When do I need a licensed electrician? Part 2

Open ceiling showing multiple lights and large HVAC ducting

In our last post titled “When Do I Need To Hire A Licensed Electrician? Part 1” we started the discussion on the importance of hiring a licensed electrician to perform any electrical work in your home or business. That article included some common issues that arise when unlicensed contractors cut corners to try to save time and money. In this month’s article we’ll go over some basic electrical knowledge and safety points to keep in mind.

Understanding basic electrical terms like voltage and amperage promotes safety but that is not enough to understand that capacity of your panel vs the power demands of your appliances and electronics as well as the limitations of your electrical system.  As part of the learning and licensing for electricians, they are trained and taught the calculations and demands as well as the risks when demand exceeds capacity.  Ensuring a panel can support the load is critical for any home, office, restaurant, location. Overloading circuits or using incorrect materials to modify your electrical system can cause serious damage and fires. The electrician’s responsibility of calculating load capacities and thorough understanding of electrical codes removes the risks of electrical hazards for you.

Electrician explaining a process to residential customer


Voltage is the “pressure” or driving force of the electrons moving through a circuit from one point to another. To think of it in a relatable way, voltage is like the speed limit of the road electricity is travelling on. A normal residential home operates primarily on 110 volts and typically has 220 volts available for certain appliances such as the clothes dryer or oven. 

Unlike in your house, electrical systems in a commercial setting can vary greatly dependent on the intended use for the building. A typical restaurant, office or warehouse operates on a mixture of 110 volts and 220 volts. Many larger appliances used in restaurants, computer database systems and equipment like conveyors or air compressors run on 220 volts. Some larger commercial buildings have 480 volts available for more powerful equipment. It’s also common for 480 volts and higher to be used to send more power over long distances before being reduced using a transformer.



Amperage is the amount of electric current passing over a period of time. The flow of Amperes in a circuit can be imagined like the flow of cars passing from point A to point B over a section of road. The capacity rated in amps is like the number of lanes on that road.

Higher capacity circuits require larger wires and switchgear, like more lanes needed on a highway, than lower capacity circuits that provide less power. Overloading your electrical circuits can lead to increased wear on your components and risk of failure. Therefore, it’s important to understand the ampere loads of electrical items you need to use and the capacity of the circuits you run them on.

Resetting or checking breaker in residential electrical box
Resetting or checking breaker in residential electrical box

Power Demands

Most homes in the United States operate on 100 amps of total power supply. In some cases, homeowners can elect to upgrade their electrical service to 200 amps to provide more capacity. This is necessary in larger homes that have more appliances, lights and other electronics running at the same time. Homes with garages may also benefit from an upgraded 200-amp service for tools and equipment that require a large amperage load. 

Small household items can require 1-20 amps each while larger appliances like water heaters, clothes dryers and ovens can draw 15-60 amps while in use.

Many businesses will need 200-400 amps of service at minimum and far more circuits with larger wiring and switchgear. 

It’s clear that cutting corners that could affect the capacity and safety of your electrical system. Understanding and planning for power requirements is crucial whenever you are making changes or adding appliances. Licensed electricians like Sansbury Electric are here to make sure that you have what you need to safely power everything in your home or business. 

Give us a call at 301-920-0595 or complete the form on our contact page to receive your free quote. 

Sansbury Electric is a small, locally-owned business, with over 30 years of experience that have served Washington, D.C, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware since 2010. Our team is known for our high-quality electrical services with a team that delivers a client focused experience. Honesty, ease for the client, friendliness, and an on-time and on-budget experience are the core values that drive our day-to-day interactions.

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