There are different types of electricians, each specializing in a different area. Most electricians who perform services in homes are called low-voltage electricians. These workers often install and repair common appliances and also maintain systems such as burglar alarms. Low voltage is usually defined as less that 1 kilovolt, or 1,000 volts. Many states require electricians to be certified before they can legally perform work involving low-voltage wiring.
The purpose of low-voltage electrician certification is to ensure that contractors perform the installation and maintenance of devices such as burglar alarms and landscape lighting correctly. Safety is one of the major reasons for this certification. Even though low-voltage wiring is usually not as dangerous as high-voltage installations, improper wiring can cause risks such as electrical shocks and fires. Certification allows states to verify that employees have both the education and experience to perform low-voltage work.
States have slightly different application processes for contractors who wish to gain low-voltage electrician certification. Generally, applicants must contact the state licensing board to obtain an application. Personal information including details of any previous criminal activity is required because many low-voltage electricians deal with burglar alarms and security systems. Applicants must show that they have low-voltage installation experience under the supervision of another licensed contractor and must also pass a low-voltage electrician knowledge test to be certified.
State low-voltage certification boards require electricians to pay fees to become licensed. In California, the fee for this certification is set at $250. Some states charge both an application fee and a testing fee. North Carolina, for instance, charges $75 for the application and also $60 for the actual certification, as of July 2011. Check with state certification boards to verify total fees.
Not all states classify low-voltage electricians the same way, and some do not specifically require this type of certification. For example, California uses a single certification to cover all low-voltage electrical contractors, including those who install alarm systems. The state of New York requires certification for security alarm and fire alarm installers, but does not require low-voltage contractors performing other work to be certified. Virginia classifies all low-voltage and high-voltage electricians as a single occupation and requires advanced certification for workers performing any type of electrical installation.
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