7 of the most essential electrician's tools (plus skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Electricians are highly skilled in a wide range of tasks, from re-wiring residential properties safely to installing high-tech CCTV systems and security in commercial buildings. To carry out their jobs to the best of their ability, electricians require a tool kit to bring to every location. Electrical tool kits contain a wide variety of tools to suit every purpose, whether you're working on a small residential job or a large-scale industrial project. In this article, we look at what an electrician does, explore seven of the most essential electrician's tools and discuss the essential skills that an electrician requires.

What does an electrician do?

Before looking at the most essential electrician's tools, it's useful to look at what an electrician does. Electricians test, instal and inspect electrical equipment to ensure it's functional and safe to use. Electricians work in residential, commercial and industrial properties of all sizes and carry out a wide range of duties, from installing CCTV systems in offices to laying cables on a building site or re-wiring a house. A job as an electrician can be physically demanding and most electricians work up to 40 hours per week. But, for safety reasons, electricians often work overtime to avoid leaving jobs unfinished.

Related: 5 tips to writing a standout electrical engineer CV

7 of the most essential electrician's tools

Below, you can find a list of seven of the most essential electrician's tools:

1. Pliers

Most electricians have an array of pliers in their toolboxes for specific tasks, including gripping, twisting and clipping. The most commonly used types of pliers include:

  • Traditional pliers: These are ideal for stripping and cutting wires and removing nails.

  • Long-nose pliers: These contain long, tapered jaws to make it easier to grip small objects.

  • Side-cutting pliers: These can cut wires precisely to different lengths.

  • Locking pliers/mole grips: These pliers can manipulate metal objects easily.

  • Combination pliers: These carry out gripping, stripping and wire cutting tasks.

2. Electrical tape

Electrical tape, also known as insulation tape, is a specialised tool used to insulate items that conduct electricity, including wires. This tape is pressure-sensitive, self-adhesive and designed to resist liquids, heat and abrasion to protect an electrical wire's conducting core. You can find a variety of different materials in electrical tape. These include glass cloth, copper foil, vinyl and PVC. They're typically available in a wide range of designs with varying insulating capabilities, adhesion strengths, temperature tolerance, thicknesses, widths and colours. Using electrical tape in different colours can make it easier for electricians to categorise wires.

3. Insulated screwdrivers

Insulated screwdrivers are a staple for electricians and come in all shapes and sizes. It's essential to make sure your screwdrivers have insulation for up to 1000V to keep you protected against arcing and electrical shock. The tip of an insulated screwdriver may vary, depending on the type of screw used, so most electricians carry a set of screwdrivers rather than just one or a screwdriver with replaceable parts. Most electricians also carry a flat head and a Phillips head screwdriver. Phillips head screwdrivers have a cross-head design, whereas a flat head has a single blade.

4. Safety knife

Commonly referred to as box cutters, Stanley knives and penknives, safety knives conceal the blade of the knife to keep the user safe. The blade is only exposed when the knife is in use to prevent injuries and accidents. Safety knives come in a wide range of designs and sizes for different specialist uses. Some safety knives have spring-loaded sliders that retract automatically after use, while professional safety knives used by electricians usually have steel, plastic or aluminium handles with a carbon or stainless steel knife.

5. Voltage tester

Voltage testers, otherwise known as multimeters or voltage indicators, are handheld devices designed to test the presence of a live current in a certain location. Their main purpose is to ensure safety when checking junction boxes, switches, cabling or other electrical equipment. If the machine detects voltage in a certain area, a light-emitting diode illuminates. For their safety, when the electrician sees this light, they turn the power off before commencing the job. The majority of voltage indicators feature resistance to electrical surges and redundant surges as additional safety features.

6. Spanners

Electricians regularly attach and loosen fixings, such as nuts and bolts, so having a collection of spanners in your toolkit is essential for any electrician. Nuts and bolts come in a wide range of sizes, so electricians require a wide range of spanner designs to suit each fixture and achieve a tight grip. The most common types of spanners include:

  • Open-ended spanners: These have a double C-shaped clamp at both ends.

  • Adjustable spanners: These have an adjustable jaw to suit nuts and bolts of different shapes and sizes.

7. Hex keys

Hex keys, also known as Allen wrenches or Allen keys, adjust hexagonal fixings and fasteners. Hex keys can come in copper, bronze, nickel or steel and there are four main types, which include:

  • T-handles

  • folding hex keys

  • L-shaped keys

  • straight hex keys

The function of straight hex keys is to extend screwdrivers so they can apply force to hexagonal fastenings. L-shaped keys contain identical heads on each side so they're functional at both ends, but they vary in leverage to make them multifunctional. Electricians can fold hex keys away and T-handle keys have an ergonomic design.

What skills do electricians require?

To be successful in your career as an electrician, it's important you develop the following personal and professional skills:

Technical knowledge

There's a wide range of technical skills you require to become a successful electrician. Some basic technical skills include:

  • using power tools

  • reading blueprints

  • installing conduits, tubing, cables and switching devices

  • planning and carrying out complete electrical installations

  • electrical safety procedures and rules

Applying critical thinking and basic mathematics skills is also a requirement, as you often work alone and make your own decisions. The ability to apply this technical knowledge to a job and come up with inventive solutions is key.

Customer service

Whether you run your own electrician business or work for an employer, excellent customer service skills are essential. Customers typically prefer hiring electricians that they like and trust, so having good customer service skills can ensure repeat business. While this is important for both household customers and companies, it's particularly important to have good customer relations with companies. This is because losing the business of household customers may not cause a significant impact on an electrician's profits, but losing a partnership with a large business might.

It's also important to have good customer service skills to avoid getting negative reviews. If negative reviews about your services circulate online, potential customers may look elsewhere. Having a friendly, professional and patient attitude while working with customers can make them more likely to contact you again in future.

Related: How much does an electrician make? (With key skills)

Physical fitness

While fixing electrical equipment might seem like a technical job, it can occasionally require strenuous physical labour. Even though being in perfect shape isn't essential, it can be advantageous as electricians regularly climb stairs, ladders and scaffolding, bend over and crouch, squeeze into confined spaces and lift heavy objects. Electricians also require excellent motor skills, dexterity and great hand-eye coordination. Having a steady hand, particularly when working with small tools, is also beneficial. Electricians also require great vision to prevent mistakes that could lead to health and safety hazards.

Teamwork

While working as an electrician might seem like a solitary career, this isn't usually the case. If you work for a larger business, you may report to a supervisor or project manager and if you receive a promotion for a senior position, you may be responsible for training apprentices. When working on larger projects, such as home construction projects, you may work closely with other tradespeople, such as carpenters and plumbers. Being friendly, personable and patient and being able to communicate effectively with others are vital skills for an electrician.

Related: Common electrical engineer interview questions and answers

Time management

Time management is an essential skill for electricians as finishing jobs on time can be important for keeping projects on track. When an employer or company hires an electrician to complete electrical work, it's important they can provide them with an estimate of how much the work may cost and how long it's likely to take. Gaining a reputation for completing work on time to a high standard can improve your chances of doing more business with local customers and businesses.

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