Handyman ≠ Electrician

I want to start out by saying that there are amazing handymen out there. There are men and women who don’t specialize in any one area of home repair but can do just about everything and do it very well. Those individuals have my respect and admiration.


The problem is that there are many handymen out there that are tackling electrical, plumbing, and HVAC jobs that are not doing the jobs properly. The outlet they install provides power where you wanted it to. The toilet flushes like it’s supposed to. Everything seems to work when they are done. But that is the problem - everything seems fine. A year later, an improperly installed seal on your toilet floods your bathroom. The outlet that was working so well begins arcing and starts a fire. What seemed fine was actually a disaster waiting to happen.


We ran into a situation recently where a handyman was doing electrical work. The homeowner was a close friend of mine. He had a handyman doing some painting and other small repairs around his house and since this handyman was already there and my friend wanted to replace his kitchen light, he went to the local home center, bought a light, and gave it to his handyman to install. The new light never worked. And that’s a good thing because if it had worked, my friend would not have known how dangerous it was until it was too late. When one of our electricians, Jason, went over to the house he found that the new light had been wired in such a way that the entire light fixture was energized! My friend was very lucky that it had not been wired in a way that would have allowed the entire fixture to be energized and the lamp to light up. If that would have happened, nobody would have known there was a problem until they touched the light fixture, maybe to change the bulb or to clean it, and had 120 volts of electricity traveling through their body! Fortunately, Jason was able to quickly repair the wiring so that the fixture worked properly and safely.


So why do people hire a handyman to do work that should only be done by an experienced electrician? I get it. That’s why I mentioned toilet repair in the beginning of this blog. I would rather be a handyman at my own house and fix my own toilet than go through the hassle of finding a plumber and paying a plumber’s rates, although I usually regret that decision. After all, I am a very handy person. But in my own house, I am accepting the responsibility for any future disasters. But as the owner of Mid Penn Electrical Services, I would never do plumbing in your house. I would never allow anyone in my company to do plumbing for any of our customers. Why? Because, although electricians are naturally handy, we are only experts in one field.


I believe that there are two main motivations for people using a handyman instead of an electrician: convenience and price. I also believe that using a handyman for these reasons actually produces the opposite of the desired outcome. Let me explain.


The first reason is convenience. If you already have a handyman that you know and use for other things, why not use him for something small like changing your kitchen light fixture? After all, you don’t have to go through the hassle of calling around to different electricians, trying to get pricing, taking time out of your day to meet them to get an estimate, and then scheduling time for the work to be done.

But most of the time, it is much easier than you think. For example, when you call Mid Penn Electrical Services, you will be transferred to me and I will ask you a few questions about what you would like to have done. If I am not available, I typically call back within twenty minutes. For most jobs, I can give you a price right over the phone – no appointment for estimating needed! And if you want to go ahead with the work, we will do our best to find a day that is suitable for your schedule as well as ours. So, calling a qualified electrician is actually much simpler. Whether you call us or a handyman, it still takes the same amount of time to set everything up. Plus, like in the case with my friend’s light, he had to take the time to communicate what he wanted done with his handyman, make sure his handyman had access to the house, question his handyman about why the light wasn’t working, try to get a refund for the handyman’s work, and still call an electrician in the end.


The second reason is price. I will admit, a handyman’s hourly rates are going to be lower than those of a qualified electrician. There are many reasons for this including increased overhead for specialized equipment, higher insurance premiums (for the protection of the homeowner), licensing, continuing education, employee benefits (we want to hire and retain quality electricians that will best serve you), etc. But hourly rate is not the only consideration when it comes to cost of a project. You also need to consider the amount of time it will take to do the job. I’ll give you an example.


Yesterday I got a call from a general contractor that uses us for a lot of their jobs. For some reason, instead of calling us, they had their foreman, an experienced builder and very handy guy, install a LED light fixture. Something went wrong and he ended up ruining the light fixture, which is why he called me for advice. Now maybe it was cheaper per hour to pay him than one of my electricians. Even if his labor per hour costs half of our rate for an hour, we would have had this done in an hour and it would have been done right. Instead, this foreman probably had to read the instructions, install the fixture (at a much slower pace than an electrician), test the fixture, scratch his head when it didn’t work, call around for advice, go out to the store to buy a new fixture, come back and install the new fixture (probably more slowly than the first time to avoid messing up again). Fortunately for the homeowner, this was done by the general contractor so they probably absorbed the cost of this mistake because they are a very good and honest contractor.


But what if this had happened to you because you used a handyman? If his hourly rate is half of ours but it ends up taking four hours instead of one, you’ve ended up paying double what you would have for an electrician. And don’t forget the cost of the second light fixture. You can bet the handyman won’t be covering that cost.


So for your next electrical project, big or small, save your time and money by giving us a call at (717) 269-6183. You can also check out our monthly specials at www.midpennelectrical.com/specials.

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