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Finding a Qualified Electrician
Faulty wiring is a fire waiting to happen. That's reason enough to hire an experienced electrician, but not the only one. Although wiring might seem like a black-and-white proposition—either the light goes on or it doesn't—it's actually a vast interdependent network. Circuits that are otherwise safe but poorly designed can damage appliance motors and electronic gear because they deliver the wrong amperage. Lights on even partially overloaded circuits can flicker when an appliance is in use, or the breaker may trip or the fuse might blow, shutting down the circuit entirely. Hiring an experienced electrician can help you avoid these problems.
Finding a qualified electrician is easier than finding the right carpenter or plumber. You can assume a certain level of competence when an electrician shows you his state license, but there are two degrees of pro to consider. A master electrician has passed a standardized test and has at least two years of experience under his belt. He knows the National Electrical Code and any modifications that your state has made to it. He is qualified to plan, design, install and maintain an electrical system for your project. A journeyman electrician hasn't qualified for a master's license, but he too is licensed by the state. (Some states require journeymen electricians to work with a master electrician.) By law, he cannot design systems but can install wiring and equipment.
There's another layer in the safety net. Most electrical work requires a permit issued by your local building department. Before the building inspector can sign off on the work, the inspector must take a look at it to see if it's up to code.
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