Electricity is not an easy thing to work with. Unlike wood, drywall and paint, you can’t touch electricity or work with it directly; unlike the water within plumbing, you can’t see electricity, and there is very little indication that something is going wrong until catastrophe strikes. Making an electrical mistake is likely to give you a painful shock at best and light your home on fire at worst.
Yet, every home in America needs electricity to function, and many home DIY projects rely on some electrical work to complete. If electricity is so difficult and dangerous, do you need to call an electrician every time you want to open an outlet?
Fortunately, the answer to that question is a resounding “no.” There are plenty of home electrical projects that you can do yourself, without much risk to life, limb or lot. Still, it is important that you understand the difference between an electrical project you can handle and one that requires professional assistance — which you can learn by reading on.
What Is Your Experience Level?
Your first consideration when determining whether you can tackle an electrical project on your own is: How much do you know about electricity? If you consider electricity to be a sort of uncontrollable magic, you might not be well-equipped to manage any electrical DIY. However, if you have worked with electricity before or maintain a career adjacent to electricity (like engineering), you likely have the knowledge and experience necessary to tackle beginner and perhaps intermediate electrical challenges around your home.
What Is Your Confidence Level?
Even if you don’t have much direct experience with electricity, you should be able to manage simple electrical projects if you are a seasoned DIYer with confidence in your ability to learn new skills and solve problems. Confidence is key in any home DIY, so if you can muster up some bravery and self-assurance in the face of electrical work, you shouldn’t have much trouble completing basic tasks.
Do You Know Anyone Who Can Help?
Research shows that true mastery of a skill all but requires a knowledgeable and experienced coach. If you know someone who is better versed at electrical work than you are, you should ask them to give you some guidance during your first few electrical projects. Ideally, they should show you how to do the work in person and supervise you as you repeat their steps, but as long as they are on call for questions and advice, you should see the benefits of having a coach help you learn more about your home’s electrical system.
How High Is Your Budget?
Electricians don’t come cheap. Because electricity is complex and somewhat dangerous, skilled professional electricians can charge between $50 and $100 per hour; as a result, basic electrical jobs can cost somewhere between $150 and $500. Considering that this doesn’t include the cost of materials like wire, outlets or light fixtures, you might need to save up if you want to outsource your electrical work.
How Much Time Do You Have?
DIY projects save you the money and hassle of hiring a professional, but they also are a drain on your time. Especially when you are a beginner, it can take hours to complete even a simple electrical project. If your time is already at a premium thanks to other responsibilities, you might not find the value in trying to manage your own electrical projects. It is also worth considering whether you could make more money devoting the same time to your career than you would spend hiring an electrician to do the work for you.
What Type of Electrical Project Are You Hoping to Tackle?
To get a sense of what kind of electrical work you can achieve as a beginner, here’s a list of some entry-level electrical projects:
Replacing a light fixture. Because the wiring to the light fixture is already installed, you only need to remove the old fixture and reattach the wires to complete this job.
Installing a ceiling fan. Many houses already have wiring going to a box in the ceiling for a fan. If this is your circumstance, installing a new fan should be simple. You can also manage the task of replacing outdated fans with new ceiling fans with lights.
Replacing outlets and light switches. If you want to add dimmers to your home or add other features to your switches and outlets, replacing the old with new is a straightforward chore.
More intense electrical jobs, like installing a new light or outlet, replacing old wiring or adding a circuit to your home, should only be done by those with more skill and knowledge — probably a professional.
You shouldn’t be deathly afraid of the electricity in your home, but you should harbor a healthy respect for its power. By recognizing your ability and your limitations, you should be able to find some electrical projects to DIY — and some electrical projects to outsource to experts.