new homes. It is often necessary for older homes to update their electrical system, whether that means adding additional wiring, replacing old wiring, installing an updated electrical panel, or all of the above.

Rewiring a home sometimes becomes necessary when a homeowner wants to install something that will change how the home's electrical system is wired, such as a backup generator or home battery system. Other times, it may be necessary to ensure safety. Outdated panels can sometimes be prone to tripping and may be a fire hazard, especially if they have glass fuses.

Electrical panels come with different electrical capacities suited to different homes. A new electrical breaker panel must be at least 100 amps, though they also come in 100, 150, and 400-amp capacities. The panel itself usually costs $300-$500, plus about $100 for extra wiring and fittings. Labor costs can run between $500 and $800. It can cost $500-$2,100, or $498-$1,762 to upgrade or replace an electrical panel.

Adding light fixtures and fans

Lights and fans are two of the most common electrical jobs. The average cost of installing a light fixture is $450, including the light fixture itself. In fact, the cost of the light fixture usually costs more than hiring the electrician to install it. If the electrical system needs to be upgraded, though, that may raise the labor costs considerably. For example, new wires or even a new electrical panel may need to be installed. For this reason, you may want to talk to an electrician before buying a new light fixture or fan. 

In addition to cooling, fans serve a range of purposes, including improving circulation, removing moisture from the home, and preventing mold and other issues. The average cost of installing a ceiling fan is $250, including the cost of the fan itself. If you want to install a bathroom fan, which functions as both a fan and a light, expect to pay around $350.

Another kind of fan that some people install is an attic fan, which functions to remove hot and moisture-rich air from an attic space to avoid issues like mold caused by poor circulation. The installation process has to be very precise and uniform; it involves cutting a hole in the roof that is sealed in a way to prevent water from leaking into the attic. Installing an attic fan usually costs about $280, including both the fan and the installation process.

Installing and wiring a generator

Many homeowners don’t realize how much they rely on electricity until the power goes out. A backup generator is a good way to protect you and your family’s security and comfort. As soon as the lights go out, a backup generator will put them back on, along with essential appliances in your home. Installing a generator, though, can be expensive, not just because of the cost of the generator itself, which can run $7,000-$15,000 for a medium-sized home, but also because of the cost of installing it.

As a rule of thumb, a generator costs about 75% of the cost of the generator itself. Some of that cost goes toward transporting the generator to your home, installing a concrete base, and connecting the generator to gas power lines. A significant part of it, though, goes toward connecting the generator to your home’s electrical wiring.

Wiring a generator is a complicated process. It involves a number of sub steps, including installing a sub panel and transfer switch, moving circuits, and adding the sub-feeder and control wiring. Once the generator has been installed, an electrician must test the generator to ensure it runs smoothly and safely. Altogether, that’s up to 20 hours of work by the electrician, plus any additional labor necessary to move and install the generator and connect it to gas lines. For more information on generator installation costs, check out our blog post on the subject. 

Smart home installation costs

Home automations systems are becoming more and more popular each year. They allow for the synchronization of devices within the home to improve electrical usage and allow for greater control. For example, with smart home technology, you can program your air conditioning or heating to run at certain times of the day. You may also be able to control these features when you’re not home through a smartphone. 

Installing smart home features is not always cheap. The average cost of installation is $1200, though the price may be significantly higher if you want to be able to control multiple electrical devices within your home. Nevertheless, smart home technology can help you save money in the long run. By allowing you to control your electrical usage from your phone even when you’re not home, you may be able to cut down on your utility bill. 

Preparing for electrical work 

Electrical work may seem expensive, but there are some things you can do to keep the costs down. If you have multiple electrical items in your home that need repair or that you want to have installed, you may be able to lump them together and have an electrician install all of them at once. This will cut down on the travel cost. If you choose to do this, though, make sure the electrician is aware that you have multiple projects for him to complete before he arrives. Electricians run on a schedule and are rarely able to take additional requests once they are on site. 

It’s also to your advantage to limit the amount of time the electrician will need to spend at your home. For example, if you are having him install a new electrical panel, make sure it is easily accessible. Clear away furniture and other items that would otherwise have to move. It’s also as important to be as thorough and precise as possible when describing your needs to the contractor. That way you’ll be able to clear up any confusion or uncertainty before the electrician arrives.

It may also be to your advantage to install money-saving electrical features when possible. For example, if you’re installing new light fixtures, consider installing LED lights rather than less efficient incandescent light bulbs. Dimmers and motion-detection systems may also help your energy bill. These may help to offset the cost of electrical work, helping you to win back some of the money you spent on your investment.

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