Posted on 16 Comments

Vlog #63: Australia, worst place in the world for DIY home automation

Is it true that DIY electrical work can invalidate your home insurance policy? Can you go to prison for replacing the plug on a power board?

In Australia: yes. With the harshest restrictions in the world, Australian regulations don’t let you do anything unless you complete a 4 year apprenticeship, complete some certifications, and become a licensed electrician. It doesn’t matter that I’ve designed satellite payloads and that products I’ve designed have had more than a million units manufactured. Without completing a 4 year apprenticeship, there is no legal path for me to become certified to replace the plug on a power board.

Crazy.

And to top it off, clauses in your insurance policy that don’t seem to have anything to do with electrical safety can allow your insurer to refuse any claims that could be related to DIY electrical work.

If you’re into home automation, check out Rob’s YouTube channel, The Hook Up.

16 thoughts on “Vlog #63: Australia, worst place in the world for DIY home automation

  1. Try looking up a testing and tagging licence it does allow for a little bit but purely appliance based.

  2. That’s insane. Which politician’s brother-in-law is an electrician and got the BS pushed through?

  3. Australia might be the worst place for electrical regulations, but it is the safest in the world!, Electricity kills, and can start fires, so regulation should be very strong, most of the world has little or no idea how deadly or dangerous electricity is and is reflected in their greatly lacking codes!

    1. But not reflected in their statistics. Look at New Zealand, which has exactly the same electrical standards (shared with Australia) but allows a sensible list of DIY tasks that are illegal in Australia. They don’t have a crazy rate of deaths by electrocution or electrical fires, so the statistics show that the “it’s all about safety” argument is a lie. It’s all about protectionism for the electrical trades. https://worksafe.govt.nz/managing-health-and-safety/consumers/safe-living-with-electricity/getting-electrical-work-done/doing-your-own-electrical-work/

      1. A US report on house fires stating number one electrical issues https://www.nfpa.org/…/Data…/Electrical/Electrical
        A Australian one that states electrical issues to be number 7, https://www.realinsurance.com.au/…/the-most-common…
        BUT, at number 4 on that list is electrical equipment, meaning likely heaters knocked over or too close to something, but that does not meet the comment thread of DIY dwelling wiring!
        This article https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/fires-in-the-home states that there are 3000 fires in Vic that could be avoided by use of smoke alarm (not fitted yet compulsory) I’d say it’s possible fire alarms might be seen as dinjins by some, black magic, evil entities, either way, more cultural enrichment!.
        And for the work safe stuff in NZ, that is the basic electrical tradie stuff, and although a house owner in NZ might be DIY with the training, they are in essence trained and certified!
        Also, in NZ about 58% of fires there was no cause recorded, so records relating to fire cause in NZ cannot be trusted!

      2. I can tell you now that while changing a plug may indeed be a simple task for yourself and a lot of electronic hobbyists, I have seen some pretty poor attempts by the unqualified.
        And don’t get me started on the dodgy house wiring that exists in homes owned by DIYers. They create extra expense for buyers of said properties.
        It’s not about protectionism its purpose is in keeping a higher standard of electrical installations throughout Australia.
        Like somebody else said there are shorter courses than a 4 year apprenticeship to do limited electrical work such as changing a plug top or reconnecting a hot water.

        1. Those courses are industry-specific and very scope-limited, based on predetermined repetitive tasks. For example, if you work repairing vacuum cleaners, and can show multiple years of experience and the necessary training, you can obtain a special exemption to allow you to replace the cord on a vacuum cleaner. It doesn’t then allow you to replace the cord on a toaster, because (shock!) that must be a totally different skillset.

  4. Total insanity.

  5. I understand the need to prevent the average Joe from undertaking DIY work without having any form of training, but I don’t understand (as per what Jonathan indicated) why the only path appears to be through an electrical apprenticeship.

    It seems very strange to me that someone who has a degree in electrical/electronics engineering can design things using 240v but is apparently not allowed to actually work on it. Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are skills that an electrician has that an engineer might not have – but I just wish there was a way to bridge the gap.

    I just read through some info on https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/81617/es-licensing-eligibility-policy.pdf about restricted licenses and it’s all related to other trades people (not electricians) who need to undertake some sort of electrical work. Still no mention about the poor old Electrical/Electronics Engineer…

    1. @Steve, that’s me! Electronics engineer, ran a tiny company *manufacturing* 240V equipment, I designed 240V equipment that had to pass *worldwide* safety standards. Yet I could be fined for replacing a 3-pin plug on a desk lamp at home, something I was doing with total competence at age 10 after watching Daddy do it once.

  6. What happens if you buy an old house which contains work not done by an electrician? Would I be responsible as a buyer for faults which were previously done? Would you have to consider getting an electrician checking the whole house? What about cables inside walls ?
    In case of a fire how can you actually prove which work was done by an electrician or not? What if some work was poorly done and is considered as a DIY project ? Is every work done by an electrician somehow registered in a global system ? How long does an electrician have to keep record of work done by himself? It seems that you are right, it is stupid… and I can’t imagine how such a law can actually work.

  7. Hi Jonathan,

    I am about to start building the house (in Australia) and will have an appointment with my electrician.
    I got all the parts from you to assemble:
    1. Light switch controller, which is actually just a button controller, so I will be using it not only to manage lights with MQTT (many other scenarios are in my mind – like enable alarm or turn on/off everything in my home theatre)
    2. Home automation controller (to control relays and all the lights). You promised to share your piece of code, which I believe is using MQTT (not the WEB as in your earlier videos)

    Anyway, do you think all this can be legally approved by a certified electrician? I still want to do this implementation legally but not sure if such type of light switches and relay controllers can be approved.

    Thank you.

    1. Sergio,

      As an electrician I brought this up with the regulating authority in my state (SA) when I saw a lot of this type of equipment coming in from overseas and not approved for Australia.

      Their response was that items purchased by the home owner from overseas without any local approvals can be installed by the electrician only if they feel in their professional opinion that the device is safe, however the electrician must then warrant the device and be liable for any damage it may cause for 7 years after installation.

      Due to this fact I don’t think you will find too many electricians that would install these for you. Most will only install devices that are purchased in Australia with the correct approvals (as it would be illegal to sell any items in Australia without them having the correct approvals).

      I personally have done this for a couple of light fittings over the years that home owners have supplied from overseas, but only after checking all wiring and earthing requirements were meet and rewired if needed to bring upto Australian standards and in no way did they contain any electronics at all.

      Hope this helps and hopefully Sonoff will gain all approvals sooner than later

      1. Hi Brenton,
        99% of the parts for my system are bought in Australia (superhouse store). Relays are from the local store.
        Do you think that means this hardware can be legally used in the system? I will still install it even if it is not but want to do that as close as possible to Australian safety standards.

  8. Jon can you please reply my email regarding work?

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