Electrician hourly rates

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I am trying to get an idea of what is a "normal" hourly rate for an electrician. My reason for asking is that I would like to find an electrician that I can use who would bill me "time and materials" -- that is, "X" amount per hour plus the cost of materials. That way, when I have electrical work that needs to be done, I can skip all of the back and forth let-me-give-you-an-estimate for each and every job. I can have the company send someone out and know they can just do the work and bill me by the hour plus materials.
For example, if an electrical contracting company said our charge is $120 for the first hour, then $80 for each hour after that, plus the cost of materials, I would be fine with that.
Today, I needed a simple job done -- replace a 30-foot length of 220V 10/3 wire that runs from the main panel box to the cut-off box outside for the AC condenser unit. It is all easily accessible in a high ceiling basement and the line needs to go through a plain cinder block wall. The line needs to be replaced because the outside insulation on the portion that is on the outside of the house is coming off almost completely leaving the black and white insulated wires exposed to the elements. I thought the person coming out would just do the work and bill me for his time and materials. Instead, he insisted on preparing a whole work order which I agreed to, and then he will come back tomorrow and do the work. The cost is $395 based on two hours of work at $175/hour (his time estimate), plus materials.
I agreed to have it done simply because I need it done, and because it is for a house I own that others live in so I want it done by a licensed electrician rather than do it myself.
But that started me wondering -- if I have a lot of other electrical work that I want done (which I do) in two other houses that I own, do I want to be paying $175 and hour for an electrician? I don't know what the company is paying it's worker, but I'm guessing less than $50 per hour. Throw another $25 per hour on for benefits, down time, or whatever and that still leaves the company making $100 an hour to cover it's overhead, insurance, etc.
I am definitely not cheap, so it's not about me wanting to nickel and dime anyone. But isn't $175 an hour for an electrician over the top?
I live in New Jersey.
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The old rule of thumb is a worker must make for the company the same income he is making for himself. Of course there are all types of variations added to this including supply and demand and "the going rate".
If the electrician earns $50.00 per hour, he must generate $50.00 for the company. Benefits will vary but can run from 35% to 50% for some unionized jobs. this will add $25.00. So far it costs $125.00. Then there is the overhead of the company such as insurance, vehicles, taxes office/warehouse space, etc. etc., including accountants, office staff, and even your quotation. He has to make a quotation as he may not have the right tools and/or supplies on hand, nor the timeframe available without looking at the job. Plus he will have to go to the supplier to get the needed items, even if he has them in stock in the office, they have to be replaced. This all costs money. $175.00 may seem high, it may also be the "going rate" in your area, but it is surprising how fast it adds up when you are running a business.
You may be able to strike a "flat rate" type of deal when you have worked up a relationship with a company, where they trust your assessment of the job enough to send a man out on your say-so, but as a first-time customer, they will not be eager unless they have no work on hand.

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Thanks for your response. I do understand what you are saying about what it really costs to operate a business. The person who came out to do the work was about 23-25 years old. My guess is that he gets paid a lot less than $50 per hour since I doubt that he makes $100,000 a year. But I picked $50 per hour just to be on the high side.
I have used plumbing companies in the past and they charged between $60 and $90 per hour plus parts, so when I heard $175 per hour it just struck me as high.
I'll definitely check around in my area and maybe I'll find that $175 an hour is not unusual.

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Consider also that a given electrician may not actually be able to find 40 hours a week of work all year round. Or that a company cannot keep all of its technicians on site all of the time.
It seems electricians cost a bit more than plumbers and the going rate in San Jose is $100 for them.
$175 for the first two hours is high but acceptable. If he had to do lots of work or wanted to charge that for an assistant too, then I would put the brakes on. As long as he is not charging for travel at that rate it might be OK also. If you live far from his office, he might build the transit and setup time into the hourly on site rate. Consider what it costs to fill the tank on a F250 or F350 work truck, it aint cheap.
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Thanks. His office/business is located about a block and a half from my house and less than 2 1/2 miles from the job site.
If his charge was $100/hour, I could understand that.
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I don't know where in N.J you live but....Try to find an electrician who will do a dinky, "low priced" job like this, and you will come up empty. Be happy you found someone just to give you a price, let alone come out and do the job. I was an Electrical Contractor in N.J. (since retired in 1999) and I never did a job of any size for less than $300 in labor, I figured on a half day, even if it took me two hours. I never worked T&M because the customer ALWAYS thought he was getting fu@ked. My policy was simple: Bid it, write it up, sign the contract, do the job, and get paid. All this bitchin on a news group (and you have the right) is "not a nice thing" to do, since the man did the job for you and came back like he said he was going to. I really want to know if the electrician took out a permit, and had the work inspected by the Municipality. (that is the law in N.J) You are the type of person that Electrical Contractors or any Contractor want to avoid, and the MAIN reason they don't return phone calls. Next time you want some work done around the house, go to, Perth Amboy, New Brunswick, Jersey City, or any city, and pull up to a corner with a sign that says: "Electrician Wanted, Will pay $100 for the day" and I am sure you will find a few takers that will start bidding at lower prices, Just remember to take your Spanish 101 book with you, supply transportation, tools, materials, and water. Oh I forgot, you are on your own as far as insurance goes, so make sure they don't get hurt, or do any damage.
ET1742 wrote:

