how to find the best electrician

How to Find the Best Electrician in the Baltimore-Washington Area

If you live in the Baltimore-Washington area, somewhere near you there’s an electrician who is expert, charges a fair price and can be relied upon when you need him. He comes with the right equipment, shows up on time and won’t frighten your live-in mother-in-law. But how do you find him?

First, you should understand your needs. Do you have an older home with a history of repair issues? Or are you constructing a new home? Do you require a highly professional company that you can trust not to track dirt onto the new rug? Are you on a tight budget? How much work do you anticipate needing over time?

Just as there are many types of electrical work, expertise and experience, there are as many requirements and expectations as there are customers. So, the trick is to match your needs with the right electrician. Using several key factors as a guide, then, here’s the Hawkins Wire guide to finding the perfect match for your electrical needs:

1. For a Simple Electrical Job at a Simple Price …

For installing or repairing a light switch, and other simple jobs, we recommend you start with Angie’s List (Link: , a directory and review site for local service providers of all sorts.

Angie’s List requires a paid membership (at this writing, a full membership costs just $9.99 for a year for D.C. and Baltimore area residents). The site offers steep discounts on various common jobs, meaning you may be able to defray some or all of the membership fee right away – and then some.

If your Angie’s List electrician does well, then you may consider contacting them next time. But don’t look for the same deal. They don’t last long.

2. If You Need an Electrician But Are On a Tight Budget …

As long as you keep safety considerations in mind – never hire an electrician who is not certified and insured – it is possible to shop around for the best deals. Keep in mind that in many cases you get what you pay for. There is a range of quality, reflected in workmanship, parts, supplies and expertise.

However, some very good companies offer discounts on common, typically simple work. Their hope is to build a relationship with a potentially long-term customer. But because they may be losing money, don’t expect any extras. If you need additional work done, you’ll pay a premium price.

For more complex work, you’ll need to discuss your project in detail. Many companies will offer to visit you and give you an estimate, but they will likely charge you a travel fee; most electricians add a charge of between $50 and $100 per job (and maybe more – it depends on your location and the distance traveled).

Over the phone you may be able to gauge which electricians understand your needs and are closest to your price goals before you arrange for an estimate. Ask if they’d be willing to subtract the travel fee from the cost of the work — some companies will do this if they get the job. But only if you ask.

3. If You Like to Shop …

Comparison shopping is easiest online. Search for electricians and visit their websites. Many companies offer online deals – see if you can find one that suits your needs. Often, these deals change with the seasons.

For that ceiling fan repair, your chances are best in the heat of summer. Check out the ads that appear while you’re searching. They may have special deals that don’t appear anywhere else.

But look closely, some deals come with hidden fees and requirements. If you see something you like, click on it but follow up by phone to confirm the deal and ensure you understand it.

4. If You Have a Complex or Critical Electrical Job …

Complex jobs include:

• Wiring for renovations and additions
• Outdoor security lighting
• Electrical panel replacements
• Aluminum wiring repair or replacement
• Complete home inspections

and much more.

Electrical construction, modification, repair or installation jobs can be more complex than many typical homeowners realize.

There are always safety issues. And the quality of work can often impact your overall project goals. You will need a professionally trained, well-equipped service provider, who can demonstrate experience and expertise.

Most important, you will want an electrician with a long track record, one who already maintains long-term relationships and is trusted in your area. Many projects may require maintenance, inspection, expansion or repair years after installation. The installing company is your best bet for this type of follow-up.

Many great companies have been around for decades, often because they provide the best overall value and service – and can be counted on long-term.

5. If You Just Don’t Want to Worry About Electrical Services at All …

Here are a few things to look for if you just want to establish a long-term relationship with one company that can handle your electrical needs now and for the future:

• A long track record – many small companies start, and often fail over a short period of time. For a long-term relationship you want a long-term company
• Ongoing training – Ask about how the company keeps up-to-date on technology and techniques. Great companies offer their technicians a program of ongoing training to ensure their expertise.
• Retention – Many large companies experience high turnover of electricians. Look for companies that keep their professionals happy and stable. They’ll be a better service provider to you in the long-run.
• Resources – Are they equipped to handle any job? Do their techs come to you with parts at the ready? Do they have bucket trucks and advanced diagnostics? Think about what your needs might be before you commit.
• Trust – What do their customers say about them? Look for testimonials and reviews. Again, a great resource is Angie’s List – their customer reviews can tell you a lot about what doing business with this company will really be like. You might disregard one or two grumpy reviewers, but if you see a pattern in the comments of multiple customers, you may want to steer clear.

Before you commit, remember this tip: If you make it clear that your electrical job is the start of a long-term relationship, some companies that have been around for a few years will reduce or waive the travel fee.

Hawkins Electric, with more than 90 years of experience serving the Baltimore-Washington area, fits in this last category. But we’re not alone. You have a wealth of options in this market, many of whom offer great service and quality for a fair price. We hope this post has been helpful in your search.

Note: This post was originally published in 2013. It was updated in June 2015.

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