What Tools Do Electricians Need? Where Can You Buy Them?
OVERWHELMED BY THE COST OF THE TOOLS NEEDED TO BE A COMMERCIAL ELECTRICIAN? YOU'RE NOT ALONE. LEARN WHAT TOOLS YOU REALLY NEED, AND SAVE MONEY.
February 26, 2021
Electricians need a lot of tools: wrenches and wire cutters, multimeters and plug testers, vise grips and… well, the list goes on! But this is true of any blue-collar trade—hand tools and power tools are essential to the job. You can’t do anything without them.
If you are just starting out your career as an electrician apprentice, you’re probably wondering what tools you need, and may even be hesitant about how much they will cost.
With a bit of research and careful budgeting, you can get the tools needed to fulfill your job requirements without breaking the bank.
Looking at what duties you need to fulfill as an electrician can help you identify which tools you absolutely need.
Okay, so let’s take a step back and ask the question, what do commercial electricians typically do on a jobsite? Generally speaking, an electrician should be able to do the following with either hand tools or power tools, depending on the situation:
- Install, test, and repair wiring, electrical fixtures, and equipment.
- Diagnose and repair malfunctioning systems and machinery.
- Fix circuit breakers and transformers.
- Inspect components and equipment for hazards and defects.
- Connect wires and install ground leads for equipment.
- Cut components to size and mount/install.
- Fabricate minor parts based on specifications
- Mount/install plastic and metal housings
- Trenching for laying conduit wires.
Obviously, this doesn’t account for every situation, or even the bulk of what you may do on the worksite. But you need to ensure that you have the tools necessary to do these tasks.
What are the must-have hand tools and power tools you’ll need for a job as an electrician?
First, here are the basic hand tools you’ll likely need.
- Cable cutters
- Conduit bender
- Conduit reamer
- Crescent wrench
- Fish tape and fish pole
- Flashlight and/or headlamp
- Hex keys
- Knife – some employers ban cheap knives and box cutters, but allow splicing knives and hook blades
- Labeling machine
- Level – ideally a torpedo level
- Marker – can be basic sharpies, or purpose-designed, like Milwaukee’s Inkzall products
- Nut driver set
- Pliers – channel locks, and heavy duty long-nose and side-cutting lineman’s pliers
- Plug tester
- Screwdriver set, as well as optionally a multi-tool for minor work
- Tape measure – preferably one equipped with a rare earth magnet
- Voltage detector/tester
- Wire crimper
- Wire stripper
- Wrench set, and ratchet wrenches if possible
There are some additional hand tools that are advisable to pick up, but may not be absolutely necessary starting out. These include:
- Aviation pliers and clamps
- Circuit breaker finder
- Clamp multimeter
- Electrician’s scissors
- Insulated screwdriver set
- Jab saw
- Knockout punch set
- Laser measuring tool
- Non-contact voltage tester
- Pipe reamer
- Receptacle tester
- Socket wrench set, ideally metal ratchet
- Tin snips
- Vise grips
In addition, there are some basic power tools that you’ll need in your tool bag, such as a power drill and a set of bits, and a couple power saws (cut-off, hole, portable band saw, and reciprocating or spiral). Also, you’ll need a tool belt and a tool bag, but don’t go overboard buying fancy products. As long as you can transport your tools effectively, you’re good to go.
You can find most of the tools you need at a local hardware store, but you can also do your shopping online. If cost is a concern—tools and tool sets can get pretty expensive—keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need the name brand stuff. There are tool sets as much as half the price of the more expensive name brand sets, but they come with identical tools.
You can buy an electrician tool set—which comes with most or all of the essential tools listed above—or you can buy individual tools and build your own set.
Ask any two journeymen or master electricians if you should buy a tool set or buy individual tools, and you’ll probably get two different answers. Some electricians are loyal to one tool brand, whereas other electricians have no preference at all. Some electricians use tools until they wear out, whereas other electricians frequently cycle through tools in search of the ones they find most preferable.
When it comes to tools, do what works best for you.
If you’re just starting out, you might not know what works best just yet. That’s okay—as you gain more on-the-job experience, you’ll figure it out. What you need to make sure of is that you have all the tools you need (refer to our list above) at all times.
Purchase a tool set if you…
Want a convenient, all-in-one package that has most or all the tools you need. You might have to double-check the tool requirements with your employer, and may end up buying a couple extra tools not included in the tool set, but you should be good to go for your first day on the job. Most sets come with a work belt and tool bag, two things you will need. Even a basic, relatively inexpensive Amazon tool set should work. You can build out your tools over time as you get more experience and earn more money.
Purchase tools individually if you…
Are already familiar with electrician tools and/or have a brand preference. Buying tools individually can be a bit more challenging, as you’ll have to spend some time gathering all the tools you need instead of just grabbing a set off the shelf. However, if you already know the tools and the tool brands that you want, it shouldn’t take a ton of effort. Just be sure to get everything you need!
I-TAP has relationships with vendors and students get discounts.
With some research and proper preparation—and maybe a couple Home Depot gift cards from friends and family—you’ll find that you can afford to buy the tools you need to work as a commercial electrician.
And if you’re still in the process of deciding if a career as an electrician is right for you, I-TAP can help. To learn more, contact us by calling (916) 296-9263, or by sending us a message using our contact form below!
Ready to learn a skilled trade and work on some of the most exciting commercial construction projects in California and beyond?
I-TAP is an electrical apprenticeship program that helps you find your passion, grow your skills, and place you in the perfect electrician job.