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What Do Electricians Do?

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March 5, 2015

“Smart homes” help to expand the trade.

Electricians are among the most crucial trade workers in modern society, and their work is expanding thanks to the trend of computerized building automation and so-called “smart homes.”

Electricians install and maintain electrical power, communications, lighting and building control systems in homes, image of an electriciancommercial, institutional and industrial buildings. Their duties typically include:

  • Reading blueprints and technical schematics, which show the location of circuits, outlets, panel boards and electrical equipment.
  • Installing/repairing/replacing wiring, controls and lighting systems.
  • Installing/maintaining/repairing electrical equipment such as transformers and circuit breakers.
  • Troubleshooting electrical problems using a variety of electronic testing instruments.

As with other trades, the work is varied and rises in complexity as the buildings get larger and their electrical systems more complicated. Electricians do everything from install ceiling fans to repair the electronic controllers on industrial robots.

Residential electricians install wiring and troubleshoot electrical problems in peoples’ homes. Those who work in new-home construction install outlets and provide access to power where needed. Those who work in maintenance and remodeling typically repair and replace faulty equipment. For example, if a circuit breaker repeatedly trips after being reset, electricians determine the reason and fix it. They may replace items such as circuit breakers, fuses, switches, electrical and electronic components, or wire. They may rewire a home and replace an old fuse box with a new circuit breaker box to accommodate additional appliances, or they may install new lighting and other electric household items, such as ceiling fans.

Commercial and industrial building owners frequently hire large companies that can provide crews of electricians to install, maintain and repair large motors, equipment, and control systems in businesses and factories. Experienced electricians may work with building engineers and architects to help design electrical systems for new construction. They use their knowledge of electrical systems to help these facilities run safely and efficiently. To minimize equipment failure, commercial-industrial electricians often perform scheduled maintenance.

There is a big difference between construction work and the service side of the trade. Installing electrical systems in newly constructed buildings is less complicated than maintaining a system in existing buildings. This is because electrical wiring is more easily accessible during construction. In addition, maintaining electrical equipment and systems involves identifying problems and repairing broken equipment that is sometimes difficult to reach. Maintenance work may include fixing or replacing parts, light fixtures, control systems, motors, and other types of electrical equipment.

Safe working practices must become second nature to an electrician because they routinely work around high voltages, in confined spaces or up high on rooftops, sometimes during inclement weather.

Most states and localities require electricians to be licensed. Although licensing requirements vary, electricians usually must pass an examination that tests their knowledge of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, and local and state electric and building codes.

In my next blog we’ll take a look at the key tools used by electrical trade workers.

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