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

In Part 1 of this article, James Croffut of Big Frog Electric shared his advice for hiring an electrician to upgrade your electrical service or install a new circuit breaker panel. In Part 2 we’re going to pick up where we left off, and we’ll carry on by talking about why some electricians can charge a lot less than others, why James turns down some jobs, why you shouldn’t keep resetting that tripped circuit breaker, and why you should be concerned if your electrician uses contractors.

Before choosing an electrician to install a 200 amp electrical service for your home…

James warns us to ask the following questions:

  • Will they be bringing your home up to the currently enforced electrical code?
  • Do they have the right insurance?
  • Do they use employees or subcontractors?
  • Are their employees on salary or sales commission?

Some common mistakes when upgrading services or changing out electrical panels

Today’s electrical code requires that an overcurrent device, such as a main electrical breaker, be installed on the outside of the house. However, many homes built in the 80s or early 90s don’t have this overcurrent device because it wasn’t required at the time. Why should this concern you, you may ask? James told us, “It means that the wire that goes from the electrical meter outside all the way into your home’s electrical panel indoors is unfused, unprotected, and can cause a house fire.”

How does this affect you when getting an estimate to upgrade your service?

Let’s pretend that you have an older home with no overcurrent protection on the outside. If you want to upgrade your service, you’ll need to install an outdoor main circuit breaker by law. However, an inexperienced electrician may simply change out your panel and NOT install an exterior means to turn off your power. Now you can see why their quote will be cheaper. But remember, this won’t pass an electrical inspection and will create a potential fire risk.

Many inexperienced electricians do not realize what else is required after the installation of the exterior breaker. When an electrical panel is installed and an exterior breaker is added, the rest of the house’s wiring needs to be brought up to code as well.

That means that:

  • The electrical grounding must be brought up to code.
  • GFIs must be added and installed per the code.
  • Smoke detectors must be added and installed per the code.
  • Any 110-volt outlets that are replaced or 110-volt circuits that are added in the living area now require arc fault circuit breakers.

Now you can see why estimates to upgrade an electrical service or change the panel out can vary a lot in price. An inexperienced, unlicensed electrician might overlook all of these necessary code requirements. This is why you have to make sure to compare “apples to apples” and not just look at the price alone.

Why James may say no thanks to some electrical jobs

A licensed electrician is held responsible for ALL of your wiring if they do any work on your home. This means if your electrical contractor tells you about risky wiring or code violations but you don’t want to fix them, a professional electrician will walk away from the job. James told us that he will not work on homes that have old Federal Pacific breaker panels or aluminum wire unless the homeowner is willing to update their system to today’s code.

“It’s my license, it’s my livelihood, it’s my reputation, and it’s my conscience,” he said. “I don’t want to work on a house with existing bad wiring that’s a fire risk that the customer isn’t willing to pay to fix. We have walked away from a lot of business because of this.”

He went on to explain that this is another reason that his company loses bids. “We may lose the job because the customer is not comparing apples to apples on the bids. They are comparing panel change out quotes that do meet the code with lower priced quotes that don’t meet the code.”

James reminds us that the national electrical code is the minimum requirement for doing electrical work. The absolute minimum. On the other hand, James likes to install electrical work above and beyond the minimum. This protects you as a homeowner. Does the contractor you’re considering have a similar philosophy?

Do you have a circuit breaker that keeps tripping?

An inexperienced electrician may just reset the circuit breaker without finding out why it tripped. The problem with that is that constantly resetting the tripped breaker will eventually weaken the overload protection mechanical device inside the breaker. In short, that means that the breaker is no longer protecting you. That’s why James trains his people to find out WHY breakers trip. He teaches them to open up the panel and the device to see what the problem is. Why does he do this? James understands that when an electrician touches an electrical system, he or she is held accountable for anything that happens afterward.

Another mistake an inexperienced, unlicensed electrician might make is to simply put in a larger fuse or circuit breaker to prevent it from tripping again. But the wire is rated for the original breaker size only. This means that a bigger breaker will allow more electrical current than is safe. It could heat up the wire and cause a house fire.

The lesson? Hire only licensed electricians to work on your home’s wiring.

Do they have valid insurance?

It is important to verify proof of insurance. With today’s technology, anyone can print out a piece of paper that looks like an insurance policy. James suggested, “You should actually call the insurance company to see if their insurance policy is valid and paid up-to-date. Remember to insist on checking both general liability insurance as well as workers’ compensation.”

Do they use employees or subcontractors?

James told us that some electrical contractors are trying to save money and use subcontractors to do the work. However, many of these electricians are undocumented workers that do not pay taxes or have insurance. So they can charge a lower rate to wire your house.

That’s why James insists on hiring legal workers that pay taxes and that are covered by insurance. James believes in paying his workers a livable wage, not $50 a day like many are making as subcontractors. James said it’s hard to compete against illegal subcontractors. So, be sure to ask if employees or subcontractors will be working at your home. If the company will use subcontractors, ask to see proof of insurance that covers them all.

Are their electrical workers on commission or salary?

It’s surprising, but many local electrical businesses pay their installers a commission to sell you things, just like a car dealership would pay a car salesman. If your technician has a financial incentive, they may try to sell you things that you don’t need. That’s why all of James’s people are salaried employees. This means the customer has no need to fear being upsold. The electrician’s job is to educate you as the customer so you can make informed decisions.


Electrical fires are one of the biggest causes for home insurance claims. Take the time to research your electrical contractor before hiring them. We hope these tips will be helpful to you in choosing the best electrician to upgrade the panels or electrical service for your Atlanta home! To get in touch with Big Frog Electric, check out their website!  

If you’re looking for insurance for your home, we can help! Contact us today by calling or filling out our quote form and we’ll get you a free quote and make sure that all of your insurance needs are covered.

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

Got insurance questions? Want a free quote? Drop us a line, we’d love to help!