How to Save Money by Installing your Own Electrical System

Installing your own electrical system can seem daunting, but with the right planning and precautions, it can also help you save a lot of money on electrician fees. As someone who recently installed several new electrical circuits in my home, I learned firsthand both the challenges and rewards of DIY electrical work. In this guide, I'll share everything I learned so you can decide if a DIY electrical project is right for you.

Is it Legal to Do Your Own Electrical Work?

The first question many homeowners have is whether it's even legal for a non-licensed person to do their own electrical installations and repairs. The answer varies depending on where you live.

In most cases, homeowners are allowed to obtain permits and do minor electrical work on their own property. However, the work must meet all local building codes and pass inspection by the local building department. Major electrical projects like new construction or complete rewiring should be left to licensed professionals.

Before starting any electrical project, be sure to research your local building codes and permit requirements. Failing to get proper permits can jeopardize insurance coverage and lead to fines.

Dangers and Precautions for DIY Electrical Work

Working with electricity can be extremely dangerous if proper precautions aren't taken. Some key safety tips include:

Rushing through a DIY electrical job or ignoring safety protocols can easily lead to fire, shock, or electrocution hazards. If you don't feel completely confident in your skills, hire a professional.

Essential Skills and Supplies

In addition to safety knowledge, completing a successful DIY electrical project requires the right skills and tools:



Investing in professional grade tools will make your electrical projects easier. You should also have access to key reference materials like the National Electrical Code book.

Step-by-Step Installation Process

The basic process for adding new wiring or circuits is fairly straightforward:

1. Turn Off Power

Turn off power at the main breaker panel and verify it's off with a voltage tester. If needed, also turn off the main water lines in case plumbing work is required.

2. Plan the New Circuit

Draw up plans showing where the new wires will run and how they will connect. Get permits if required.

3. Mount the New Breaker Box

Install a new dedicated breaker box for the circuit if needed. Follow manufacturer's instructions.

4. Run Cables

Run the new circuit wires through walls, ceilings, and floors as needed. Use staples/ties to secure.

5. Terminate the Wires

Connect the wire ends to the appropriate breakers, outlets, switches and fixtures using approved connectors.

6. Inspect and Test

Verify all connections are tight and insulated. Check for cable staples and debris cleanup.

7. Restore Power and Test

Turn power back on and thoroughly test the new circuit. Make any final adjustments.

Common DIY Electrical Projects

Here are some of the most popular beginner electrical projects for homeowners:

Adding Circuits

Extra lighting and appliance circuits are one of the most useful upgrades. Carefully plan new 15 to 20 amp circuits based on expected load.

Upgrading Service Panel

Modern 200 amp panels provide capacity for larger homes. Hire an electrician if the home's electrical service needs upgrading.

Installing Receptacles

Add outlets in garages, kitchens, and bedrooms for convenience. Follow codes for outlet location and spacing.

Running Wire Molding

Plastic wire channels allow surface mounting wires in finished areas. Great for additions like pendant lights.

Hardwiring Smoke Alarms

Hardwired alarms are more reliable than battery power. Use 14/2 cable and interconnect units for best protection.

Adding a Subpanel

Detached sheds and garages may require a dedicated subpanel instead of running long feeder cables.

Is DIY Worth the Effort and Risk?

After completing my own projects, I can confidently say that DIY electrical work provides an immense sense of personal satisfaction. The work wasn't quick or easy, but the hundreds of dollars saved in electrician fees made it worthwhile.

However, the risks involved mean DIY is not the best choice for everyone. Hiring a trained electrician is often smarter, especially for homeowners who aren't experienced with electrical systems. For those willing to take the proper precautions though, a well-planned DIY electrical project can pay for itself in cost savings alone.