The laws in Australia that govern electrical work are much stricter on DIYers than in most other countries, and for good reason. Electrical work is dangerous if you don’t know exactly what you are doing 100% of the time, and only a fully licensed, trained and experienced electrical tradesperson will fit that criteria. If you are a licensed tradie and you’re doing your own electrical work, not a problem, but the rules are entirely different for the average home handyperson. This article covers some of the things you are allowed to do as an amateur, as well as what the consequences might be if you are caught doing electrical work that you are not qualified for.
Can I Do These Simple Electrical Tasks?
Many everyday people around Australia would be guilty of doing these seemingly more simple electrical tasks at some point in their lives, and may have performed some of these tasks without even knowing they have actually broken any laws.
These include things like:
- Replacing a light switch or power point
- Building your own extension lead
- Repairing an electrical appliance
- Installing a new light fitting
- Attaching a new plug to the end of a lead
- Replacing a lead on an appliance
- Installing a ceiling fan
These are just some of the more common things DIYers might be tempted to do themselves, or actually have done. However, as innocuous as some of these tasks might seem, it’s still dangerous and against the law to make these fixes yourself if you’re unlicensed.
What are the Consequences of Doing Illegal Electrical Work?
The biggest consequence by far is that you, or someone else, could get electrocuted. Another is the possibility of a house fire. There are various fines in place for anyone caught out doing electrical work illegally, but by far the biggest penalty would be accidental electrocution. It’s just not worth it.
From a monetary perspective, fines for individuals caught performing illegal work can be as high as $40,000. If the work poses a serious risk of electrocution, then the fine can be as high as $600,000 or 5 years behind bars. No one wants any of that.
What Electrical Work Can I Legally Do Then?
Okay, so we’ve covered some of what you definitely can’t do and the potential penalties if you are caught, but what electrical work are you allowed to do yourself? Let’s briefly list a few of them:
- Installing low voltage garden lighting
- Installing pond pumps
- You can re-wire old-style fuses
- Replace a drive belt in a washing machine
- Change out a blown light bulb
- Replace LED downlights
- Cutting openings for air conditioning units but not installing them
- Fitting an electric wall oven but not connecting it
- Install a battery operated smoke alarm/detector
When you look at the list above it becomes pretty obvious that you can’t perform any direct electrical/wiring work unless you are a licensed professional. The only exception is the installation of low voltage garden lighting.
Maybe not too many houses or properties use old-style fuses anymore, but if your home has one there’s no problem with you replacing the fuse wire with the correct gauge yourself. You don’t need to call in an electrician for this simple task, just so long as you replace it with fuse wire of the same gauge. When it comes to an electric wall oven, if it simply plugs in, then you can fully install the unit. But if it requires being hard wired, then no, you can’t perform the task and will need to call in a professional. Changing light globes is really a no brainer and no risk. If the light fitting itself is loose, old, worn out or in any way dodgy, then it’ll need to be looked at by an electrician. Don’t try and repair or replace the actual light fitting yourself.
Most Australian states require you to get a compliance certificate from your tradie. This guarantees that the work you performed meets the Australian Standard and that you’re covered for defective workmanship.
But I Can Buy So Many Electrical Accessories
When you venture into hardware giants such as Bunnings and others, there are aisles full of all these electrical appliances, wiring, accessories, trendy light fittings and all manner of beautiful and tempting stuff.
If you love electrics you can be tempted to buy up big. That’s perfectly fine. You can buy as much electronic gear as you want. You just can’t legally and safely install any of it without being a licensed electrician.
Always Use a Licensed Professional Electrician
Don’t take chances cutting corners and trying to save money by doing your own electrical repair work and electrical installations. It’s just not worth it.
Let O’Brien Electrical & Air Conditioning Warana help with all your residential electrical work.