This article was crafted with the help of Kolb Electric, Inc.

There are certain aspects of home ownership and maintenance that are easily tackled by homeowners with do-it-yourself skills. However, when it comes to electricity, issues are best left to a professional. “It is much less expensive to have the work done in the first place by an electrician on a non-emergency basis than to run into serious problems, which usually occur after hours, require emergency service, and are often pricey,” advises Gus Boesl of Kolb Electric in Washington, DC and the surrounding area. Add to those elements the danger of shock or death from accidentally mishandling electrical components or old, tricky wiring, and you’ll be sure to think twice about risking your own safety versus calling a qualified electrician.

Reasons to call an electrician

Many homeowners call an electrician for switches and receptacles that no longer work, circuit breakers that trip, and the installation of new devices. The most common installation requests electricians deal with are fixtures, ceiling and attic fans, and outdoor lighting, Gus says.

If you are looking to install a brand-new outlet or fixture, you are likely already planning to contact a reputable electrician. But what about when electrical issues creep up on you? Learn to identify electrical problems before they become a major hazard by these signs:

  • The fluctuation of electrical current, marked by unusual dimming or flashes of brightness in lights, is a good indicator of a problem on a circuit.
  • Frequent tripping of GFCI receptacles often indicates a larger issue.
  • Any electrical mechanism that stops functioning is indicative of a problem that needs addressing.

Because electricity can be so dangerous, it is important not to ignore warning signs. In fact, certain situations require the immediate shut-off of the power:

  • Sparks or flames from a device or fixture.
  • The smell of something burning that cannot be linked to an obvious source.

What to expect

Before the arrival of an electrician, Gus recommends clearing away clutter from the areas in which work is being conducted. “An electrician can do his job quicker and more efficiently if he is operating in areas that are free of furniture and other items.” Once an electrician identifies and diagnoses a problem, he or she will tell you what steps come next. Typically, light electrical work, such as repairing a device or replacing a receptacle, will not require invasive labor, but heavier work might, like the installation of a ceiling fan. Please note that if cutting through drywall is required to properly complete electrical work, electricians are generally not trained to do carpentry repairs; you will likely need to take care of repairs yourself after the electrical problem has been addressed, so consider this when budgeting the total cost of work.

Prevention of electrical problems

According to Gus, one of the best ways to prevent future electrical problems is by installing a whole-house surge protector, saving you from power surges. Gus also recommends the following:

  • Annual safety inspections to make sure receptacles and wiring are clean and working properly.
  • Properly marking your panel to help determine if issues are occurring with individual or multiple circuits.
  • Knowledge of location and how to reset GFCI receptacles.

When considering the advantages and disadvantages of calling an electrician versus tackling the problem yourself, Gus warns that it is probably best left to a professional. “Electricity is not something that you want to play with if you are not experienced, because the work can be quite dangerous.”

This article was crafted with the help of Kolb Electric, Inc., a Northern Virginia and Maryland expert in Electricians. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.

Click Here to view your local Best Pick™ Electricians