Electrical service and maintenance come into play after the building is turned over to its owners and occupants. these tasks need to be formed for the life of the structure. The tools electricians need for this work differ significantly from those used during the initial electrical installation. It’s a finished and occupied space. While some of the equipment is highly accessible, some of what you need to work on exist behind the walls and in the ceilings. We asked Milwaukee Tool to see which tools they recommended for electricians doing this type of work, added our own perspectives, and came up with this (hopefully) handy list.
In order to get your work done in the most efficient manner possible, nothing replaces years of experience in the field. However, there are tools electricians need that provide a boost to productivity whether it’s your first day on the job or you’re 40 years in.
We worked with Milwaukee’s team to identify several common areas where electricians see room for improvement and find tools that make the job easier. Their vast experience in developing electrical and MRO solutions alongside Pros in the field gives them an excellent perspective on electrical service and maintenance.
Sometimes, your electrical go-bag has every tool needed to troubleshoot and solve the electrical service problem at hand. More often, you need to bring a host of gear with you to cover all of the “what-ifs”. That also means you’re lugging around a lot more electricians tools than you really need.
The other way to go is the minimalist approach: take a few things to help diagnose the problem and then go back for the tools you need.
Either way, you’re making multiple trips to the van or storeroom to grab a variety of toolboxes.
One way to make your life easier is with modular storage systems like the Milwaukee Packout System. While you may not consider these electricians tools, they serve that trade in a particularly helpful way. You can buy the specific pieces you need to customize each set so that you have just what you need. Then, organize them in a way that makes sense. You can even get foam inserts to take your customization to the next level.
A great way to start is with a rolling box to serve as the foundation. Most of these store bulkier gear with a wheeled base that lets you roll your entire set where you need it in one trip. Building up from there, you can add boxes that organize your diagnostic instruments, hand tools, power tools, accessories, and whatever else you need. Some systems also have a dolly option for the base if you don’t need the larger bulk storage of a rolling box.
There are several systems to choose from, so be sure to take a look at the quality of their builds and match it to your expectations on site.
Lighting for Electricians
Once you move onto the electrical service and maintenance of a building, you typically shift away from temporary lighting. However, you still need personal and task lighting to match the job at hand. Therefore, our shortlist of tools electricians need includes several lighting recommendations.
When we talk about personal lighting, we’re talking about tools electricians use every day. That includes flashlights, headlamps, and small area lights. These are compact lights that you use very close to the work your hands are doing.
While there are many great lights in this category, they often use alkaline batteries. It’s less expensive on the front end, but you can chew through them in a hurry, especially on lights you use every day.
Rechargeable lights have a lower cost of ownership over the life of the batteries. The issue we run into with them is long charge times. They’re not like power tool batteries that you can recharge while you eat lunch and they often force you to have spares handy to make it through the day.
Keep your eyes open for more modern tools and solutions. Some brands are making their own personal lighting using the same lithium-ion cells that go in their power tool batteries. Instead of grouping those cells in sets of 3 or 5, they use just one to keep the weight down but can still go through 90% of a full charge cycle in less than an hour.
Since we’re talking tools electricians need for service and maintenance, one thing to look out for is the color temperature of your lights. Look for a neutral color temperature that lets you see true colors and an accurate picture of the wiring you’re working on. We particularly like the Milwaukee Low-Profile headlamp.
Moving up in size and lumen output, task lighting brightens up a much larger area. Halogen lights have been the traditional workhorse here, but they require you to find an outlet and run an extension cord. They also run pretty hot and have a hard time lighting up as large an area as newer technology can.
When you have the occasion to get your hands on battery-powered task lighting, it’s pretty common that the battery is either completely sealed in the light or doesn’t work with your power tools.
Newer cordless LED options like the Milwaukee M18 Tower Light solve all of those problems with higher output for its size, cooler operation, and much more durable designs. Electricians can get these tools from the same company that makes your power tools. That gives you more versatility with the same batteries, and they’re a lot easier to set up and use since you don’t need a cord.
However, when you’re on a job that requires light longer than a battery can last, some of these lights are hybrid—they can run on battery power or AC power with an extension cord.
Thanks to accessories that have a 1/4″ hex shank, impact drivers are now capable of doing more jobs than ever before. Nearly every Pro takes at least one with them everywhere they go.
They’re incredibly fast tools for electricians but suffer from noise levels well above OSHA’s 85-decibel limit for hearing protection. Also, the vibrations from impacting can increase the fatigue on your hands. Even though they’re compact compared to drills, they sometimes can’t fit into tight spaces.
To quiet your impact driver, consider switching to a hydraulic driver like the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Surge. These use hydraulic powertrains that have much less noise and reduce vibration. In addition to making the job easier on you, it’s also easier on the other folks who still have to teach or work while you’re tackling electrical service and maintenance.
Some 18V hydraulic drivers are smaller than others. The M12 FUEL Surge is one example that drops the size even more. Check out our review on this M18 FUEL hydraulic driver or learn more about the decibel scale. We also have a review directly comparing a hydraulic vs standard impact driver.
When it comes to the needs of electricians, hand tools are the kings of multi-purpose design advancements. Pliers are a great example since many of them do just one job. However, there are plenty of designs that combine multiple operations into one tool, often in a way that takes you through a progression of tasks. With a tool like 7-in-1 high leverage pliers, you can cut, strip, and crimp with one tool and also have what you need to shear and ream along with standard pliers jaws.
Another great place to save space in your toolbag is with screwdrivers. There’s no need to carry an entire set when a multi-bit screwdriver can put them all on one tool and often cost less.
As an electrician, you’re going to come across the need for insulated screwdrivers at some point. The designs out there are excellent, but many lack a way to let you know if the insulation is compromised. There are now insulated screwdrivers available that have visual wear indicators, making it easy to see when you need to take them out of service.
Torpedo levels do a ton of work for electricians in both the installation and electrical service and maintenance phases of a building’s life. Taking a look at what’s in your toolbag right now may reveal some common pain points: poor vial visibility, worn down measurement markings, and weak magnets.
Look for an upgrade that gives you a wider viewing area with easy-to-read vials, laser-etched measurements that won’t run off, and rare earth magnets that hold much better than standard ones.
What are some of the tips, tricks, and tools you use to speed up electrical service and maintenance? Tell us about them in the comments below!