Look for a company that can provide a technician who is drug free and has had a thorough criminal back groundcheck. It's not something many people think about until it's too late, but anyone who might feel uncomfortable at home alone with a service technician deserves to be safe from harm. This includes women at home alone or with small children, elderly homeowners, disabled individuals, or anyone who is concerned about personal safety and the security of their home and belongings. While it is not our intent to scare anyone, we feel obligated to mention that on occasion employees of home services contractors do commit criminal acts against homeowners. For example:
*A florida woman was killed by a registered sex offender who was performing duct cleaning in her home. If only the company hiring him would have performed a background check.
*In another instance, a service technician in the Minneapolis area was convicted on several counts for stealing from customers' homes. Not the type of guy you want to let out of your sight in your home.
*An unsuspecting housewife in Missouri hired a "Cheap Charlie" electrician only to have him call back two weeks later and make lewd remarks over the telephone. What if this guy had done more than just make telephone calls?
So as you can see selecting a company that can provide a drug free technician with no criminal background is critical. You can minimize your risk when hiring a home services contractor by going with a contractor who displays the Technical Seal of Safety. The Technical Seal of Safety symbol was established to let you know at a glance which contractors stand out from the crowd when it comes to protecting the safety of you and your family. Each company bearing the Technician Seal of Safety is a member of a professional organization that advocates the use of pre-employment background checks and drug testing as allowed by law. Now, many customers in the home services business do not bother to practice such stringent policies. But that's what distinguishes these elite contractors from the rest. When you see the Technician Seal of Safety you know your dealing with a professional who cares about your personal safety. To learn more you can check out http://www.mysafetyseal.com/
The technician should be wearing a clean, neat uniform that clearly shows the company name. He should be able to produce a picture ID or driver's license when asked. He should arrive in a well maintained, organized service truck that clearly displays the company name. The technician should be professional, courteous and polite at all times. He should keep his work area organized and clean up the entire work area when he is finished. The technician should thoroughly explain exactly what he will do to your home's electrical system and why it needs to be done. Be careful of any technician not willing to explain his work. The professional technician will be glad to take the time necessary to help you understand you home electrical system. Ask for references when you call the company to make sure their technicians are reliable, friendly, and helpful.
Beware of any electrician that asks you for payment before he starts the job. An electrician asking for an upfront payment could be financially unstable. He may be unable to buy the proper supplies or pay his employees. This is a bad situation for you. If he orders supplies and installs them in your home without paying the supplier in full you could be liable to the supplier. This could cause you to pay for the same supplies twice plus legal fees. A contractor that is financially unstable is more likely to cut corners and use sub-standard materials resulting in repair or installation that doesn't last as long as it should or meet the minimum safety standards. Many of the supplies used for electrical installation or repair look the same to the untrained eye but there are big differences in the quality and durability of those products. One example of this is your breaker panel. The main distribution point in the breaker panel is the buss bar. It is the heart of the panel and it is where all the breakers connect to the panel. Some breaker panels are manufactured with copper buss bars and some are manufactured with aluminum buss bars. As you might imagine copper is a much better product for conducting electricity so it will last longer and generate less heat than aluminum. Because copper is a superior product it costs more than aluminum. A contractor trying to cut corners will often select the cheaper breaker panel without consulting you and you may not find out for a couple of years when you start having problems with the breaker panel.
An electrician asking for an up front payment may know that he will not be able to finish the job on time or to your satisfaction. He may be trying to get as much of your money as he can before you get frustrated with him. He knows that once he has your money you will feel obligated to put up with delays or shoddy work because you don't want to pay for it twice. I have seen this happen many times over the years. Usually this is how it goes: the homeowner makes a sizable upfront payment, then, the electrician begins to do some work but after a short period of time he leaves. After several phone calls to locate him and a few days he comes back and does a little more work but leaves again. This cycle repeats and gets worse until the frustrated homeowner finally has enough. They must now start over with another electrician. Many times it is more difficult and time consuming for the next electrican than it would have been to do the job from the start. The homeowner ends up paying more money and wasting a lot more time than they should have.
