Part One: What you should know before hiring an electrician to install or replace your electrical panel

If you’re looking to upgrade the electrical service for your home, this article is for you. We caught up with James Croffut of Big Frog Electric, winner of the “Best Electrician in Gwinnett” Award for 2015 and 2016. James became an electrical helper 20 years ago in the state of Colorado, and he appreciated learning from some of the top electricians in the field. He is also thankful that his company made him go to school to learn electrical theory and how to install things properly.

After working for some local electrical contractors here in the greater Atlanta area, James knew there had to be a better way to build trust with his customers and his employees. Five years ago, he started his own electrical contracting business. Of course, we had to know how he came up with the name. James’s wife loves frogs, and since James said he wanted to be the “big dog” of his industry, they combined both names and came up with “Big Frog Electric.”

We asked James what you should know before hiring an electrician.

James advised that you should consider the following questions:

  • Are they licensed?
  • Do they provide ongoing electrical code training to their staff?
  • What is their online reputation?

Make sure that your electrician is licensed in Georgia to install services and circuit breaker panels.

James said the first thing you should be concerned about is if they have a license for the state of Georgia. Here lies the problem—many electricians state that they are licensed and insured, but the question is what kind of a license they’re talking about.

Apparently, many electricians are advertising that they have a license, but they’re referring to a “business license” and not an electrical license. You could end up unintentionally signing a contract for electrical work to be done on your home by an unlicensed electrician that is NOT recognized by the state of Georgia—and doesn’t know the electrical codes to wire it safely. That wouldn’t be good. Remember, in Georgia, all electrical work must be done by a licensed electrical contractor.

Here’s a tip to make sure that the electrician has the proper licensing. Instead of just asking if they’re licensed, ask if they have an electrical license for the state of Georgia. We asked James how to tell if they’re telling the truth—technically they could just lie about it. He answered, “Actually it’s pretty simple because you can verify it yourself. Go to the secretary of state website at All you have to do is to type their name, profession and license number to see if it is real and current.”

The other problem is that many people say they’re electricians and do electrical work for themselves on the side. Some are electrical helpers under a licensed contractor during the day, but moonlight as electricians for themselves on the side. Or they might just be a handyman that hung a few lights or changed out some switches once upon a time and now call themselves an electrician. That’s why you have to verify that your electrician is indeed a licensed electrician—if they’re not, bad things may follow.

What could happen if the electrical panel isn’t installed properly?

James told us, “Many times people will hire an unlicensed electrician to save a few bucks. Sure, they may save a few dollars upfront, but you’ll have to pay much, much more later on to fix it correctly or replace it entirely. Remember, what’s important is not that your lights turn on today… but will they be working 10 years from now?”

To illustrate his point, James shared this story.

“There was a homeowner that called us that had built their house in 2011. Four years later, in 2015 the electrical panel burned up and caught fire. Electrical panels that are installed properly should last 25 years—not 4 years! The problem? The inexperienced installer didn’t tighten the connections at the main breaker in the panel. The loose connections got hot and eventually burned the panel up.”

Now here’s the scary part. The original panel passed an electrical inspection. However, no one checked the connections to see if they were tight enough. Yes, the homeowner did save a few dollars initially, but only to pay thousands of extra dollars afterward. And that doesn’t address the inconveniences they suffered or the anxiety they had of their home possibly burning down.

The importance of ongoing electrical code training to their staff.

James informed us, “Unfortunately here in Georgia there only needs to be one license holder for the company. This means that they can hire 100 new untrained electricians to work underneath them to work on your electrical wiring. The result is the mistaken thought pattern that if it ‘turns on’ … It’s good!”

That’s why James holds electrical code classes every two weeks. Attendance is mandatory. Why so often, and why make attendance required? “The national electrical code is updated every three years,” James said. “It is almost impossible to keep up with all of the code changes without providing continual education to employees.”

So, it’s definitely to your advantage to ask if the electrician has an electrical license for the state of Georgia before letting them anywhere near your electrical panel.

How much will it cost to swap out your service?

It’s a legitimate question—how much should you expect to pay to get your service changed? James explained that prices can be all over the place because there are no regulations in place to control them. So…how can you know that you’re getting a fair price? “As an educated consumer I suggest calling three similar companies to get competitive quotes from,” James said. “Make sure that they have valid electrical licenses and proper up-to-date insurance. Make sure the quotes you compare are apples to apples and not apples to oranges.”

Apples to oranges? James said that he loses bids every day because the competition isn’t licensed, isn’t insured, or doesn’t bring the house up to code in the proposal. In other words,  it looks good on paper because the homeowner is saving money. But in reality, they could be paying for dangerous wiring that could start a fire from a company with no insurance to pay for the repairs later.

We wanted to know what James meant by bringing a house up to code, and we’ll share his answer in Part Two of this article. We’ll also tell you why some electricians can seemingly afford to install your electrical service for less. Click here to read Part Two of our interview with Big Frog Electric founder James Croffut! You can also check out Big Frog’s website here

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