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Why DIY Electrical Work Is A Bad Idea

If you have ever attempted to do home repairs of an electrical nature in Australia, then you no doubt know how strict the laws are when it comes to DIY (do-it-yourself) electrical work. If you are unfamiliar with how strict the laws are, let me give you a few examples. In Queensland, you can face a 6 figure fine and up three years in jail if your DIY electrical work malfunctions and injures or kills someone. Doing any form of DIY electrical work makes you liable for a fine of up to $40,000. What does “DIY electrical work” mean in this case? Well, just about everything. I’m not joking. In Southern Australia, licenced electricians are responsible for any electrical job that starts at the point of supply, or any electrical job that involves wiring. In Queensland, you are not allowed to do the following actions: replacing light switches, repairing appliances like air conditioners, replacing a light on a ceiling fan, installing new outlets, repairing old outlets, and that’s just the beginning; the list of prohibited actions is far too large to list. Realistically, the only DIY electrical work you as a homeowner are allowed to do is: changing light bulbs, installing smoke detectors, and installing garden lights. The laws restricting DIY electrical work may vary a bit from state to state, but ultimately, they are all very similar in terms of what they forbid. So yeah, needless to say, the laws are very strict. As a homeowner, these laws can be very annoying. After all, quite a few electrical jobs are very simple and can be done without much prior experience. Why should you be forced to call an expensive electrician for simple jobs? As annoying as these laws may be, they do serve a very useful purpose. A government report found that in the early 2000s, close to 1500 Australians were hospitalized with injuries relating to electrical work. Most of these electrical injuries occurred while a person was in the home. DIY electrical work is very dangerous, and it is possible to royally screw up even the simplest of electrical jobs. Here are some simple reasons why DIY electrical work is a bad idea and should be avoided at all costs.

Electrical fires

A previous post on this site went over the dangers of electrical fires in-depth. I will not bother repeating the arguments here, but needless to say electrical fires are dangerous. A fifth of all Australian fires are electrical fires. Electrical fires are not difficult to start, all it takes is some faulty wiring or an improperly installed outlet. Even a simple mistake, like putting a high wattage light bulb into a light fixture that cannot handle the high wattage, can result in a deadly electrical fire. And once they start they are incredibly difficult to put out, and tend to spread very quickly. Trained electricians will be able to recognize the conditions that lead to electrical fires, an amateur DIY enthusiast will not.

Electric shock

It is very easy to hurt yourself during regular DIY work, you can smash your thumb with a tool, cut yourself, etc., the possibilities for injury are endless; but no matter how severe the injury, you can always recover. The same cannot be said for DIY electrical work. If you mess up while doing home electrical work, you could very easily get electrocuted. Forgetting to turn off the right circuit breaker, or touching the wrong wires together could result in serious injury or even death. Even if you think you are safe from electricity (some people foolishly think that wearing rubber soled shoes is enough to protect them from electrical shocks), you are not.

It could end up costing more

One of the big reasons people do home repair jobs themselves is to save money. That’s understandable, not everyone can afford to hire an electrician or carpenter. But, if you screw up while doing DIY electrical work, the cost of repairing your sub-par work will likely end up taking more money out of your pocket than if you had just called an electrician in the first place (and this is assuming that you do not have to pay any fines). Because DIY electrical work is a gross violation of most building codes, you also could be putting things like your home owner’s insurance at risk by attempting to do home electrical work. And if you plan to sell your home down the road, DIY electrical work can really come back to bite you, it will lower the value of your home and could possibly result in legal ramifications.

It is harder than it looks

People who DIY projects tend to overestimate their skills, especially after one or two successful projects. Licenced electricians spend years training, both in the classroom and in the field, in order to fully understand the inner workings of electrical systems. Some people seem to think that once they see the wiring that they will be able to work out what to do on their own. This is not the case. Chances are that if someone attempt an electrical job without the requisite knowledge and experience, they will simply mess it up and injure themselves and others. Until you have worked with a home electrical system, you cannot possibly understand just how complicated home electrical systems are.

I could go on forever about why DIY electrical work is a bad idea, but hopefully most of you get the general idea. DIY electrical work poses a danger to you and those around you. Yes, it is annoying to have to call an electrician for every small problem, but when the choice is between a minor inconvenience and possibly injury or death, the choice is clear. If you are ever unsure about whether you are allowed to do an electrical job yourself, look online, as each state website has a pretty comprehensive list of jobs that you can do and jobs that you cannot do.