Are old light switches and power outlets costing your business money?

Do older light switches and power outlets actually use more electricity? To our knowledge, that’s not an issue. But older switches and outlets have caused serious grief to several of our clients recently, especially for some of our commercial clients in Edmond and Oklahoma City.

Many of these clients have an internal maintenance staff who helps perform much of the routine building maintenance. This helps these properties keep their overall costs down, and we typically step in to help with large projects and times when licensed professionals are required.

But we’ve seen dozens of cases in the past year where something as simple as an old light switch or power outlet failing caused a waste of time, energy, and resources for the clients.

A broken light switch could make it appear like the light bulbs, light fixtures, or the ballasts aren’t working properly. Often the internal maintenance team may spend an hour or two trying to solve the problem before calling out an electrical contractor. What did that two hours cost our client? What else could their staff have been doing?

A faulty power outlet can make all outlets wired in that circuit appear to be inoperable. Potential causes could be a breaker that’s tripped, or even a GFI outlet that needs to be reset. We have again seen cases where building maintenance has spent one to two hours trying to diagnose the problem internally before referring to an electrical contractor. And in most cases, it’s a waste of internal resources.

Potential solutions

Light switches and power outlets are typically designed to last for ten to fifteen years. Many properties have devices and outlets in place that are much older than this. It’s inevitable that they’ll deteriorate over time, so eventually replacing them is the necessary solution.

The cost of each device is relatively small, and the amount of labor needed to change each switch and outlet is minimal. For a well-planned project where all materials are purchased in bulk and the workflow is planned, the cost per device replaced could be very reasonable.

Having a licensed contractor come out and replace them one at a time, however, can become quite a costly proposition. Most contractors have a service fee or trip charge in place, and paying that on each visit can be a nuisance. The contractor may also have to spend additional time determining the specific device causing the current problem. A skilled electrician can do this in a matter of minutes.

Do you need a licensed electrical contractor for this?

That’s a tough question for us to answer. We don’t make laws, and we’re not legal experts! You’d probably get five slightly different answers if you asked five different electrical contractors, none of them a simple “yes” or “no.” Some places we know of with very capable building maintenance have used internal staff to change out aged outlets and light switches and had a lot of success.

Whether you should outsource this or handle it internally is a decision for each organization to make themselves. We think you should base that decision on how much faith you have in your internal staff and whether or not this is an efficient use of your resources.

In the past, we’ve helped several clients with projects like these, modernizing aging devices and preventatively addressing those imminent future issues. If you’d prefer to use a licensed electrician for this project, give us a call.

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