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It’s Time to Get an Electrical License… Now!

Smart switches, energy storage, electrical vehicles, clean energy management are all intersecting in the smart home. Integrators can no longer ignore the inevitable need for a line voltage component to their business. Am I wrong?

It’s Time to Get an Electrical License… Now!
Nowadays, the market opportunities for integrators with electrical licenses go way beyond simple flat panel TV mounting.

Jason Knott · February 19, 2019

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time for every custom integration companies to seriously consider getting an electrical license.

The smart home market is changing so rapidly that having a line-voltage license will not only offer you a certain level of insulation from outside market influences, but also open up an even broader market potential for your company.

According to CE Pro’s latest readership data, 31 percent of custom electronics integration companies already have high-voltage electrical licenses. Hooray! For years, having that ability to do line voltage work without juggling your schedule around another trade has offered quite a bit of flexibility.

Indeed, when the flat panel trend first started, having an electrical license was a real advantage. Since most older homes were never meant to have an electrical outlet high up on the wall, low-top-the-ground plugs needed to be relocated to be directly behind the TV. 

Dealers with line voltage licensing didn’t need to wait around for an electrician to make that relatively simple change.

But today, the market opportunities for integrators with electrical licenses goes way beyond simple flat panel TV mounting. Let’s look at a few of them:

Smart Light Switches

"According to CE Pro’s latest readership data, 31 percent of custom electronics integration companies already have high-voltage electrical licenses. Hooray!"


Companies like Lutron, Leviton, Noon Home and Brilliant have brought the brains of the smart home into what used to be a simple light switch.

Today, the smart light switch controls not just multiple lighting scenes, but is an intercom, alarm interface, and smart lock controller. The smart light switch provides weather alerts and can adjust the thermostat… all using voice control is some cases.

But… you need to have an electrical license to install these smart switches. Why would you want to be shut out of that potential market?

Lighting Fixtures


We all know that the biggest sea change taking place in the lighting market is low-voltage LED fixtures. This is a category where integrators are encroaching on the tried-and-true electricians’ realm by being able to install cost-efficient, beautiful, IP-controllable low-voltage LED light fixtures without the need for an electrical license.

Led by buying groups like HTSA, Azione, and ProSource, custom integrators are getting a crash course on lighting design that will enable them to break forcefully into this market.

But why stop with just the low-voltage fixtures? Integrators with an electrical license will be able to ply their skills across all forms of lighting, including line voltage fixtures.

PoE Wiring


Do you think the electricians are going to idly sit by tapping their fingers while low-voltage integrators take a chunk of their market (and their revenues, along with thehigh profit margin built in to the fixture business)? No way.

Already in states like New Jersey electricians are lobbying for legislation that will forbid anyone but an electrician from running Category X cable in a home because it has the potential of carrying PoE signals to various devices in the home. If you have an electrical license, you can’t be shut out if these lobbying efforts succeed.

Energy Storage


Companies like RoseWater Energy Group and Sonnen are banking on energy automation as one of the next great waves for this industry. And why not? There is no trade positioned better than the custom installation community to manage energy loads in a smart home environment.

Dealers can intelligently program systems to lighten electrical load usage during peak usage hours, and conversely set up various appliances and other systems to run during off-peak times, when utilities’ time-of-day rates are lower.

Read Next: Why You Might Thank Metallica for Your Next Trained Technician

Moreover, the emphasis from utilities for more clean energy generation from solar, wind and geothermal is going to create the potential for partnerships between integrators and local utilities, not to mention green community developers. 

Intelligent Electrical Breakers
 

Hand in hand with energy storage is smart electrical breakers. Companies like Savant with its Racepoint Energy smart breakers will allow integrators to design smart homes that can open and close individual electrical loads remotely or intelligently by referencing the utilities rates and draw on the power grid. 

When electric vehicles start becoming more commonplace from manufacturers like Volkswagen and others, the need for intelligent electrical load energy management will be in high demand.

I know many integrators have strong partnerships with their local electrician. That is a start. Also, in many states getting an electrical license is an arduous process, requiring years of apprenticeship and journeyman training. But in most states you can hire a licensed electrician as a member of your team and utilize his or her license for your company.

Those are just some of the reasons I believe the time is now to get an electrical license for your company. Am I right or wrong?



2019 State of the Industry Special Report - CE Pro Download

The custom electronics industry saw a healthy 8 percent growth rate in 2018, down slightly from the blazing 11 percent growth in 2017 but still admiringly strong. Our 2019 State of the Industry indicates that readers expect to see even more growth in 2019. Get your copy today.




