Smoke decector circuit, and why are electricians so expensive?

Hi Folks,
Is it normal for an electrician to tie in some new lights to the existing smoke detector circuit, which used to be dedicated only to the smoke detector system? I told them I thought it safer to leave the smoke detector circuit alone and run a new circuit but they said they do it all the time.
Second question related to cost of electrician: I am being charged $800 labor for putting in 3 plugs, connecting 4 recessed lights (for which I had already cut holes and attached fixtures), and 2 switches. They also put in a thermostat wire which is just stapling a wire to a joist and I guess took about 3 minutes. Is this normal? The electrician showed up with one assistant who was not an electrician but helped out. However it seems they are charging me $50/hr X 2, labor for the electrician and the assistant. Should I complain? Thanks,
-- Jeff
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On 6 Sep 2004 05:02:20 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Jeff) wrote:

What a waste! All you have to do is ask the people in the Home Depot electrical aisle what you need and how to do it. The pros there will guide you through any wiring task.
Why hire a pro when there's what? 3 wires (at the most) for each connection?
Barry
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(Jeff) wrote:

Pros and Home Depot in the same sentence,, that is an interesting. I have never seen information given by the box stores to be up to code for our local area. One guy even said it was ok to run 12 thhn across the attic with out conduit for an 220 volt load..
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wrote:

It was sarcastic.
How often to you see "Help, I been ripped off by a <insert skilled tradesperson here>, what should I do?" post on this newsgroup?
The post is usually put up by someone who: 1.) Did ZERO homework BEFORE hiring the contractor. 2.) Dosen't mention their location. Labor rates vary by locale and country. $800 US? in San Diego? in Texarkana? Canadian Dollars? Bermuda Dollars? 3.) Dosen't understand that experienced, skilled trades in many areas make excellent money, and don't come cheap. 4.) Got one bid, and didn't check references. 5.) Had no idea what the ballpark cost might be, and can't believe things cost what they do. 6.) May have genuinely been ripped off by an unscrupulous contractor, but if they had done #1, they wouldn't have set themselves up as shark bait.
Once they realized just how over their heads they are, while standing in the HD electrical aisle, they could go to the service desk. These folks would be better served getting steered toward "Home Depot Authorized Contractors", as it's easy, and they can go back to them to bitch. They won't necessarily get the best price or the best workmanship, but at least it would be easy, and they wouldn't have to actually learn about the job, or get multiple bids.
Barry
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(Jeff) wrote:

Perhaps even more bizarre is how the poster thinks a pro could tell someone of unknown knowledge and ability how to do their own electrical work in a few minutes without even seeing the job.
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It's not normal to do , in fact it's totally abnormal when you've paid for a new circuit.

It's normal to pay for manpower. 50.00 x 2 sounds low. But I can't believe this took 8 hours.
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It is probably closer to 65/45 ratio, but the total is about right. Electricians do make a fairly decent dollar as they should, but don't think that $100 an hour went into their pockets. As your boss what labor costs at your job and what they would charge for you. Oft the top, 15% of the money goes to self employment tax. Then you factor in the overhead, truck, insurance, travel time, there is not as much left as people think. The electrician we use at work charges $75 an hour for himself.
I have no idea if the total time was good as I can't see exactly what they did or had to do.
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Yes, you are allowed to have lights on smoke detector circuits. The reasoning is that by having lights on the circuit, you would notice if the circuit is somehow turned off and left off. It would be a reminder to turn the breaker back on, so that you can't accidentally leave it off for an extended period of time. I wouldn't put anything major on that circuit, since a fire caused by that circuit could blow the fuse and shut down your smoke detectors.
Sure, you can do your own electrical service, with effort and time and small risk. Many here do that, mostly for entertainment. The risk rises if you don't put in enough effort to learn all you need to know and do things carefully. For example with smoke detectors, watch out for attached alarm system wires, which may not run on 120v AC current. Factoring all the effort needed to learn how to do things right, cost savings over a lifetime may or may not be worth your time. But it is entertaining.
Regarding those costs, it is hard to say. Sometimes the intangibles like circuit mapping and planning take more time than you anticipate. But I agree, it seems a little high.
Dave

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You asked for a estimate before they started, right?? If you did not, you have no one to blame but yourself! If it took the time they billed you for the price is not out of line. Greg
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Jeff wrote:

How long were they actually on the job? Sometimes running a wire takes 3 times longer than you expect.
Unless there were extrordinary difficulies running the wires, It sounds like they used a "book rate" for "installing new outlet" x 3, "installing recessed light" x 4, etc., and it had nothing at all to do with the actual time on the job, plus they billed it as if each piece was being done separately. After screwing you for everything else, they maybe did the thermostat wire for free. ;-)
$100 per hour doesn't sound too bad, but all that sounds like an hour of work rather than 8. But I wasn't there to see how much trouble they had with firestops in the wall, and fishing cable through the ceiling space, etc. Maybe (unlikely, imho) they took all day to do the job so they could do it without destroying your walls and ceilings.
Bob
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