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I think you may have missed the point.
No, they didn't get a permit. Are you saying a permit is required even if an electrician replaces an outlet or light switch, or does any other small amount of repair work in a private residence?
This was the first and only electrical contractor I called. And, yes, I was glad they answered the phone when I called, glad the owner understood what I needed to have done, and glad they said they could send someone out that day or the next morning at the latest even though it wasn't an emergency or rush job. When the kid arrived to do the work at 3:30 PM, he said it would take at least 2 or 3 hours, so he couldn't do it that day because he would be there until 6 PM. Instead, he said he'll write up a work order and come back and do it the next day. All of that took 20 or 25 minutes. The job itself took him just under 40 minutes -- start to finish. So, my thinking was simply that I thought he was coming out to do the work on the first day and if he had done it when he showed up as expected it would have taken him from 3:30 to somewhere between 4:10 and 4:30. If he then said the cost was $200 plus materials (22 feet of 220 wire), say $225, I would have thought that was fine. It would have meant that he showed up, he did the work, his charge was reasonable enough, and I could count on calling the same company again and again.
As far as, "Be happy you found someone just to give you a price, let alone come out and do the job", I was glad about that part, but I don't think I should feel thrilled about it simply because there is an electrical contractor out there who is willing to do a small job for a homeowner. Maybe we should make it easier in New Jersey for people to become licensed electricians. Then there would be more of them and I wouldn't have to feel so privileged that a licensed electrician was willing to give me a price and do a job. Maybe there should be 3 types of electrician licenses -- a licensed residential electrician (Level 1), a licensed commercial and residential electrician (Level 2), and a licensed electrical contractor (Level 3).

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Yes! They needed a permit for this job, just call your local Muncipal Construction Official and ask him, (this will cost you nothing). I agree with you that the state should have "level 1,2,3" licensing, since any romex jockey can wire a high rise building with the license thay have now. Just for peace of mind, (I feel you got a fair price for the job), just go price copper wire at Home Cheapo, then call a few electrical contractors "out of the book" and see if they return calls. Your job is done, it works, and you paid a fair price, You are a lucky man! Just check out www.MySturdyBuiltGarage.com if you want to see "jobs gone bad".
ET1742 wrote:

