Producing a list of the best electrical tools is a little bit like trying to hit a moving target.Necessary electrical tools for your business change depending on whether you’re doing residential work, commercial work, or more specialized services. Meaning, everyone’s list will look a little different.For most, an electrician’s tools kit won’t set you back too much cost-wise, though the sheer number of tools can add up.
Consider buying used tools when you can to save on budget and free up your spending to buy those bigger ticket power tools that can save you a lot of time down the line.If you’re just starting out — and one of the half of young electricians opting into the trade for the job security — this guide is for you.
Even if you’re a veteran to the industry and a master electrician, this guide can still provide a reference to what tools you might need to refresh your arsenal.
A quick note before we dive in: this is a lengthy list of tools.Despite your solid business morals, you might be wondering... “Can’t I cut corners or ease into these major tool purchases?” The answer is yes, you absolutely can.
However, it’s better to buy the good tools that last longer and may even become indispensable at a future date.Nearly half of electricians — 43% — say that durability is one of their top three reasons they choose a particular tool. And like most things in this world, you get what you pay for with electrical tools.So keep that in mind as you look through some of our pricier referrals.
Millennials – us 25- to 39-year-olds — prefer to lug around fewer tools than our processors. That means the use of many multi-tools and a focus on performance regardless of the sticker price (within reason).Here they are:
1. Screwdrivers — No toolbox is complete without a full set of screwdrivers. This is a great example of where a multi-tool comes in handy. A multi-header screwdriver like the Klein 10-in-1 multi-bit screwdriver, a couple of standard screwdrivers, and a pair of snub-nose ones and you should be set.
2. Pliers (all types) — A diverse and comprehensive set of pliers is non-negotiable. You’ll want a couple of pairs of Channel Lock Pliers, a good pair of Linesman’s Pliers, Needlenose pliers, and at least one pair of diagonal cutting pliers.You’re living a life in wires, insulation, fittings, and gauges. Pliers are part of your lifeline.
3. Meters and Testers — Of course, if you’re working with current, that means you need to know when it’s flowing at all times, lest you get a nasty shock. You should try to have a variety of tools here, from the simple pen-shaped non-contact circuit tester to a full-fleshed multimeter.In the “won’t last forever” category, We’re partial to this pen-shaped Volt Meter for quick jobs. Klein also makes a very well regarded Multimeter for instances when you’re doing more than just checking for a live wire.
4. Safety Gloves — Getting seriously electrocuted is a mistake you might only get to make once. That’s why it’s important to have a pair of linesman safety gloves handy, tested and ready to use any time you’re going to be working near or with a live pole.They can run fairly pricey, but it’s cheap compared to the alternative.
5. Pipe Reamers — Reamers can help you deburr piping as well as clean out residue on plastic and PVC piping for re-use. They come in both hand and powered version as well as ones suitable for plasticversus metal.These are some of those tools that have a whole range of costs, uses, and types associated with them, so you may want to try a couple (borrow from a fellow contractor) before using. Personally, we like the hand and screwdriver versions.
6. Wire Strippers — Wire strippers are a cheap but critically important electrical tool. After all, you’re working with wire all day, cutting, stripping, and crimping. It’s the backbone of your work and the right wire strippers are an important part of that.Good tools stay out of your way. If you have to think about it, it’s probably the wrong model. Things to look for in the right wire stripper are how good its spring is, whether it has a built-in crimper and whether it has a useful screw cutter. We like Klein, Croc’s, and Ideals.
7. Fish Tape — When you have to run wire through conduit in walls, fish tape is your friend. A hard but flexible wire with a coiled mechanism, fish tape helps you push or pull wire through the walls without having to perform major wall surgery.Simply strap the wire you want to install to the tape and run it through. Then retract for re-use and easy storage. The product is available in a variety of gauges to accommodate different sizes of conduit and wire.
8. Circuit Tracer – A circuit tracer is incredibly handy when you encounter a home or business and need to, well, trace a circuit. tIt’s also good for when you encounter a service panel that doesn’t match its breaker.As with many of these tools, they run the gamut from the simple and relatively inexpensive tone-and-probe tools, to slightly more robust scanners, to multi-thousand dollar tracer kits.9. Roto Split – This specialized tool is handier than a hacksaw when it comes to removing metal clad or other armored cables. Using a vise-like mechanism and a hand crank, the Roto-Split makes quick work of MC cable runs. An incredible time saver in the right circumstances.
10. Hacksaw/Portable band saw – Of course, the Roto-Split is a very specific tool. You’ll still want a hacksaw on hand to cut through PVC and metal piping in a pinch.If you have a little extra scratch to spend, the Milwaukee Deep Cut Portable Band Saw will cut through piping – or just about anything else – in a jiff.
11. Hammer – It’s a hammer. Enough said.
12. Level – While hanging wire doesn’t need to be precisely level, it’s great to have a level on hand on hand to make sure the rest of your work is true. Having a few in the truck is a good idea, from a standard long level, to a pocket level, to a laser level that can give an easy visual representation of the balance an entire run of conduit.
13. Headlamp and Flashlights – This is sort of a no-brainer, but you’re going to be operating in a lot of dark spaces so you’ll want a quality flashlight as well as a headlamp.A mag light or similar tactical flashlight with a powerful beam is ideal on the flashlight front, while any headlamp should do. The important thing is making it easy to illuminate what you’re directly looking at.
14. Power Drill – Another no-brainer. You have to drill holes, so you’ll want a reliable portable power drill. We like the Milwaukee brand.
15. Center Punch/Knockout Tool – One of the cheapest tools on this list is also one of the most critical. A center punch is necessary for drilling holes in metal correctly, which you’ll need to do to run conduit and add channels to utility boxes.Alternatively, you can purchase a hydraulic knockout punch tool to accomplish a similar result (albeit at a higher price point).
These basic electrical tools represent a huge range, from basic tools that cost a couple of bucks (center punch, level, utility knife) to big-ticket items that require some serious cheddar (circuit tracer, Roto Split, portable band saw).
Just remember that expensive tools are an investment in your future and part of the bet you place on the success of your business. If you start with cheaper tools — or hand tools instead of powered in some cases — borrow the powered version and compare.Did the expensive tool make the job go faster?
How much faster? How does that compare to your hourly rate? In this way, you can easily calculate how soon between purchasing you’ll make your money back. This is a great way to take a hard-nosed look at the value of your tool investments.In most cases, a pricey tool will end up making you money in the long run.
There’s one tool we didn’t address here because it doesn’t have to do with conduits or wire, except in the most abstract sense.But if you want your business (and bottom line) to grow, it’s as essential of a tool for electrical business as a pair of pliers are.
Field service software for electricians like FieldPulse allows you to seamlessly schedule jobs, schedule workers, make fast estimates, schedule follow-ups, and invoice and get paid all in a mobile-friendly platform so you can manage work from the truck as easily as the office.Our 14-day free trial is fully featured. Try it out today and start earning more money for your business.