In the past we have written about the practical dangers of doing your own DIY electrical work around your home. But did you know that by going the DIY route you might also be breaking the law?

The law in Australia is pretty black and white when it comes to working on the electrical in your home and is much tougher on DIYers and amateur sparkies than in most other countries. In the most basic terms, if a job goes much beyond changing a lightbulb, you will probably need to get the relevant licensed tradesperson onto it.

The following information is a basic overview of just some of the laws and regulations you, as an Aussie homeowner, should be aware of before attempting any work on the electrical systems in and around your home.

The majority of Australian states require homeowners to obtain a compliance certificate from a tradie for electrical work carried out, which then guarantees, among other things, that the work that has been completed complies with the all of the appropriate Australian Standards and that you would be covered for defective work.

The laws do vary from state to state and can, at times, be about as clear as mud. For example, the NSW Fair Trading site states “An electrical licence is required before any electrical wiring work can be undertaken in NSW, regardless of the cost of the work and regardless of whether the work is residential, commercial or industrial.” They go on to define electrical work as ‘the manufacturing, constructing, installing, testing, maintaining, repairing, altering, removing or replacing of any electrical equipment.’ This seems to indicate that its OK to change a lightbulb, but anything else is pretty much out!

Queensland can award penalties of up to $100,000 or two years imprisonment if illegal electrical work results in serious injury or death. The maximum penalty for multiple deaths is $200,000 or three years imprisonment. and what would they consider illegal for a DIYER to do? All of the following:

  • installing a new power point.
  • replacing a light switch.
  • replacing a batten holder with a new light fitting.
  • repairing an appliance such as a heater.
  • altering the location of an existing power point.
  • replacing a light fitting with a ceiling fan.
  • constructing an extension lead.
  • replacing a plug on the end of a lead.

They do seem to be OK with a homeowner completing the following tasks though:

  • replacing a drive belt in a washing machine.
  • cutting openings for, but not connecting, air-conditioning units.
  • fitting, but not connecting, an electric wall oven in a kitchen cabinet.
  • rewiring old-style fuses.
  • installing garden lighting and pond pumps.
  • installing battery-operated smoke detectors.

At their website, the SA government The SA government website says that all electricians are responsible for work commencing at the point of supply, up to and including:

the electrical wiring on the consumer’s property from the main switchboard to the building
wiring within the building to the electrical appliance
fixed electrical appliances.

Now is it likely that you will get ‘caught’ if you decide to scrimp a bit and complete work that the government feels that you are not qualified to do? No, if all goes to plan, probably not. If something goes awry however, that may very well be a very different scenario, not to mention the fact that the company that provides your homeowner’s insurance will be taking a very dim view of your DIY heroics as well.

Saving a couple of dollars now may seem like a great idea, but it could really cost you down the line. Better then to play it safe and when in doubt, find a licensed tradie.