Am I getting ripped off? (Home Wiring Job)

I have an electrical problem at my house. A couple of the bedrooms lost power.

Now my father was an electrician for many years and I’m not clueless when it comes to home wiring. I suspected I had a bad circuit breaker or 2. So by process of elimination i figured out which breaker was faulty.

Armed with this information I called an electrician to see if he could come out and replace it for me. The guy came out and found, just as i did, that i had a bad circuit breaker and it needed to be replaced.

He said that my panel was very old and he would have to call in to find the price of a replacement breaker. After calling in he told me that the breaker cost $85.00 and the entire job would come to $625.00 (!).

I haven’t replaced a breaker before but I watched the guy take out mine and it was literally a snap-on-snap-off type of deal (after disconnecting the wire).

My question is this: Does anyone know if this is a reasonable price for what looks to me like a 5 minute job? Part of me just wants to acquire the correct breaker and replace it myself.

I’m still going to call other electricans and compare bids but does anyone else out there have any useful information to provide?

The only thing I can think off is he would have to bring things up to code when doing the job, so he may have to do more. Otherwise you are getting ripped off.

I just had the same thing happen, and I was a complete first-timer at wiring.

Electrical breakers and boxes are really down to tinker-toy simplicity if it is just a swapping of old for new.

I had an old '40’s era fuse box with old glass fuses and dirty old fire-hazard wiring which I ripped out. Replaced with new breaker box and breakers, and strung new wiring and outlets for a 240V circuit. Assuming you know how to use a voltmeter and know how to strip and twist wiring, it was a surprisingly easy job.

Just make sure that your wiring can support the amperage you want, and your breakers are the correct amperage, and it is really an easy piece of work (not like do it yourself plumbing is ;))

A how-to wiring book from your local hardware store is very helpful.

Mine was estimated at $1000 for an electrician. It cost me under a $100 in parts and about 10 hours of sweat.

I’d say, do it yourself. If it still won’t work, then call an electrician as a last resort.

Get a couple more estimates. I once wanted to have outlets run to my basement. The three estimates I got varied widely. One fellow wanted to charge us almost a thousand dollars more than the lowest estimate.

Is it possible that he isn’t able to get a new breaker for your old box, and has to replace the entire breaker box?

IANAE Replacing breakers is easy, but Gargoyle has a good suggestion, a book might be a good investment. Replacing a breaker is also very dangerous. You could even remove the breaker first, then bring it to the hardware store and find the right kind. Here is a short bit on working with breakers. In my neighborhood I’ve only ever seen 3 different types, and they’ve all been very snap-on-snap-off type breakers.


No, he found an identical breaker in his truck and he said the price for the part was 85 dollars. He would not have to replace the whole panel.

Incidentally, the breaker in question is a Square D XO 15 amp single pole breaker. Its an old model but they do exist. Does anyone have any ideas where to find one? Square D’s website isn’t helping much.

Thanks for the replies.


eBayis a place to start. And this place has some for under 40 bucks.

$625 to replace a breaker?? I’m in the wrong business.

Can I ask you something? How do you know the breaker is bad? When a breaker opens, my first inclination is to assume it’s working O.K. and that there’s a short somewhere. Just curious.

Well I figured the breaker was bad by turning on all the lights in the house then systematically turned off each breaker, the only one that did not have a visible affect on any of the lights was the same one the electrician tested and told me was bad.

I saw one on auction in a lot with a bunch of other breakers but I wanted to see if I could buy a single one somewhere. As far as the other site is concerned it only listed used breakers and I’m kinda nervous about buying used equipment…

Yep, you’re getting ripped.

If the electrician had one on his truck it isn’t that rare. The brand name should be on it so you can shop by phone. You will probably be able to find it at your local home improvement store. If they don’t carry it, try an electrical supply store, or a mail order company like McMaster-Carr.

Will all due respect something’s not quite adding up here in your story. Either (yes) he is most definitely trying to rip you off or you are misunderstanding what he is proposing to do. If the part is 85.00 and he bills for an minimum hour of work, even if his rate is 100.00 and hour (and that would be somewhat pricey) that’s still only $ 185.00. I don’t see where the additional expense is coming from unless he intends on replacing your panel (or something) and you two did not communicate clearly on this issue.

You can more than likely get a replacement at your local Lowes or Office Depot or electrical supply house.

Well, while you certainly could have done it cheaper yourself, two things come to mind:

  1. Mark-up for components is an industry-wide way for all sorts of repairmen, contractors, IT pros, etc., to make money. I have private telephone/IT service friends who told me that they make more money from the markup on the equipment they install than they do on their per-hour charge. So, ripoff or not, it’s standard procedure. Of course, how MUCH he marked up the breaker is something else… but 10-30% is not unheard-of/unreasonable.

  2. What was he charging for–his per-hour fee? If he told you the rate up front (even if it’s $500/hr…), and you agreed … well, that’s why you bid projects out, I guess.

PIMF Office Depot = Home Depot

Let’s not exaggerate here. Replacing a breaker requires a certain amount of caution, but if everything is insulated properly and you’ve shut down the main power, the level of danger is pretty low.

As for the OP, a standard breaker costs about five or six dollars. (I just installed some fairly hard-to-find breakers in my box.) If it’s a simple matter of replacing the breaker and no wires need replacing, then this is no more than a ten minute job. (Threading new wires into the box is more time-consuming because the wires are stiff and annoying to work with.)

So, on the whole, I’d say this estimate is a factor of 10 too high.

Not all breakers are that cheap. I had to replace a hefty amperage AC breaker and it was around $ 40- 50 at Lowes, however, most popular 120V outlet breakers are in that 5-10 price category, although harder to find units might be double or triple that.

I found the same breaker from a company on the east coast for $25 but it was a refurbished one. The guy probably quoted a price for the part if they had to order it from Square D.

I called my electric company & they come out themselves & look at the thing. They actually grounded the pole, top of house & box for free. I don’t know if they would do what you want for free, but arent’ they the people to call first?

Given how obsolete these units are (apparently discontinued many years ago) if might be prudent to get quotes on replacing the entire box and the breakers if you have further electrical work planned.

XO Breakers

handy-calling the utility company (PG&E in my case) was the first thing i did when the power went out. They sent a guy out and he verified the there was electricity coming into the house fine then told me to go find an electrician. Friendly huh?

astro-thanks for the info. I have a call out to the electrician to get a more itemized breakdown of the estimate and when i get time i’m going to compare quotes. If the price doesn’t significantly come down I’m going to just do it myself.