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I just checked out your website. Now I understand why you think I should feel so lucky about how my job turned out!
You have a lot of good evidence shown in the pictures. Any chance you considered filing a small claims lawsuit to recover some or all of your money? Small Claims doesn't cost much to file, you have good evidence that you could show the judge, and probably the worst that could happen is that you lose the case and lose the small filing fee. I don't know the maximum covered by Small Claims in Pennsylvania (or wherever you are), but even if it's more than what you paid for the garage you can usually sue there anyway and just accept the maximum as full settlement.
I especially like Number 5 of your list of tips. I learned a long time ago to NEVER give an up front deposit (unless it's something like $100 good faith deposit with the contract signing). If it's a short job, I pay in full in person on the day it is done. If it's a bigger job, I pay progress payments if necessary, but always significantly less than what the worth would be for what was done so far. I don't pay for their materials up front but have been willing to order the materials in my name, delivered to me, and paid by me, so I have and own the materials from the get-go. On a larger job (2 houses, $65,000 worth of work) I downloaded/bought a standard AIA (American Institute of Architects) contract form which we prepared and signed before doing any work. That worked like a charm during the project when the contract tried a bunch of tricks.
One thing I learned is that once someone gives a contractor a 50% deposit, the contractor already has his total profit in his hand before doing any work. So he/she has no incentive to come out and do the job since all of the rest of the money is going to go to materials and workers. Instead, the contractor focuses his time either going out and getting more deposits, or on doing jobs that won't pay him until he's done.
P.S. The garage you had built looks a lot like the "forts" and "clubhouses" we used to build out of scrap wood when we were 10-12 year-old kids.
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You might want to mention your location. An electrician in a city where the average house costs a million dollars is probably going to charge a bit more than one from a small town where the average house is under a hundred grand.
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I'm in a moderately-priced suburban area -- not million dollar homes, but at today's prices the average home price probably around $200,000.
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Yes, I think you got hosed on this. Rates will vary but the 120/80 you suggest is not out of line. The problem is finding a good electrician. The one we use at work charges $65/hr. He does not advertise at all (nor does he need to) and has an excellent reputation. You have to find someone like that by word of mouth, not from a half page ad in the Yellow Pages.
FWIW, John would have come to your house ready to work and probably had the wire in his truck. Half hour later it would be done and you'd both be $ ahead.
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Interesting. Yep, this company did have a half page ad in the Yellow Pages, which surprised me since I know where the company is located. I picked them because they happen to be around the corner from where I live and only about 2 1/2 miles from where the house is that needed the work. When I called them, I was pleased because the first person I spoke with knew exactly what I was talking about when I said what the job was (replace a 220 line, less tahn 30 feet, that goes from the main panel to the cutoff box outside). Then he switched me to a woman who was also very nice and who said she may be able to have somone come ou this afternoon to do it (I called at about 2:30 PM) or if not, definitely they could do it tomorrow morning before 12. I'm sure they were thinking what you and I were thinking -- that this is a staright forward less-than-one-hour job. Then the woman called me back and said that, yes, one of her men did free up and was on his way over to take care of it. I didn't even ask how much it would cost because I just assumed they would charge some hourly rate and the job would be done. Since they knew exactly what the job was, I thought they would already have 30 feet of 10/3 220V wire in the truck, and since it is a replacement of the existing line there are no connectors or parts involved -- maybe just some caulk where it goes through the cinder block wall.
It got strange when the guy (kid) showed up and started making it a federal case out of it, etc. I ended up just agreeing to have them do the job tomorrow even though I know the price is more than makes sense. But when I asked about my other idea of doing more work on an hourly rate basis he said their hourly rate is $175 per hour. That's what got me wondering what is a "normal" hourly rate for elelctricians.

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Shazaam, $175 an hour? Either they're too high, or I'm way too cheap.
Wonder why the unit needs 10/3? Most of the outdoor condensing units I've worked on take 10/2.
--

Christopher A. Young
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You're probably right. I thought I heard the guy (kid) say 10/3 wire so that's what I wrote. The exposed area outside shows a black wire, a white wire, and a ground wire -- so I guess that's 10/2. It's on a 30 amp double circuit breaker.
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I used to use a very competent handyman who would have charged maybe $80 for a job like that; assuming it is as simple as you say. (I do it myself now...)
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The houses I've worked on, we usually mount the disconnect box so that the wire goes into the house by way of a hole in the back of the disconnect. We then use a grey "whip" from the disconnect to the unit.
In any case, the wire that is exposed to sunlight should be grey. Which is UV resistant. Might only have to replace the wire from the disconnect to the unit, if the wire which is indoors is OK. Who said you had to replace all 30 feet of wire?
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Christopher A. Young
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The guy (kid) did say that instead of having the new wire exposed on the outside of the house he is going to do what you said -- run it through the wall from the back of the disconnect box instead of the way it is now. He also said that the current code does not allow the wire to go through the wall where the other AC lines go through the wall, so he will bring it in separately from the back of the disconnect box.

You may be right about that too. I'm going to go look at it now, but I think since part of the wire goes into the disconnect and part comes out and goes to the condenser unit, the part from inside the house to the disconnect box was also damaged. But I'll check on that.
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Well, the job is done. Yes, it did need the entire 30 feet (actually about 22 feet) replaced since that's the section that was damaged.
Whole job took under 40 minutes start to finish. So, let's see...., I paid $10 a minute for the job. Anyone have any bridges in Brooklyn that I can buy?

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I see you had it done. I just want to add a few points. First, in NJ, you can not DIY. Somehow there has a law been passed that an work on a circuit over 12 volts must be done by a licensed electrician. Thus generating more income for more permits. Also, electricians have to carry higher liability and workmen's comp. insurance. Plus electricians often charge more for "small" jobs. This builds in the travel time. I got this from an electrican doing some work for me. (buy a guy lunch and it's amazing what you can learn). Since this is a rental unit, you are better off that you had it done. A good accountant should be able to show it as a capital improvement and cut down your taxes. Bob ( who wonders if all the people working on the telephonesare licensed? ringtone = 45AC)
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