Electricial Projects: When To DIY And When To Call A Professional

Walk into any chain home improvement store, turn down the electrical supply aisle and you will see all the necessary fixing for a 200-amp service installation-service cable, electrical panels, circuit breakers, even meter enclosures. Next stroll over to the ‘do it yourself’ reference section and you might find a step-by-step book full of illustrated instructions you will need in order to complete that service upgrade. But is that all you need to know?

Your local home improvement store exists on the premises all jobs, no matter how complex or dangerous, can be done by the homeowner. Rows and rows of outlets, switches, dimmers, light fixtures, and more attest to this fact. Does this mean it is acceptable for any homeowner to perform electrical work on or in their home and to what extent is that work permissible?

This raises many important questions for the homeowner worthy of a closer look because somewhere out there exists a line dividing DIY and the work of a professional. Hopefully, some of the following information will help define the location of that line.


A quick search on-line to any municipal website will unearth requirements with wording such as,

“No person shall do any wiring for the installation of any device, appliance or apparatus for the utilization of light, heat, power, or alarm system unless the person has an electrician license issued by the County of Westchester”.

“An electrical job permit is required to do any electrical work in the Town of ______________. The applicant shall file with the Building Inspector a completed application form with a description of the work, any plans or diagrams that the Building Inspector deems necessary, and the permit fee established by resolution….”


At the heart of the issue, without an electrical permit, building officials do not know what to inspect because the installation has been performed essentially off their radar. Without inspections to ensure code-compliance, dangerous electrical installations performed by do-it-yourselfers remain hidden and uncorrected, sometimes for years and often with catastrophic consequences.

On the surface electrical work may look relatively easy, but there is a reason electrical contractors’ study for years to assemble some mastery over the Code (which is revised every three years). If they are competent enough to pass an arduous exam, they are then required to take lengthy continuing education classes in order to maintain their license, year after year. A book can never render you this grade of experience.


Additionally most electrical utilities will only respond to registered, licensed electrical contractors when submitting work requests, filing jobs, request a shutdown etc. Homeowners are still encouraged in report outages and abnormalities in service, but repairs deemed the responsibility of the homeowner can only be completed by a licensed electrical contractor.


Other than changing light bulbs, what work can a homeowner complete on their own?  A few parameters should be considered before tackling home projects on the DIY side.

·    Risk vs. Risk Aversion. Electrical work can be dangerous, do you know electrical safety procedures?

·    What is your ability? Are you mechanically inclined?

·    How much knowledge do you possess specific to the task at hand?

·    Do you possess the experience or is this ‘over your head’?

·    Budgetary Concerns. Are you willing to pay twice if your work must be corrected?

·    The Time Factor-Is the money saved worth the time invested when most electrical contractors can do it in half the time?


·    DIY-LED Faceplates. Advances in technology have evolved to include faceplates for wall outlets that double as LED night lights that are so smart, they know when to shut themselves off during daylight hours. These faceplates are battery free night lights and, in most cases, only require the ability to turn a screw to change the plate without exposing the installer to any electrical current.

·    DIY-LED lamps Upgrade all the fixtures in your home with LED lamps (bulbs) that will cut consumption costs dramatically.

·    DIY-smart plug-in modules These plug-in devices only require an app and programming that will allow you control lamp lighting from your phone in an assortment of useful ways from anywhere in the world.

·    DIY-surge protection (outlet plug-in only, not plug strips used for circuit expansion) Ask for Level 3 plug-in Surge Protection.

·    DIY-Wi-Fi extenders. After some programming, plug these into outlets located in strategic areas to improve Wi-Fi signal around your house.

·    DIY-smart doorbell systems. Due to the lower voltage at most doorbell buttons, anyone can safety install a camera enabled doorbell button programmable with the manufacturer’s app.

The line between DIY and role of the electrical contractor can appear fuzzy at times but always protect yourself and your loved one from home grown electrical installations gone wrong. When in doubt, at least do yourself the favor and call an electrical contractor-in all cases estimates are free at Lippolis Electric. Lippolis Electric has just such trained individuals standing by waiting for your call.



Lippolis Electric, Inc. | 538 Route 22, Pawling, NY 12564 | 845-855-1426 | lippoliselectric.com