If your electrical switch, light switch or wall outlet has stopped working, or you want to add new outlets or replace a circuit breaker, an electrician is the best person for the job. Even though it's possible for homeowners to repair or install electrical switches and outlets themselves, electrical work is often difficult and dangerous and requires special tools. Many people prefer not to tinker with their electrical system for safety reasons. Unlike Wile E. Coyote, you don't have endless lives. So unless you're a knowledgeable electrician—don't mess with anything beyond the basics in order to save money. For any kind of electrical rewiring, tinkering with an electric fireplace, hanging new lights, or installing new fixtures…definitely call in a pro. It's not worth the shock.
The total price for repairing or installing electrical switches or wall outlets include labor costs, parts and location. Specialized outlets and unearthed electrical problems will likely increase the costs. It's usually difficult for an electrician to provide an estimate before examining the problem because it may be more complex than a broken switch or outlet. However, on average, a homeowner can expect to spend anywhere between $50 and $150 to fix a broken switch or outlet.
Installing or replacing an electrical outlet is one of the simpler electrical tasks in any home, taking on average just 15-30 minutes to complete. The electrician will probably completely turn off the electricity at the breaker before starting the job, and will check for signs of failing or dangerous wiring near the outlet. The type of light switch you need replaced or the type of outlet replacement you need will affect the overall cost of an electrical service repair, as will several other factors.
For a light switch, dimmer switch or outlet repair job, customers mainly pay for the electrician's time, expertise and overhead. In most cases, switch or outlet repair is an easy fix. Most electricians charge an hourly rate for labor; fixing or replacing just one outlet or adding a new switch should take an hour or less on average, and very few parts are usually required.
Because the job can be performed so quickly, many electricians will charge a minimum service fee to cover the overhead associated with a service call. Other electricians charge a flat fee for the job. Either way, labor accounts for most of the cost. The average cost for a visit from an electrician ranges from $50 to $135; the exact price will vary depending on the area and the project.
The price of parts for switch or outlet repair is minimal, usually under $20, on average. Some electricians bundle parts into an overall flat rate for the job and most will happily give you free quotes. If you're having multiple switches or outlets repaired, or new ones installed, you may get a volume discount on the new parts.
Repair costs can be higher if an outlet is in a ceiling or floor because it's a more challenging task. The electrician may need to cut holes in the ceiling or floor to access the outlet or wiring, and the customer will have to pay to repair those cuts. Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection outlets, meant to be installed in potentially wet areas such as bathrooms and porches, are also slightly more expensive on average to repair.
Electric service panel upgrades
Specialized outlets dedicated to appliances such as ranges, dryers and air conditioners are typically more expensive to repair and install than standard outlets. Installing a new, larger 220-volt outlet, for example, requires larger wire, which makes it more expensive than installing a standard outlet. Together, the outlet, wiring, box and labor average $100-$200 and typically take less than an hour.
This job may also require updating an old, possibly out-of-code electrical panel, especially if you have an older home and are upgrading to a modern appliance. The minimum requirement for an electrical breaker panel is 100 amps to support today's appliances, but they also are available in 150-, 200- and 400-amp capacities. Work with the electrician to determine the right capacity panel for your home; it should exceed your electricity needs so you don't overwhelm the system and trip the breakers, causing an outage or even a fire. The larger the home, the higher capacity your electrical panel should handle.
If you're upgrading from an old 60-amp or 100-amp panel to a 200-amp panel, expect the electrician to also install a new meter, disconnect, wire, piping and a weather head.
The average cost for installing or upgrading an electrical panel is around $1,500, but may be more if you're replacing an old panel with glass fuses. Labor is usually the most significant cost because the panel itself usually costs around $400, on average.
If you want to be able to control a light or a ceiling fan from different places in a room, or at the top and bottom of a stairway, you might ask your electrician to install a three-way wall switch. This job usually takes less than an hour and requires minimal new wiring, two switches, and any boxes that need to be installed or changed. It usually costs between $100 and $250, on average.
More extensive repairs
Sometimes a broken outlet or switch is just a symptom of a larger problem. For example, the problem could lie in the electrical box or the wiring going to the electrical panel. In either case, repair costs will likely be higher. Installing new wiring, for example, is often complicated by difficulty accessing the wall space, and can become significantly more expensive if the electrical board needs to be updated or replaced to accommodate the increased amount of electrical wiring in the home.
Have the electrician fix multiple problems at once to maximize the value of the service visit charge, including installing new outlets or fixing faulty switches throughout your home as well as addressing any electrical issues on your home's exterior or in the yard's hardscaping. Also, prepare your home so the electrician's time — and your money — is spent only on handling the electrical job, rather than clearing access to the electrical panel. Finally, consider installing money-saving electrical fixtures that reduce energy consumption, such as fluorescent light bulbs and motion detector switches on outdoor lighting.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right electrical contractor for your project. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.