Commercial vs. Residential Electrician Businesses

July 26, 2021
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Professionals can work as commercial, residential and industrial electricians. In this guide, we're identifying and addressing the core differences between commercial-oriented electricians vs. residential-oriented electricians. While the titles sound similar, there are several key differences between the two.

Differences Between Commercial and Residential Electricians

There are many paths trade professionals can take within this industry, each growing in demand and experiencing continued stability. Even though a commercial and residential electrician both are "electricians" by trade, they work with different energy needs, equipment and load demands. Let's dive deeper into the differences between commercial vs. residential electrician.

Commercial electrician

The primary difference between a commercial vs. residential electrician is primarily in the products they must install. For example, suppose a commercial electrician must install raceways for a new industrial building project. Those differ from residential installations using non-metallic (NM) cabling that installs directly into the wood framing. Instead, the electrician must use metallic-clad (MC) cabling that installs into a conduit.

Typical job responsibilities:

  • Commercial electrical lighting and wiring installation
  • Electrical panel installation, maintenance and repair
  • Emergency services
  • Energy-efficient retrofits
  • General services

Residential and commercial electricians start from the same point regarding education and training. That means they could work as apprentices, attend trade schools or earn their undergraduate degrees before entering the workforce as a licensed electrician. While their roles differ in the industry, the basic foundation for commercial and residential electricians is the same.

Commercial electrician jobs are much larger than those residential electricians tackle. From office buildings to manufacturing plants, these projects require a significant amount of staffing. They also take considerably longer to complete and require a significant amount of skill.

Core differences:

  • Education: A commercial electrician must earn their high school diploma, enroll in an apprenticeship program, attend certification classes, accrue between 8,000 and 10,000 on-the-job training and pass an exam.
  • Experience: These professionals have experience with new construction installations and installing lighting, receptacles and more.
  • Typical jobs: Commercial electricians spend their time installing and repairing specific equipment—including working with breaker panels, generators, heating, lighting, transformers and more.
  • Worksite: You'll find commercial electricians working in business offices, retail locations and other commercial buildings.

Residential electrician

Residential electricians are responsible for the electrical work in single-family dwellings. That could mean calculating service demand loads, handling service calls, installing wiring, repairing wiring and more. These professionals also have experience in budgeting, creating estimates, designing lighting plans, reading and interpreting blueprints and more.

Typical job responsibilities

  • Electrical panel installation, replacement and wiring
  • Emergency services
  • General services
  • Installations, including ceiling fans, recessed lighting, showcase lighting and more
  • Residential wiring

Commercial electricians perform many of the same duties as residential electricians, except on a larger and sometimes more complex scale. That includes wiring control panels, systems, machines, and more using official blueprints. You'll find these professionals most often working in factory complexes, public buildings and other business locations.

A residential electrician is responsible for the compliance, proper finishing, and safety of every residential installation.

Core differences:

  • Education: A residential electrician must earn their high school diploma, enroll in an apprenticeship program, take certification courses, have between 8,000 and 10,000 hours of on-the-job training and pass an exam before receiving their license.
  • Experience: These professionals typically use 120 or 240-volt single-phase power tools to complete tasks.
  • Typical jobs: Besides handling the general electrical requirements, residential electricians also install fixtures and lighting, conduct electrical repairs, wire new construction and more.
  • Worksite: You'll find residential electricians working in apartments and homes.

Educational and Licensing Requirements

Even though there's a difference between a commercial and residential electrician, their educational and licensing requirements are similar. For example, the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) code 70E and National Electric Code (NEC) set the guidelines for electrical installations in the United States.

All electricians working on maintenance, remodel and repair work must be qualified persons, as defined by NFPA 70E and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These professionals must also meet licensing requirements for their state and municipality. It isn't uncommon for an electrician's work environment to classify the job their completing, which requires a risk analysis according to NFPA 70E.

Career Paths: Commercial vs. Residential Electrician

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