When the power goes down the natural reaction is to grab a torch and check the power board to see if a fuse has blown.
It could also be a blackout in the area but, if your neighbours appear to have power, the problem is likely to be your own electrical system.
If you’re left in the dark it’s easy to assume it’s a simple problem requiring a simple solution. But the fault might be more serious than a blown fuse or a circuit breaker that has tripped the system.
The first thought is to save money with a DIY remedy and, in some cases, that’s an understandable response. But your home’s electrical system is not something you can afford to experiment with unless you have considerable experience.
Here are four reasons to leave electrical repairs to the professionals.
1. Keep yourself, your family and home safe
Perhaps the main reason to call a professional electrical contractor when the power fails is that you might be putting your family and home in danger if you don’t.
Doing electrical repairs, which is often complex and intricate work, is dangerous for you too. A fully qualified electrician studies for four years to gain the qualifications required in the industry and continues to keep up with the latest technology through study and experience.
As an amateur electrician without that level of knowledge you may potentially cause a fire hazard that puts your family and home at risk.
Electrical fires can be caused by overloading a circuit by using the wrong wiring, and electrical fires are not easy to stop. Are you really willing to put their lives, and your own, in danger for the sake of a DIY project?
Doing the repair work yourself can easily result in electrocution. There are different types of electrocution, but appliances with a high voltage are potentially fatal if not handled properly.
Your home’s electrical system carries a high level of voltage and must never be tampered with. Is it worth it to potentially start an electrical fire trying to install a new light fixture or replace a circuit breaker yourself?
Attempting to work with electrical equipment and a tangle of live wires is best left to a qualified electrician.
2. Warranties on your appliances
Most of the appliances in your home run on electricity and most of them have warranties.
If any one of those appliances fails and you or another amateur attempts to repair it, the warranty on that appliance could be voided. If an appliance’s failure is caused by non-professional work, alterations, replacements or mis-use, the warranty will be voided.
Simply put, people who do electrical work must be fully licensed and without that qualification you are taking an enormous risk. Best of all, qualified electrical contractors will offer a guarantee on parts and labour so you’re safer all round.
3. There could be legal problems
What you may not realise is that the DIY electrical repair work you’re attempting is actually illegal.
Strict regulations exist to keep the community safe from substandard electrical work. If you choose to tamper with your home’s electrical system you face more than the risk of electric shock – you may well be facing considerable fines, possibly tens of thousands of dollars.
All states have their own electricity laws and regulations so it would be wise to check out the relevant legislation in your own state.
Here’s a list of state electrical laws for reference:
- New South Wales – National Electricity (NSW) Act
- South Australia – Electricity Acts, Regulations and Standards
- Queensland – Electricity laws and regulations
- Victoria Electricity Safety (General)
- Western Australia – WA Electrical Requirements
Something all the different state regulations have in common is that electrical installations, repairs and maintenance must be conducted by qualified electrical contractors. For example, according to Victorian regulations a person is regarded as competent to perform an electrical installation or repair if “that person has acquired, whether through training, qualifications or experience (or a combination of these), the skills necessary to perform that task correctly”.
Queensland regulations say that general electrical work must be carried out by “a competent (i.e. trained and qualified) person who has tools, testing equipment and personal protective equipment”.
So always consider the risks and the potential penalties of doing what could be illegal work.
4. You’ll eventually save money
If the potential risks and legal ramifications aren’t enough to put you off, think about the money. Sure, you’re taking the DIY route to avoid repair bills, but in the end you may end up spending more.
By attempting to fix the problem yourself you may not realise the fault is more complicated than you can diagnose. Something that could have been easily fixed by a qualified electrician might get worse and cause more widespread problems in the future.
If you’re budget conscious, consider the potential extra costs:
- Damage to your electrical system
- Damage to electrical appliances
- Damage from electrical fire
- Medical bills
- Warranties voided on electrical appliances
- Fines for doing illegal work
You’ll also need to be prepared to buy your own wiring toolkit, including a multi-bit screwdriver, cable strippers, slip-lock pliers, wire stripper, cordless drill, a non-contact voltage tester and more. Not all DIYers have a toolkit suited to electrical repairs.
Are you prepared to do your own series of electric tests every year? These are the tests that a qualified electrician would do as part of complete service.
This would include:
- Breaker panel inspection
- GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) testing on outlets likely to be exposed to a water source
- Testing of all outlets
- Check extension cords
- Exterior outlet inspection
- Check tamper-resistant installations (which prevent a child tampering with outlets that are reachable)
- Voltage test on outlets and more.
Another factor to consider is any plan of selling your home in future. If your electrical work is not completed according to legal standards, it will not pass close inspection.
In order to put your home on the market, if electrical wiring hasn’t been done properly you’ll have to pay a fully qualified electrician to tear out your substandard work and start again. That’s a cost you won’t want to face when you’re dealing with all the other challenges of preparing your home for sale.
In conclusion, the best rule to follow when considering DIY electrical repairs – the same applies to plumbing work as well – is to consider your level of knowledge and experience before starting.
It’s understandable that DIYers will want to take on minor work. If you decide to do so, make sure the power is turned off and always check wires with a non-contact voltage tester.
Here are a few basic jobs suitable for the DIY electrician:
- Fitting new light bulbs
- Installing battery-operated fire alarms
- Replacing LED downlights
- Replacing a drive belt in a washing machine
- Rewiring old fuses
But don’t attempt to install a new power point, replace a light switch or fitting, install a ceiling fan or fix an electrical appliance (along with a number of more substantial jobs).
If it’s potentially dangerous, as electrical work often is, and you’re partly guessing what the solution might be, put down the tools and call a professional. You and your family won’t regret it.