With the economy still struggling for air, and unemployment rates almost twice as high now as we’ve seen over the past decade, it is not surprising that everyone is taking extra precautions to save as much money, everywhere and anyhow they can, just to play it safe. This is a great plan, and by all means, one to continue to live by. There are certain expenses, however, were taking the most economical route could very well end up being the most costly, time-consuming, and even downright dangerous route. When some things are concerned, you just can’t risk saving a few bills now when it could mean thousands of more down the road, or quite potentially, even your own personal safety and the lives of your family. One of these areas you can’t afford to skimp on is any electrical needs you may have. You need a good electrician, not just any electrician. What constitutes a good electrician?

While there is no one single factor that absolutely guarantees your electrician is tip-top, there are definitely some things to look for. Make sure your electrician either holds state certification, is a journeyman, or is licensed. What is the difference? This gets a little more complex, but stay with me.

Now, certified electricians are just that – they are certified by the state, and are awarded their certification based on knowledge and demonstrated skill. There are many different types of certification categories: residential, general, industrial, non-residential, fire/life safety, commercial, maintenance, etc. Indeed, some of these categories may vary by state, and some of the specific principals cross over from one category to the next, but it may be best to find an electrician that is certified for your particular situation.

Journeymen are certified electricians that hold certification in their specialty, but who also have completed a formal apprenticeship, and are considered competent enough to work independently on projects. This in mind, though, they may not be able to own their own company or hire and supervise other certified electricians – depending on individual state law. Journeymen therefore either work independently, or under the direction of Master Electricians.

Master electricians have more experience, and have qualified for and have fulfilled their state requirements for licensure, which often consists of more experience and passing of another (more advanced) exam. This licensing allows the electrician to apprentice others and own and operate their own company. It also means that they are bonded and insured. Depending on the complexity of your project or problem, this added layer of insurance may or may not be necessary.

But what if your job is so small that you think it’s practically menial for a certified electrician? According to the United States Fire Administration , electrical fires are responsible for nearly 500 deaths each year. If that’s not enough, consider that there are over 67,000 fires each year that have been determined to have an electrical origin. And if that’s not enough, consider over 8.5 million dollars in damage that result from these fires. That’s a whole lot that can happen with the flip of a faulty switch.

Our money is valuable, that’s why we work hard for it, and try to save it as best we can given any opportunity. And while penny-pinching may be appropriate for streamlining your cable-TV package and grocery bill, when it comes to finding a good electrician, you may find that the absolute cheapest route is literally an accident waiting to happen. Don’t put your life or your property at risk. Find a good electrician, that is suited for the type of job you have – you could end up saving more time and money, and maybe even yourself!