I wanted to comment on the increasing tendency for homeowners to do their own trade work – and yes, I have commented on this before.
Please also read the next item in this series – appliances and warranties
Just the other day, I came across a light fitting that had been installed by a homeowner. The reported symptom was that the light fitting was tripping the circuit breaker – I was not told that the homeowner had themselves installed it.
Apparently a light fitting had fallen from a ceiling, and the homeowner had purchased a new one from “Bunnings” to install themselves.
While I understand that there are costs associated with using tradespeople, and that those costs are generally increasing, trying to install something yourself can often expose you to increased costs, dangers and hazards that you might not be aware of… and for restricted trades like electrical and plumbing work, it is illegal in every state and territory of Australia.
Lets look at two photos, and I will discuss them, why the light fittings was dangerous, and the potential outcome for homeowners in this situation.
Photo 1. This shows the light fitting connected as the homeowner had done.
There are some obvious and visible faults here.
- The light fitting is double insulated. This
means that the cable must maintain double insulation into the light fitting
terminals and that no single insulated cable is exposed or visible.
- Not having double insulation completely into the light fitting could result in the light fitting becoming live, a short circuit developing, or a fire occurring.
- The cables were connected incorrectly. The
active and neutral were connected together, both the incoming and outgoing
cables. Fortunately this caused a short circuit and tripped the circuit
breaker. However the cable was NOT connected correctly, which increased the
risk of a fire occurring.
- Complications arose because the yellow single double insulated cable was actually the neutral conductor. This is incorrect according to Australian Standards (however may have been acceptable under very old standards – I cannot confirm this either way).
- Not knowing which conductor was the active or neutral conductor resulted in the homeowner incorrectly identifying each conductor, then incorrectly connecting them to the light fitting.
- The earth cables, the bare cables in the middle,
were not correctly terminated, were not correctly insulated, and were touching
some of the poorly connected supply cables.
- Potentially this is a short circuit hazard, it compromised the earth system for the light circuit, potentially exposed the family to an electric shock hazard at other light fittings. I note however that this family had correctly working safety switches that thankfully reduced the hazard slightly.
- The light fitting did not have any bushing.
- This resulted in the very high potential that over time the chassis of the light fitting might cut through the sheath of the cable and result in a short circuit. This could cause the light fitting chassis to become live, cause a short circuit, or result in a fire.
Photos 2) Showing the difficulty in identifying each conductor. The complexity increased when the homeowner had disconnected and re-connected the cables incorrectly.
As you can see, there are two red cables, one yellow cable and one black cable.
The red and black cable are connected together, the earth cable has broken strands and is not terminated correctly, and the yellow and red cable are connected together.
Why was this so difficult to resolve?
The yellow cable in this instance was the incoming neutral conductor. The red cable that this is connected to is the incoming active conductor. The other red/black cable that are twisted together are the outgoing active and neutral conductor that went to one or more light fittings.
While this may seem simple to resolve, the yellow cable had an induced 70V, and the red/black cables had an induced 60V. When faced with this, it isn’t an easy matter to resolve.
Live testing, disconnecting, testing and a bit of trial and error, I found the correct combination and the light circuit eventually worked again.
What was the cost?
2 hours work plus parts.
What would this have cost if I had installed the light fitting in the first place? Around $80.
Having to sort out the mess, repair the cables and re-install the light fitting cost the family and extra $90, voided their home insurance, could have caused a fire or a death.
Was it worth it to save a few dollars and do it yourself?
You be the judge.
Bye for now,
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#Costs #Electrician #FairTrading #Compliance #Safety #Licensing #RestrictedTrades #IllegalWork