Many of us like to break out the tools and do it ourselves at home, particularly when the cost of owning and maintaining a property can be high. While painting the fence and repairing the clunky old washing machine are fine to take on ourselves, there are some jobs that the average home handyperson should never attempt to do themselves. Almost all electrical work sits in that category. As a licensed trade, electrical work can only be completed by licensed tradespeople. It’s important that you know what’s legal and what’s not before you get to work to avoid the serious risks – and significant costs – of DIY electrical work at home.
In this article, we’ll cover the legal limits of DIY electrical work and the potential consequences of ignoring the rules.
What electrical work CAN I do without a license?
Even though some tasks seem minor and safe to complete yourself, electrical work is almost always risky by its nature. That’s why many tasks people assume are legal to DIY are actually illegal in every state in Australia.
Here are some of the home electrical tasks that you might be surprised to find can only be legally completed by a licensed electrician under the Electrical Safety Act (2002).
- Installing a ceiling fan
- Repairing an electrical appliance
- Installing a new light fitting
- Replacing a light switch or power point
- Attaching a new plug to the end of a lead
- Replacing a lead on an appliance
So, if any of these tasks are on your holiday to-DIY list, cross them out – it’s time to hire an electrician.
Legal DIY electrical work in Australia
Now that we’ve covered electrical tasks you can’t legally do yourself, let’s talk about what you can do.
- Changing a light bulb
- Cutting openings for air conditioning units (but not installing them)
- Re-wiring old-style fuses
- Replacing the drive belt of a washing machine
- Installing pond pumps in the garden
- Replace LED downlights
- Installing a battery-operated smoke alarm
A simpler way to look at it is: if it involves any direct electrical wiring contact, you can’t do it without an electricians’ license.
Fines and penalties for unlicensed electrical work
The biggest risk of performing electrical work as an unlicensed handyperson is accidental electrocution, but there are certainly other risks and potential costs.
Poor electrical work can result in house fires from faulty wiring, and you can be fined or prosecuted. You can be fined up to $40,000 for performing illegal electrical work, no matter what it is. If your electrical work poses a serious risk of electrocution to anyone, you can be fined up to $600,000 and receive up to a five year jail sentence.
In summary, it’s crucial to be aware of what’s legal and what’s not before you try to attempt any electrical work at home. Know the legal limits of DIY electrical work in Australia and save yourself an injury, fine or fire – the consequences are just not worth it.