Find Out in “Meet the Team: Q. and A. with Solar Electrician Brian Rachford”
Welcome to WindSolarUSA’s brand-new blog! We’re excited to share this free educational resource about going solar in Illinois.
While you can read and watch our WindSolarUSA team bios here, we want to start this blog by giving credit where credit is due: to the other professionals whose expert work makes WindSolar’s solar projects succeed.
So, we’re going to start by featuring some of our contractors and associates over the next several weeks. beginning with electrician Brian Rachford, whose expert installment work and focus on safety has delighted our customers for years.
Job Title: Journeyman Indoor Wireman
Works for: Senergy Electric
Years of Experience: 14
Years Certified by IBEW 193: 9
Years Contracting with WindSolar USA: 2
Solar Installations: 15
This interview was conducted on April 6, 2018. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Hi Brian, thank you for taking the time to talk with us! First: what does “journeyman wireman” mean to us non-electricians?
Brian: Well, journeyman electricians are highly trained electricians. For example, I have a certification from IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electric Workers) 193. We use our knowledge and training to take care of all kinds of electric projects from 0-800 volts, including:
- Solar systems
- Information systems
- Security systems
- Lights, outlets, and distribution for feeding buildings and homes.
The “journeyman” part of the title means that, due to my certification, I can travel anywhere in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and get a job.
A useful certification! So of all those places, you decided that Central Illinois is a pretty good place for you to be right now. Did you grow up in the area, or move in from somewhere else?
Brian: Yeah, I grew up here. I came here when I was two months old, and have been here ever since.
How did you get into the electric industry? Is it something you were always interested in, or something that came along later?
Brian: I’ve been interested in it since high school. I was interested in engineering and all that kind of stuff but school wasn’t really for me, so this is what I did:
- I got a job with another contractor here in Springfield as a truck driver taking materials to their job sites.
- Through that job, I got an apprenticeship with IBEW 193. I was an apprentice for 5 years, starting in 2004.
- Then I became a journeyman in 2009, and have been one ever since.
So that’s 14 years of experience I’m bringing to each project.
Most people aren’t even in college for five years, so in a way you have more education then they do.
Brian: As far as our trade’s concerned, yeah. We go through four hours of class once or twice a week for five years, with summers off – just like normal school.
We also have on-the-job training every day, which is where we learn most of what we do.
What are some of the financial benefits of a trade certification like yours?
Brian: Well, at normal college, you have to go to school and get another job on top of that to make ends meet. But with us, we go to school for 4 hours at night, and we also get paid at work while we’re getting trained. So at the end of it all, we don’t have a student loan or anything to pay off.
And with every school, you have to take classes that you’ll never use. Now, there’s some stuff we learned in our classes that we’ll never use, but the majority of it we actually use on the job.
How did you get started working with solar panels?
Brian: I really just fell into it. My boss at Senergy put me on installing solar panels, so I became the go-to guy for them about four years ago, and have been doing it ever since. Not in the last several months, though!
Because it’s been winter?
Exactly. We’ll start again soon, but we usually don’t install solar systems in winter. One time we tried out in Sherman, and had to wait till 10:00 every day just for the frost to clear off the roof!
Why do you think it’s important to raise awareness for solar energy in homes and businesses?
Brian: Because it’s not only eco-friendly but also financially friendly, especially with the new legislation that’s been approved in Illinois within the last couple years. It’s financially helpful because:
- The systems we install have a 25 year warranty on them.
- Because of the various financial initiatives, when you buy a system, you get it paid off within between 3-5 years.
- Then you have another 20 years to get use out of it where you still have a warranty.
- Since you can actually feed energy back into the grid and get paid for it by the utility company, you’re actually making money off of it for those 20+ years.
And it’s eco-friendly because the less non-renewable energy we use, and the less we pollute the air, the better it is for the planet and everybody else.
Yes – even as recently as 2012, people really just went solar for the environmental benefits, since it still was more expensive than traditional energy. The price has gone down so drastically in the past six years that now, it’s a win-win situation both environmentally and financially.
So what else do you want people to know about your work and the sort of work that you do, and how you work?
Brian: Well, as far as the whole work ethic, I just want to make sure that everyone gets an electrician that is well qualified and knows what they’re doing.
I’ve done some work before where I came across customers that had been very disappointed by the people who came before me – uncertified people calling themselves electricians – because those so-called “electricians” were making people’s homes and businesses unsafe.
Yes – for example, I’ve heard of people saying that they can install solar panels on their own. What would you say to people who are wondering if they can save money by doing that?
Brian: There may be a few non-certified people out there who have the knowledge and capability to do that, but most of your average DIY guys don’t have the experience or training to deal with so much wattage. Trying to do it on your own can even result in people being severely shocked, even killed, if anything at all goes wrong; even if they make just one mistake.
Not to mention that even if the installment seems to go fine, there could be more problems – dangerous ones – down the road, due to oversight of some issues that a professional electrician could have seen and set straight.
In the end, I believe that everybody needs someone to deal straight with them: someone who knows what they’re doing, does it with quality, and thinks about the people they’re doing it for.
Yeah, because safety is the highest priority – much more than people thinking they might save money by getting a non-certified electrician.
It’s important that the people in the family remain safe, and it sounds like that’s very important to you as well.
Brian: Yep. We always say that a plumber can flood your basement, while an electrician can burn your house down.
Of the two, I can tell you which I’d rather happen!
Thank you so much, Brian, for joining us and taking the time for this interview. It was a pleasure talking with you!
Your Turn: We’re excited about making this blog a resource for YOU: our fellow global citizens interested in creating a sustainable (and budget-friendly!) future with renewable energy.
So tell us: what questions do you want us to answer about
- Solar power
- Going solar
- Eco-friendly tips and tricks?
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Recent WindSolarUSA solar installations electrically completed by Brian Rachford of Senergy Electric.
See more of Brian’s and WindSolar USA’s completed solar systems at our online photo gallery!