Transitioning from Residential to a Commercial Electrical Contractor


Author: Brett Knox
April 3, 2024 - 4 MIN. READ


Commercial electrical contractors are in high demand as the need for safe and modern electrical systems grows. Our latest blog post explores these contractors' key challenges and responsibilities, and how adopting the right strategies can result in a competitive advantage.

If you are a residential electrical contractor thinking about transitioning into the commercial market, there are several things to consider. The first question is which market segment will you enter? Hospitals, schools, commercial real estate, retail, and even multi-family properties are only a sample of the sectors in need of commercial electrical contractors. As electrification grows, working as a commercial electrical contractor is emerging as a gratifying career in high demand.

Let's look at the responsibilities and challenges of working as a commercial electrical contractor.

Understanding the Role of a Commercial Electrical Contractor

Commercial electrical contractors design, install, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair electrical systems. These systems can include EV chargers, solar, lighting, HVAC, and automation controls, as well as substations and other elements of the power distribution infrastructure.

With a projected growth of 6% in employment by 2032, there is a high demand for these skills as more public and private customers invest in modern electrical systems. Besides supporting electrification goals, electrical contractors create unique value by leveraging their expertise to install key systems safely according to electrical and building codes.

Project Planning and Execution

Technology is supporting project planning and execution with tools that streamline budgeting, acquisition, assigning tasks, and more. Contractors with solid project planning skills can gain a competitive edge by completing projects on time and on budget. They can also stand out thanks to their ability to collaborate with other stakeholders, issue accurate quotes, and anticipate risks.

Electrical System Design and Installation

Commercial electrical contractors possess unique expertise in designing and installing complex electrical systems that meet or exceed code requirements.

This requires the ability to assess the electrical needs of a building and performing load calculations. You must also be able to develop or update electrical schematics and select the right equipment to install.

The building automation market is predicted to grow to $6.63 billion by 2026. Contractors who are comfortable with the latest connected technologies can stand out by designing innovative systems.

Maintenance and Repairs

Maintenance and repairs are another essential aspect of a commercial electrical contractor's job. Routine inspections, preventive maintenance, repairs, and upgrades are crucial for addressing safety issues and ensuring the optimal performance of electrical systems.

Electrical contractors diagnose and address common issues, including electrical surges, damaged wiring, overheating, or systems that no longer meet safety and compliance requirements.

Safety and Compliance

As a contractor, you're uniquely positioned to protect buildings and people from electrical hazards. This requires designing and maintaining systems that meet safety and compliance requirements.

A thorough understanding of the NEC code and OSHA safety rules will make you a valuable partner for safe electrification. You also have an important role in creating a safe job site by implementing OSHA safety rules for handling electrical components.

A few examples of best safety practices include restricting access to electrical equipment, selecting materials with the proper rating, and implementing circuit protection requirements.

Technological Advancements and Training

Technological advancements are transforming the role of commercial electrical contractors. While these innovations create new opportunities, they also underline the need for ongoing training and upskilling as electrical systems grow in complexity.

Emerging technologies include smart buildings that leverage building automation data, utilize microgrids or nanogrids, and systems that incorporate renewable energy in the form of Distributed Energy Resources. Electrification needs are also changing as more projects involve use cases like heat pumps, electric appliances, and EV charging.

Budget Management and Cost Control

Developing strong budget management skills will help you stand out as a contractor. Besides predicting costs and issuing accurate quotes, these skills will result in detailed predictions for your own bottom line.

Budget management entails assessing the cost of materials, labor, and overhead. You can control costs by adopting a strategic approach to acquisition, prioritizing underground installations, considering cheaper materials when appropriate, or designing three-wire systems to save on grounding materials.

Communication and Client Relations

Successful electrical contractors are partners who can communicate and collaborate with clients and other project stakeholders, such as building contractors, engineers, or architects.

Assessing risks as a team, delivering updates, and collaborating throughout the project become even more important as electrification and building projects grow in complexity. Establishing strong relationships with clients and other contractors will enhance project outcomes and result in repeat business.

Challenges Faced by Commercial Electrical Contractors

Working in a demanding environment, dealing with tight project deadlines, and navigating increasingly complex regulations are only a few challenges commercial electrical contractors face. Labor challenges and inflation are creating additional barriers.

As a contractor, it's important to acknowledge these challenges and adopt proven solutions. Developing well-documented processes, focusing on project planning, updating your purchasing strategy, and investing in workforce training can go a long way in mitigating these challenges.

Win More Commercial Jobs and Make More Profit

There is a high demand for electrification and other electrical services, and working as an electrical contractor is a rewarding career path. While there are challenges associated with this changing industry, contractors can unlock growth by seeking upskilling opportunities and staying up to date with the latest trends.

If you transition into commercial projects, you can win more jobs and increase your profits by lowering the prices you pay for electrical equipment, materials, and supplies.

How? Join a purchasing program like Raiven. Companies like Raiven combine the buying power of all their members and negotiate deep discounts, service terms, and supply chain priorities so you pay less on all your everyday purchases. Since Raiven does all the supplier negotiations, you don’t have to spend

Gain access to pre-negotiated discounts of 7%-30% from industry-leading manufacturers and distributors like ABB, alpscontrols, ChargePoint, Ferguson, Grainger, Graybar, Home Depot, HD Supply, Lowe’s, Schneider Electric, Sunbelt Rentals, United Rentals, and more. This extensive network of suppliers can help you reduce out-of-stock situations and save money.

Raiven is dedicated to serving electrical contractors, offering special pricing agreements on electrical equipment, parts, and maintenance supplies, along with a streamlined purchasing platform for swift and efficient purchasing. Other key benefits:

  • Stay informed with supply chain alerts that notify you of price fluctuations and changes in product availability for the supplies that matter most to your operations.
  • Simplify your purchasing process by accessing all your preferred suppliers in one private marketplace, providing you with easy access to your negotiated discounts. Say goodbye to the hassle of navigating multiple websites to compare prices.
  • Utilize our AI-powered purchasing tools, which automatically locate the lowest prices, ensuring cost savings even when your employees shop outside of your preferred supplier network.

Raiven is your all-in-one solution to save both time and money. Explore what Raiven can offer you by visiting the Raiven platform and discovering the benefits for your business.