Finally there are some "electricians" who are really just scam artists. They have no intention of ever doing any work; they just want to grab your cash and go. These guys are predators that usually target the elderly or other unsuspecting, trusting individuals. They give our entire industry a bad reputation and have no place in it.
In some cases it may be appropriate to pay a deposit for a special order item or a part that can't be returned. However this should be a small percentage of the total cost. If your electrician asks for a large up front payment don't use him!
Your electrician should have an electrical license for your city, county, and state. He should be able to produce copies of these when asked and you should review them to make sure they are current. The license should show the contractor's name, the license number and an expiration date. This is important for two reasons.
One, to obtain an electrical contractor's license the contractor is required to either be a certified master electrician or employ a certified master electrician. This is required so that someone in the company can interpret and apply the standards of the electrical, fire, and safety codes. These codes have been written by experts in safety and reliability. These codes provide a set of guidelines to ensure that your electrical safety system is as safe as possible. Your electrician must have a thorough understanding of these codes so that the work he does in your home will be safe. This is very important when dealing with something as potentially dangerous as electricity. No offense to my plumber friends but I don't think an improperly repaired toilet can kill you. It may be very umpleasent but not deadly. However, an improperly repaired electrical system can be very dangerous. The problem with electricity is you can't see it or smell it. You only know it's there when you get shocked. I heard about a homeowner who hired an uncertified "handyman" to repair a problem with the circuit to her whirlpool tub. The technician did not repair the problem correctly and the next time the homeowner used her whirlpool she was electrocuted. This is a very tragic story and it was totally avoidable. Had she called a licensed electrician the repair would have been done properly. That is why you need to make sure you have chosen a licensed professional.
Two, a contractor must have an electrical contractor's license to obtain an electrical permit for work. An electrical work permit is required for most new electrical installations or additions. The permit notifies the building inspection department at your city or county that work is being done. When the job is complete an inspector from the building department will inspect the work to make sure it complies with all the local safety codes. As I stated earlier most homeowners can't look at an electrical installation and determine if it was done correctly, but a certified electrical inspector can. Having an inspector check out the completed work will ensure that the work is safe. Your electrical system is too potentially dangerous to be trusted to an unlicensed handyman.
An electrical contractor should also have general liability insurance. The general liability insurance would pay for any damage caused by the contractor or any damage resulting from his work. This is important because it protects you from bearing the financial burden of repairing damage. As bad as it would be to deal with damage to your home due to something an electrician has done, it would be even worse if you or your insurance company had to pay for it. If your insurance company pays for the damage they will probably raise your rates or even cancal your insurance. Don't put yourself at risk by using an electrician without current general liability insurance.
An electrical contractor should also have worker's compensation insurance in most cases. The worker's compensation insurance would pay for the costs if the electrician was injured while working at your home. Most people don't realize that without worker's compensation insurance they would be liable for the medical costs of a worker injured in their home. How would you like to turn your spare bedroom into a recovery room for your electrician for the next several months? Not very appealing but, the point is just don't put yourself in a position where you may be liable. It is much better to use an electrician with worker's compensation insurance than to take a chance.
It is a good idea to request copies of certificates of insurance for general liability and worker's compensation. The professional electrician will have no trouble providing this for you upon request. If an electrican can't provide current proof of insurance, don't use them.
