10 Tools Professional Electricians Should Always Have
Let’s be real, the list of tools every electrician needs should be much longer, but we’re taking this down to only the top 10 essential tools. Every day, electricians have to channel, rewire, and reroute electricity in situations that can be dangerous. This means that besides the usual tools that most trades require, like pliers, screwdrivers, hammers, and pencils (yes, pencils), they also have to have tools that measure electricity. And they have to be accurate.
This list covers most of what an electrician needs to do the job right and safely, which means almost never getting shocked by live wires and never getting shocked by not having the right tools nearby. Whether you’re just getting into the trade or you just keep leaving the same tool behind at your last job but can’t figure out which one it is, check out this list for what you always need to have on your toolbelt or in your toolbox.
Very few tool manufacturers are so trusted by electricians that they just call the tool itself by the brand name, and Klein Tools is one of them. Kleins, or 9-inch pliers, are so dependable and expertly crafted that they’ve been relied upon by electricians for generations.
So, if you don’t have a pair of Kleins, good luck. It’s the first tool on this list for a reason. Although Kleins deserves their own callout on this list, we’re including several other types of pliers that you must have below.
A good set of pliers is on every electrician’s tool belt, but you can’t get by with just one. Different pliers are made for specific purposes, and each one is basically required to always have on hand.
- Kleins/Side-cutting pliers – Grab, cut, twist, bend, and pull. A pair of Kleins or side-cutting pliers are required for the trade, and we recommend something like this to do the job.
- Diagonal-cutting pliers – Not ideal for grabbing like the side-cutting pliers, but they’re engineered for cutting in tight spaces. If you need more leverage, go for one with a longer handle.
- Needle-nose or long-nose pliers – The unique nose shape makes it easy to grab, pinch, or cut in tight spaces. It’s also ideal for grabbing smaller bits that keep rolling around in the bottom of your toolbelt’s pouch that your hands just can’t seem to find.
2. Voltage Tester
It wouldn’t be much of a list if we didn’t include a voltage tester. When working with wires and outlets that might be live, playing the guessing game is not the way to go. Instead, you should go for a non-contact voltage tester. The last thing electricians want to do is shock themselves. Voltage testers help prevent that from happening. Whether you’re looking for Klein Tools, Fluke, Gardner Bender, or Greenlee, we have voltage testers available in your favorite go-to brand.
Get a full reading on voltage, current, and resistance. Newer ones now have digital interfaces that can display multiple electrical properties, and some even feature Bluetooth connectivity, work lights, and thermal imaging cameras, which makes it easier than ever to diagnose and troubleshoot problems.
4. Pipe Bender
Bending conduit is something every professional should know how to do, but without a pipe bender, that makes it almost impossible. It’s a necessary tool, and it’s a necessary skill to acquire if you don’t know how to do it already. Pipe benders have all the markings on the tool itself to help you make 10-degree, 22-degree, 30-degree, 45-degree, 60-degree, and 90-degree bends. Whether you need to do a stub-up bend, back to back bends, offset bends, and saddle bends, the pipe bender lets you do just that in a matter of seconds. Just like a good pair of Kleins, hand benders haven’t required much innovation over the years, so go with a brand that you trust. At CES, we carry F4P, Greenlee, and Klein Tools benders for any pipe size you need from ½-inch to 1-inch EMT.
5. Wire Strippers
Cut and strip insulation from electrical wire the easy way. Get one with several gauges on the nose like this one so you can work with just about any wire size you need. Wire strippers are the durable, precise way to cleanly strip solid or stranded wire. A utility knife works in a pinch, but every electrician should have one of these nearby.
6. Screwdrivers and Nut Drivers
Not exactly an electrician-specific tool, but you’d be hard-pressed to get by without screwdrivers and nut drivers in any trade. To save space and weight, get multi-bit screwdrivers and multi-bit nut drivers like these from Klein Tools. For added convenience, we also carry integrated screwdrivers/nut drivers that can work in just about any situation. At the end of the day, when you’re shopping for tools, shouldn’t they always be innovative, versatile, and downright essential? This one pretty much checks all of those boxes.
7. Fish Tape
This one works the way it sounds and looks. Fish tape is one long, solid reel equipped with a handle and a hooked end to feed or fish out stranded or solid wire in a conduit. It’s a very specific tool, and it’s all but required for every electrician to have.
8. Tape Measure
Once again, this tool isn’t made only for electricians, but if you don’t have one, you’ll be the only electrician without it. From mounting outlet boxes to running conduit, this is an everyday tool. When you need to get one, make sure the tape measure won’t collapse on you when you extend it. Some come with magnetic tips, which is a plus if you need it to stick to anything metallic.
This might be more important for electrical contractors on the residential side. Instead of using your Kleins, or lineman’s pliers, to secure wire to wood frames, a hammer has the added benefit of helping you tear stuff down. Try that with your linesman, and you might be in the market for a new one soon.
10. Headlamp/Cap Light
The perfect way to light wherever you need to look. It’s also better than the alternative of carrying a flashlight in your mouth in case you need both hands free. Get one that has a long battery life, a rechargeable battery, and dust- and water-resistant properties. Whatever your preferred way to light dark spaces, whether it’s with a full-on headlamp or just a light you can attach to the bill of your cap, this is a must-have.
Bonus: Utility Knife
We couldn’t keep this to just 10. With a utility knife, you can strip wires in a pinch, just make sure the wire isn’t live first. For that, see tool #1 on this list. You can always go for a utility knife that’s insulated for added protection, just in case. However, most of your utility knife’s lifespan will be used stripping large gauge wire, opening boxes, or cutting drywall if you don’t have a jab saw handy. Make sure it’s durable, and for added convenience, go for one that can be opened easily with one hand — like this one from Milwaukee.
How We Can Help You
The best part about this list is that City Electric Supply carries every single one. With over 30,000 SKUs and 500+ branch locations across the U.S., you can easily find whatever you need in a pinch. Find a branch near you or visit us online, and shop CES for all the tools of the trade. Our branch staff is ready and prepared to help you, some with a decade of experience or more in this industry alone. If you need help finding the right tools for your job, or if you just have some questions, our branches have all the answers to steer you in the right direction. Also, if you have any must-have tools that didn’t make the cut, feel free to let us know in the comments below.
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