  About the Author

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at jason.knott@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


Business · Business Operations · Blogs · Electrical · Energy Management · Quest For Quality Awards · Smart Home · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by highfigh on February 20, 2019

Yeah, “Get an electrical license NOW!”- sure, that takes no time. Anyone can tell us to do something NOW, but without understanding the reality, it’s meaningless. IBEW will defend itself to the death and if low voltage contractors try to step on their toes, it won’t be pretty. It’s bad enough when LV installers, who generally aren’t union members,have to go to a union work site and are harassed & taunted on the way in but it’s worse when the union guys damage our work. Yes, it happens. I asked a client about automating their lights in the new kitchen and they declined, but they accepted the electrician’s recommendation for the same light switches, even though the electrician didn’t bother to give them any of the value-added features. It was an easy $1600 for them and I would love to have been able to make that sale. I can, however, add those very features and when I saw the electrician yesterday, I told him I was doing exactly that.

Electricians don’t usually get into LV unless they see $$$, whether they understand what is needed, or not. Usually, it’s a case of ‘not’. More for us, right? Maybe- depends on what they used for lighting control- low voltage lighting isn’t the same as 120VAC to the switch & bulbs and most of the smart controls don’t work with that.

Posted by leonard.lowe-llc on February 19, 2019

In our state, Georgia, Licensing is separated for Low Voltage and Line Voltage [actually 2 levels of Line Voltage].  Licensing isn’t arduous, but documentation of experience and passing exams is required.

Posted by Robert JS on February 19, 2019

Yes and no. Depends on the State and AHJ. I see more lighting systems (like Lumastream) are becoming low voltage. In my state (I am a 06 Limited Energy Systems Electrical Contractor BTW) anything 70v and under is low voltage ( 70v+ is where shock becomes lethal, and I can replace light switches if they are of like kind, I just can’t create or add to a line voltage circuit. If States change regulations and put low voltage contractors out of work that will be challenged in the courts. Will IBEW attempt to lobby for protection…. always. Though right now with the shortage of licensed electrical workers, the trade can’t handle the demand as it is, just imagine if they had to handle all of the low voltage work. Electricians are already licensed to do low voltage but generally don’t possess the skills for it and don’t want to learn our trade.

Posted by Robert JS on February 19, 2019

Yes and no. Depends on the State and AHJ. I see more lighting systems (like Lumastream) are becoming low voltage. In my state (I am a 06 Limited Energy Systems Electrical Contractor BTW) anything 70v and under is low voltage ( 70v+ is where shock becomes lethal, and I can replace light switches if they are of like kind, I just can’t create or add to a line voltage circuit. If States change regulations and put low voltage contractors out of work that will be challenged in the courts. Will IBEW attempt to lobby for protection…. always. Though right now with the shortage of licensed electrical workers, the trade can’t handle the demand as it is, just imagine if they had to handle all of the low voltage work. Electricians are already licensed to do low voltage but generally don’t possess the skills for it and don’t want to learn our trade.

Posted by leonard.lowe-llc on February 19, 2019

In our state, Georgia, Licensing is separated for Low Voltage and Line Voltage [actually 2 levels of Line Voltage].  Licensing isn’t arduous, but documentation of experience and passing exams is required.

Posted by highfigh on February 20, 2019

Yeah, “Get an electrical license NOW!”- sure, that takes no time. Anyone can tell us to do something NOW, but without understanding the reality, it’s meaningless. IBEW will defend itself to the death and if low voltage contractors try to step on their toes, it won’t be pretty. It’s bad enough when LV installers, who generally aren’t union members,have to go to a union work site and are harassed & taunted on the way in but it’s worse when the union guys damage our work. Yes, it happens. I asked a client about automating their lights in the new kitchen and they declined, but they accepted the electrician’s recommendation for the same light switches, even though the electrician didn’t bother to give them any of the value-added features. It was an easy $1600 for them and I would love to have been able to make that sale. I can, however, add those very features and when I saw the electrician yesterday, I told him I was doing exactly that.

Electricians don’t usually get into LV unless they see $$$, whether they understand what is needed, or not. Usually, it’s a case of ‘not’. More for us, right? Maybe- depends on what they used for lighting control- low voltage lighting isn’t the same as 120VAC to the switch & bulbs and most of the smart controls don’t work with that.