Make sure you get a guaranteed price in writing before the work begins. A professional electrician will take as much time as necessary to thoroughly analyze your job. After looking everything over he should be able to give you a guaranteed price in writing. This cannot be done over the phone. Watch out for electricians that quote prices over the phone. Electrical systems can vary greatly from house to house. An onsite analysis is the only way to determine exactly what is required to do the job properly and safely. There is often more than one way for the job to be done. The professional electrician will take the time to explain all of your options for the job and help you decide which is best for you. If the electrician quotes an hourly rate you still have no guaranty what the total cost of the job will be. The cost will depend on how long it takes him to do the job. If he has nothing else to do that day he may make your job last all day when it really should only take a couple of hours. If he's just slow, inefficient or doesn't have the right parts with him, the job will take too long and cost too much. On the other hand if he's in a hurry to finish he may make a mistake or overlook a hazardous condition. I've seen several mistakes made by technicians who were rushing to complete a job as quick as possible. When a technician is working on something as important as your electrical system he needs to be focused on making sure he gets the job right the first time. Let's say you call an electrician that works by the hour. You take time out of your busy schedule to meet him, and after a couple of hours he says it's fixed. You pay him and he's on his way. A few days later you begin to have the same problem, so you take more time out of your schedule to meet him again plus you have to pay for his time, again. You can see how this can cost extra money and take up more of your valuable time. By getting a guaranteed price up front, and in writing you have the peace of mind of knowing what the total investment will be and the technician can get the job done right the first time.
An electrician should provide a written warranty on any repair or installation in your home of at least one year. Warranties for breaker panels or main service equipment should be longer than one year. When these items are installed properly and serviced regularly they should last many years without any problems. This warranty should cover his workmanship as well as any parts or materials he supplied. If he is unwilling to do this or does not provide a warranty in writing don't use him! His warranty or lack of one will tell you something about the quality of his work, his level of skill, and the materials he uses. An electrician trying to cut corners to deliver cheap service will use inferior materials which won't perform up to the standard of quality materials. If he doesn't provide a written warranty he probably knows his "fix" isn't going to last long. What seems like a good deal because of the low initial price isn't really because you will have to pay him or someone else to fix it again. Some so-called electricians simply "fix it" so they can "fix it" again. You don't want to get into that cycle of wasting money and time. If your electrician tells you he has a warranty it is because he knows that he is highly trained expert and uses only high quality materials. This may cost a little more in the beginning but it will save you money and time in the long run. By getting a written warranty you can be assured that you won't have to pay for the same repair over and over again.
Look for an electrician that will provide a satisfaction guarantee. This will help to ensure the job will be done the way you want. Even when the electrician is professional, understands all the safety codes and provides a warranty, you will be disappointed if the job is not done neatly and to your standards. It can be very frustrating to be left with a huge mess, damage to your home, or poor workmanship. Many electrical repairs or installations can be technically correct and pass an electrical inspection but have a shoddy appearance. Your home is one of your largest investments so don't let sloppy or careless electricians diminish the value of your investment. By getting a satisfaction guarantee upfront you will be assured that everything will be done according to your standards. This puts the responsibility on the electrician to make sure you are satisfied. An electrician that provides a satisfaction guarantee will perform all of his work to the highest standards and take great care of your home throughout the process. When he knows that he won't get paid unless and until you are happy don't you think he will be motivated to do a great job?
I hope you have found this information helpful. I have been doing electrical work since 1983 and I have worked in thousands of homes over the years. I have seen the full spectrum of electrical installations from excellent to downright dangerous. I have met many individuals who claimed to be electricians, but after reviewing some of their work I wondered what gave them that idea. As in any other field there are some good and some bad; hopefully, this information will help you distinguish between them. It always bothers me when I see electrical work that a homeowner paid someone to do that was not done properly and neatly. Sometimes this work just looks bad, but sometimes it's really dangerous. Electrical systems are wonderful and provide for most of our modern conveniences but we really must understand that when they are improperly installed or serviced they become very hazardous. Please treat your home's electrical system with a prudent respect of its potential danger. When we live with something everyday like electricity it's easy to lose sight of that and become complacent. Don't let just anyone make modifications to your home's electrical system. Choose carefully who you will allow in your home, especially to work on your electrical system.
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