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broken_scout 12-28-2007 07:29 PM

Homeowner Electrical Exam for Permit
I'm ready to do my project now. However, I learned that I will have to pass a homeowner electrical exam in order to get the permit needed. I was told it will be 25 questions, multiple choice. Has anybody taken one of these exams and know the types of questions that will be asked? The people at the permit office recommended that I look at any basic wiring book and I should be okay. However, I was able to find a sample of 5 questions on this website (View Sample Homeowner Exam Questions) and of course, none of the questions had anything to do with my project and the questions did not seem all that basic to me. Except for one of the questions, I probably would not think to memorize the information from the book in order to pass the quiz. What I am looking for is a tutorial or a quick way to pass the quiz so I can get to work on my project. I'm already behind as it is.

Chris Johnson 12-28-2007 08:07 PM

I applaud this municipality, it really makes people think that the work they are about to perform themselves (or the unlicensed contractor they hired) is not as simple as TV home improvement shows make it out to be.

Sure, hooking up a light fixture is easy, but start adding to the electrical or plumbing system in you house can be dangerous and cause even DEATH if not done correctly.

This should be a standard for every city/county that releases permits to non-licensed trades. Even though it doesn't appear to be relevent to your project it is generalized for all projects and if you can't get through it then you should not be doing the electrical work in your home.

broken_scout 12-28-2007 10:46 PM

Instead of reacting to my thread, I would appreciate some useful advice. I do not have a problem taking the test and would understand if this was an electrical 'safety' test but it is not. This is a basic electrical knowledge test that would only indirectly be related to safety. I ought to know, I have a degree in OSHA.

I'm not the type to jump on a project without doing some research first. Heck - that is why I am on this forum, so I can learn. BUT let's face it.. I'm a homeowner. I'm not interested in learning the electrical business. I just need to know the codes to do the project I am working on at that time. I have done numerous electrical projects in the past and already know the basics anyway. I know what I need to know to do this project safely, effectively, and will even exceed the codes when I am done. How do I know this? Because I have consulted 2 licensed electricians, compared several electrical handbooks (not less than 5), 1 electrical supply company, 2 hardware stores, and quite a few knowledgable folks on this forum that tweaked what I already learned from my other sources over a period of several weeks.

First of all, the permit will not be issued unless you will be meeting the NEC code anyway.

Second, the inspector is going to come and check the work on top of that.

Finally, at my city permit office, you are required to give a very detailed plan and list of materials to be used. That in and of itself gives a pretty good idea as to whether you know the basics well enough to go ahead with the project. They will review this information and if there is a problem with it, they will not issue the permit and they will work with you until you get it right. So what is the point of the test? By the time you satisfy the permit office, you have a pretty good idea how it all works for that particular project (which should be enough). If you vary from the plan you submitted, the inspector will not pass it and make you rip it out. That's your checks and balances right there. Anything else is a bureaucracy set up to make money.

However - since I do have to take the test, is there a handbook dedicated to this type of test or is there a particular brand of wiring book that would better prepare me for this test? My thought is that if I study from 'The Basic Wiring Book for Dummies', I would be much less prepared than if I read 'The Complete Handbook on Wiring'. I don't want to put my brain on information overload for a test that could be simpler than I think or not prepare myself enough for a test that could possibly be harder. I don't want to be surprised when I walk into the test and find that it is like taking the SAT/ACT all over again. :wink:

Chris Johnson 12-28-2007 11:47 PM


Originally Posted by broken_scout (Post 83591)
I know what I need to know to do this project safely, effectively, and will even exceed the codes when I am done.

With that statement above, go write the test.

I am not trying to single you out directly, I was surprised and impressed that the local jurisdiction is making an effort to curb the non-knowledgable homeowner from working on certain aspects of their homes...or worse, pulling thier own permits because they hired a hack or unlicensed trade thinking they are saving money when in reality they are getting exposed to a greater risk which can cost them big $$$ and perhaps something an insurance company won't bail them out on.

Judging by your post you have done extreme amounts of research and certain amounts of studying, you should just go and write the test. The quiz trial you posted were basic questions that relate to a homes electrical system and information you will need to know and calculate for the work to be completed.

Plan reviews will continue to fail your permit process until you meet the minimum standards for your area, you can continually re-submit until they are satisfied, but realize these people are reading the plans, not interviewing you personally, they don't know you or if you even understand what was put on the plans and the reason for it being there. As for the inspector, he usually averages 10 inspections a day +/-, how much time is he going to spend looking at every electrical box and connections in your project? Normally they come in, randomly check a box here and a box there, if they look okay, he's off. He will never spend the time to count how many outlets on a circuit, he will not pull out a switch or outlet on final to see if you used the quick connects or wrapped the wire around the screw, he doesn't have time. On final inspectors check GFI's, Arc-faults, bonding and that's pretty much it, along with all the other items he is there to look, windows, vents, furnace connections, etc. It is almost impossible for the inspector to actually inspect everything with due diligence and he expects you to follow thru with good workmanship and is really looking for common errors or something out of the ordinary.

