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Should You Hire a Residential or Commercial Electrician? Why It Matters

residential vs commercial

Residential or Commercial: The Key Differences

As you are gearing up for the next upgrade to your home or business, you may need to hire a Gilroy electrician to help get the job done. Of course, when you search Google for an “electrician near me,” you will find all kinds of options, including residential electricians and commercial electricians. Which type of electrical contractors should you use for your next project?


Read on to learn more about the difference between residential and commercial electricians and why this distinction matters.


Residential vs. Commercial Electricians: What Are They?

As you dive into the differences between commercial and residential electricians, you will find that they have many commonalities. The foundational education, experience, and skillset mostly transfer from one title to another. Of course, several significant differences exist that will impact which type of electrical contractors you want to hire.


What is a Commercial Electrician?

A commercial electrician installs, repairs, and updates electrical systems and other electrical components in commercial buildings. They work with things like transformers, receptacles, lighting, generators, and other electric machines. The most common commercial buildings are schools, hotels, retail stores, office parks, and industrial facilities.


What is a Residential Electrician?

A residential electrician also installs, repairs, and updates electrical systems. Instead of working in a commercial space, these electrical contractors primarily work in residential properties like single-family homes, condos, apartments, and townhomes.


Residential or Commercial: What is the Difference?

The definition of commercial and residential electricians makes it seem like these types of specialties are only different in name. While it may be true that they have many similarities, commercial and residential electricians work in distinct environments, have varied education, and manage different responsibilities. Knowing whether you should hire a residential or commercial electrician comes down to these factors.


Work Environments

Just as the different titles suggest, commercial and residential electricians work in separate environments. You will likely see residential electricians working on construction sites for new homes, apartment complexes, and condos. They also work in existing homes, helping fix damaged components, updating new systems, or installing fresh electronics. Residential electricians learn to respect the homeowner’s personal property and space while on the job.


Commercial electricians work on commercial sites like retail centers or office complexes and complete maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. Commercial electricians often have to work early in the morning or late at night to avoid their clients’ operating hours.



Becoming a residential or commercial electrician includes similar educational paths. Both jobs require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED and an apprenticeship or tech school plus an apprenticeship.


Where things differ is in the types of apprenticeships the electrician-in-training considers. A residential electrician will seek experience working in new or existing residential properties, and a commercial electrician will learn from a company that operates in commercial buildings.


Earning the title of “certified electrician” in California also distinguishes between residential and commercial electricians. California offers various levels of certification for electrical contractors. A certified residential electrician must earn 4,800 hours of experience across two chosen specialties and pass a 210-minute, 80-question exam. This certification does not certify the electrician to work on commercial projects.


To be a certified commercial electrician, the person must complete 8,000 hours of on-the-job experience across two specialties and pass a 270-minute, 100-question exam. An electrician-in-training can choose both residential and commercial projects as their specialties and work in both areas.


Job Responsibilities

Due to the nature of the work environments and training, you will need a residential or commercial electrician to handle different kinds of work. For example, residential electricians typically work with standard electrical systems using between 110 and 240 volts. A commercial electrician may work with similar systems but also deals with voltage systems that exceed 240 volts.


Residential electricians work with smaller wiring systems in homes than commercial electricians use in businesses and commercial properties. They both deal with different codes for installation and maintenance.


Residential or Commercial: Who Should I Hire?

The simple way to determine if you should hire a residential or commercial electrician is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the electrician be working in a residence or commercial property?

  • Does the project involve a voltage system with more than 240 volts?

  • Does the project require special training or a general certification?


Once you understand how these two titles differ, it becomes easy to see which option is suitable for your project. You want to hire the right person for the job, which is why it matters who you hire.


The important thing is that you hire someone with the proper certification to complete your task. You might find plenty of handymen who have electrical experience and are willing to take on various electrical projects. These "electricians" might seem like a less expensive and more straightforward option, but they put you at greater risk in the long run.


Certified electricians have the proper training and experience to complete the job safely. Did you know that there are over 4,000 non-fatal electrical injuries, 400 reported electrocutions, and 200 deaths each year due to electrical accidents? Certified electricians are trained to do things the right way to avoid damage or injury. They also carry insurance, so you are not held responsible if something does happen.


Residential or Commercial: Get the Best of Both Worlds

At Watson’s Charging Stations & Electric, we have a team of electricians with experience in both the commercial and residential worlds. Our team is fully licensed, certified, and insured to give you the peace of mind you deserve.


If you are looking for an electrician in Gilroy, CA, or the Santa Clara Valley, try Watson’s Charging Stations & Electric. We have the experience and professionalism to complete your electrical project both at home and on the job site, from installing an electric vehicle charging station to upgrading your electrical panel to repairing broken receptacles throughout your property. Give us a call to get a free consultation and take the first step toward a professionally completed electrical project.