Replacing an electrical receptacle; photo courtesy Brian Jenkins
This article was updated on 09/12/20.
Changing a cover plate is easy for just about anyone to do. But after completing a residential electrical repair course, youll be able to perform far more challenging tasks around your house.
You can learn to replace an old receptacle, wire a split receptacle, change a light fixture, change a switch, install a dimmer, or change an existing ceiling fan. In most states and municipalities, homeowners are legally allowed to modify minor electrical wiring but it is always a good idea to check your local electrical building code.
However, if youre not an expert, you should DEFINITELY still hire an electrician to alter wiring in walls, install hard-wired appliances, replace circuit breakers, splice between junction boxes, and other complicated tasks.
Always Work Safety
According to Electrical Safety Foundation International president Brett Brenner, Working with electricity requires thorough planning and extreme care and cutting corners can be a costly mistake. Many electrocutions and home electrical fires can be prevented simply by understanding basic electrical safety principles and adhering to safe practices.
Many community colleges offer residential wiring courses. The typical course includes training in wiring homes, room additions, and garages. The courses also teach students to perform simple repairs and they typically involve hands-on training in wiring. A course at one community college includes five sessions and costs $145.
Courses usually cover the basic requirements of the National Electrical Code for 120v and 240v applications, including three-way and four-way switches, GFCI receptacles, wall receptacles, correct wire placement, correct terminations to outlets and switches, and more. Youll learn what building codes allow and dont allow.
Some courses prepare students for the Homeowners Electrical Exam, which is provided by many municipalities around the country.
Homeowners Electrical Exam
The short Homeowners Electrical Exam offered by select cities and towns allow unlicensed homeowners to perform electrical work at their own residences (permits and inspections are still required). The exams typically have from 10 to 30 questions and are based on the National Electrical Code.
Offices overseeing building and electrical work, typically at the county or city level, provide the exams. The Homeowners Electrical Exam is not available at all localities; they are offered mostly in populous metro areas, understandably.
The examinations and temporary licenses are given in conjunction with applying for a permit to perform work on a specific electrical project. In most localities, the electrical work is limited to single-family detached homes.
Southern California Regional Occupational Centers & Programs
The SoCal Regional Occupational Center, operated by the California Department of Education, offers a Residential Electrical Wiring course. The course covers fundamentals like electrical installation and related skills, tools and instrumentation, safety standards, and terminology.
The course reviews electrical theory, interpretation of blueprints and schematics, industry mathematics, and the application of electrical laws. Students acquire skills in a lab setting on a simulated residential structure.
Fee-based Courses on the Internet
A typical fee-based course includes an introduction to electrical installations and covers subjects like planning for circuit installation, ground fault circuit interrupters, and residential wiring. Youll learn the basics of electrical installation as well as the various types of lighting fixtures and their installation requirements.
Do-It-Yourself Electrical Tool Kit
A basic electrical tool kit for your home costs about $100. Essentials for the electrical tool kit include wire strippers, wire cutters, voltage tester, screwdrivers, electrical tape, wire nuts, mounting screws, face plate screws, and cover plates.
Include a fish tape if you might get involved in an ambitious project involving pulling wires through walls through conduit.
Learning some do-it-yourself homeowner's electrical training saves you money because a huge chunk of the bill is always labor. However, you must first learn the basics about electricity and always follow electrical safety procedures.
About the Author:
Brian Jenkins writes about careers in the electrical field for the Riley Guide.
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Kelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.