I like the test idea from your area, I wish they did the same for plumbing, gas fitting and even structural requirements, this would eliminate hacks, unlicensed/unqualified people from working trying to beat the system and most of all it helps keep you the end user safe. If a homeowner (who is claiming to complete the work himself) can't pass a basic electrical test then maybe they should strongly consider hiring a qualified licensed tradesmen to perform the work, who would also get the permit.

Andy in ATL 12-29-2007 06:33 AM

Broken Scout, I assume they will let you take the test again if you don't pass the first time. I'd go take it and see what you need to study if you don't do well.

Chris, I take a little more libertarian stance on this issue. I say issue the damn permit and inspect...otherwise it is NONE NONE NONE of the gov'ts business what I know or don't know.:huh:

broken_scout 12-29-2007 08:36 AM


Originally Posted by Chris Johnson (Post 83601)
With that statement above, go write the test.

Did you actually write that? :whistling2: :laughing:

Andy, Amen Brother! Thanks for your support.

Now who has a cheat sheet! :wink: I will go ahead and take the test and see how it goes. I still say it's a money maker.

Andy in ATL 12-29-2007 10:06 AM

Of course it is a money maker. It is also a bunch of crap.

Stubbie 12-29-2007 10:24 AM

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Hi Scout nut

It is rather pointless to argue about the test, ya gotta take it....:) Right wrong or money making.

Go here to learn how to do a demand load calculation like question #1....

You will need the soft back version of the code year your juristiction is under. You need this to have the tables you may need for the demand load calcs. and others plus a way to reference the codes for residences. But just so you know.... a single range that is 12,000 watts (12 Kw) or under is calculated at 8000 watts. Dryers are the nameplate value and if it just says dryer with no wattage you assume 5000 watts.

Study the answers to that example exam where calculations are made. It is generally common sense. Understand where 20 amp branch circuits are required everything else is 15 amps. Understand where gfci is required.

Purchase 'Code Check Electrical'.....

Don't sweat it you'll pass the exam but I would prepare for it with one days studying.

Spend a lot of time on Article 210 (branch circuits and their requirements) and article 300 where it talks about installing romex (nm-b). Spend some time on load calculations just generate your own values like the exam example and calculate the demand load on 5 examples and you will have it down pat.

You will be allowed to bring anything (resourses, books etc..) you want with you to take the test.

I disagree with just go take the test and see what is on it... as every test will be different...go to pass the test not to experiment with what they ask. You have already been given an example. Study those things that are related to single family dwellings only.

ooops almost forgot get comfortable using these equations


Stubbie 12-29-2007 11:06 AM

Now for my opinon...

A homeowner electrical test proves nothing other than you can memorize and add, subtract, multiply and divide....

It is the same mentality as eduction systems ...they test you to make sure you are the one doing the homework. IE...if you aren't doing the homework then you can't pass the test. That's why the tests are the majority of your grade so that if someone is doing your homework for you it cannot override a bad test score.

Tests cannot ensure safety in your installation only the inspector can do that. And frankly they don't spend much time on homeowner projects to adequately do that. It will be a quick walk through probably lasting a few minutes.

It is a known fact that only one out of ten homeowners ever seek permits for home projects. The permit system and associated costs and red tape generally discourage homeowners from seeking permits. The equation why this is..... is rather a complicated one including the economics of todays middle class. The poor don't as a rule get permits period. All this is why DIY has no effect on the amount of work available to professionals. It has also come to light that those people that aren't handy will not seek homeowner permits so the system of permitting doesn't really have any impact of preventing unsafe installations in most cases.


tribe_fan 12-29-2007 12:00 PM

Kind of mixed on this argument -

If they were going to make someone pass a test, it should be written with some common safety questions that would be geared to common DIY mistakes, or proved that you had a clue, like connecting an outlet, GFI, correct wire size, making connections in a box that is accessible .........

Most of the questions in the example are things I would look up using reference material.

broken_scout 12-29-2007 03:09 PM

Thanks Tractor Nut (Stubbie) for the useful advice. I knew I could count on you. :yes:

The person I talked to at the permit office provided the shortest answers possible to my questions and did not even indicate it was an open book test.:huh: I sure hope you are right. Either way, itís just a bump in the road for me. I know Iíll do just fine, especially since I have an idea what to study now. Thanks all! Keep the advice coming.

Tribe Fan,
That is pretty much the point I was trying to make, but you hit the nail on the head. Thanks. I would only add, that the city should refund my $25.00 test fee upon successful completion of my project. LOL! Like that would ever happen.:laughing:

Hey Stubbie,
I found another mower to tinker on. I must be a mower nut too! What kind of mower/tractor have you been running? I think you said it was about 40 years old.

Scout Nut
Mower Nut
Broken Scout
Take your pick :wink:

Stubbie 12-29-2007 06:17 PM

Right now I'm running a JD 110 1975 vintage and a JD 112 VS 1965 or so. I'm not a JD fan necessarily it is just what I have right now. What did you get? I like these because they have the kohler cast iron engines

broken_scout 12-29-2007 10:58 PM

Hey Stubbie,

Well, as luck would have it, I found another Dixon ZTR 311 like my other one. The previous owner didnít know how to work on them (Iím still learning myself), and he sold it to me as a parts mower. The motor has good compression when you spin it by hand. The gas cap is the type that uses a float actuated fuel gauge, but the clear plastic cover on top came off letting rain water funnel into the Gas tank. Guess Iíll be cleaning out the carb. The transaxle transmission will need a bearing and a sprocket, and that should do it.:thumbsup:

I like Kohler engines too. They definitely have a good reputation, and they have a large following of diehard fans including my father. My wifeís cousin showed me his latest project about this time last year that uses a cast Iron Kohler 8 hp engine. It will be a Grandfather/Grandson restoration of a 1964 Wheel Horse. It was pulled out of someoneís back yard, and didnít have an ounce of paint left on it. It is just covered in surface rust, but the metal is solid and all the parts are there.

I came close to buying a 1970? Something JD 110 last year on Ebay, but the price got a little steep for me. They are pretty collectable these days. You got me curious, so I checked Ebay just now to see whatís new, and they have a rare Red & White John Deere 110 Patio. I donít recall ever seeing a John Deere from the factory in Red and White! It has gotten me curious to know whether it was a patriotic special edition or what? In 1976, International came up with a special edition Scout called ďThe Spirit of Ď76Ē and the ďPatriotĒ in celebration of our Bicentennial. I put this JD on my watch list just to see what it goes for. You might want have a look. Here is the link:

Happy New Year,
Broken Scout

postorm 04-25-2010 11:17 AM

Info about Homeowners Test
I realize that this is an old thread, but I found it while searching for information about the plumbers homeowners test, and I assume other people will find this thread looking for actual information:) so that they can get things done, rather than an argument about whether such a test ought to exist.

In my county a Homeowners electrical test exists, and I have taken it and passed. It is about 30 multiple choice questions about the electrical code. It is an open book exam - they lend you a copy of the code book. The answer to every question is in the code and at the end of the test they show you the exact words in the code book that answered each question. You have an unlimited time to answer the questions. Anyone who is able to read and understand the words in the code can get 100% score.

You only have to get 70%.

I ran out of patience trying to find the exact words on some of them and answered from head knowledge which in a few cases I got wrong.

Watch out for terminology. "Grounded conductor" is what amateurs call "neutral". If you guess it means "ground" or "earth" you get it wrong.

There are few questions where bureacracy overcame common sense. I got one question wrong - it required reading a table. I choose the wrong column because "that kind of cable" isn't available. I was "supposed to know that", but I didn't and in practice I would have read the label on the cable to determine which column to read.

Another was a question about 'tube and knob' wiring even I though got it right (because I had heard of it before and looked it up in the code's index), I don't have it in my house, would never install it -- it's illegal and dangerous -- was why waste a question on it?

There was another question where the 'right' answer was arguably wrong because the code is ambiguous, but would never resulted in a sensible person doing the wrong thing in practice.

What the test proved was that I know there is a code, I can read the code, and I can understand technical questions reasonably well.

The code seems a reasonable compromise between "homeowners are no allowed to do their own electrical work" and the libertarian extreme of "any fool can wire a house even if burns down their house and their neighbors, kills their visitors and consumes my tax dollars in firemens' time."

(By the way it was free, so it's not a money making issue. If it were "profit motive driven", they would simply fail the inspections forever. If is operated in the free-for-all way that some advocate the electrician union would have bought of the government officials to ensure no owners ever pass the test).

jimmy21 04-26-2010 01:37 AM

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that test seemed kinda silly to me for a home owner. Some of those questions wouldnt make it on the journeyman test here. They would be supervisors test questions

homeowner exam questions should test very basic knowledge. Eg, how often to staple your wire, what size breaker for what size wire, whether or not you should do open splices of zip cord inside your walls :laughing:

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