[AMA] I am an Electrician

Hello all,

Being on this website for a while now and always enjoy reading AMAs so I thought I'd start one myself. 10 years experience which includes 4 year apprenticeship and 6 years out of my trade.

Employed full-time, I'd class myself as a commercial electrician, mainly doing new installs on shopping centres and high rises throughout my career. I do feel like my knowledge as an electrician in other fields is lacking but I will do my best to answer any queries.

closed Comments

  • +5 votes

    I do feel like my knowledge as an electrician is lacking

    Eh? Did you leave out "consumer" or "residential" here?

  •  

    does it really cost $90 to just change the light switch..?

    • +34 votes

      Situational really, but generally Yes.

      Say it takes 20 mins to get to your house then to change the switch and then driving back home. Let's say that takes a total of an hour and you're running your own business. So really its $90 for an hours work minus his fuel cost, switch, holidays pay, tax, public liability insurance all of that stuff.

      • -28 votes

        Everyone who works at office/workplace away from home, they may be spending 1/2/3 hrs going to/from home<->ofc. These people are not paid for travelling time to office.

        • +41 votes

          But your office/workplace is where you do your work. DO you think people who are mobile in their work are not paid for the time they are driving? I drive 80,000km a year for work for which I am paid to do so. I see no problem with a contractor recouping the cost of doing their work.

          • +7 votes

            @singlemalt72: I guess it's an overhead factored into the price (which happens to almost everything). Like paying $30+ for pasta at a restaurant…

            • -7 votes

              @John Kimble: most tradies I'm sure do double or triple dipping.
              They factor in the overhead cost into the hourly cost, they then add the extra non work related time into the cost (e.g. getting out of car, opening door, etc). then claim all the cost as deduction during tax return.

              • +12 votes

                @Bargain80: That's not double-dipping, that's how you're supposed to claim expenses.

                1. You charge expenses to customer,
                2. You claim expenses because it's an expense, not profit.
                •  

                  @HighAndDry: it's not an expense if you charge it to customer.
                  simple as that.

                  similar to like employee cannot claim phone expense if the cost is reimbursed by the employer. because it's not an expense.

                  • +23 votes

                    @Bargain80:

                    it's not an expense if you charge it to customer.
                    simple as that.

                    What? Of course it is… unless it's a disbursement passed directly to the customer (e.g. you hand them the invoice and they pay it directly), it's still going through you and you're still taxed on it as income unless you claim it as a deduction.

                    Edit: As an example, say you spend $10 driving to a customer's place. You also charge the customer $10. So far, that's -$10, +$10, so you're even. But at tax time, you get slugged $3 as income tax on that $10 too, so you're -$3 NET, unless you claim it as an expense.

                    These types of expenses are literally why tax deductions exist.

                  • +6 votes

                    @Bargain80:

                    it's not an expense if you charge it to customer

                    You do not understand how taxes work.

                    If your fee is $30, and you have $10 worth of expenses that you pass onto your customer - your customer pays you $40. Your net income is $30, but the ATO sees $40 and you will owe tax on that full $40.

                    Your taxable income is $30 though, so at tax time you need to inform the ATO that $10 of that $40 was a business expense and NOT part of your taxable income. If you have already paid tax on that $10, you will be refunded, otherwise if you haven't paid your taxes yet, you will no longer owe tax on that $10.

                    You're not double dipping anything.

              • +6 votes

                @Bargain80: @Bargain80

                non work related time into the cost (e.g. getting out of car, opening door, etc). then claim all the cost as deduction during tax return.

                I think this statement says everything about your knowledge of tax deductions, overheads and non-billable time.

                •  

                  @brad1-8tsi: the example provided is more for the second point, not for tax deduction.

                  examples for tax deduction is more like fuel cost, etc.

                  • +3 votes

                    @Bargain80: If I pay $100 to fill my truck and claim it at the company tax rate of 30% then hasn't it still cost me $70?

                    I'm not self employed these days but have been and you try sending a bill for some jabberjaw that has kept you talking for an hour wanting to know the ins and outs of a ducks bottom for a simple job that takes 10 minutes. There's a lot of unbillable hours when you are self employed.

              •  

                @Bargain80: I was charged large call out fee by a plumber, who was called by my plumber because he didn't have dry ice to freeze the mains. The second plumber happened to be only a few mins away but I still got hit with the fee and what can you do really

        • +1 vote

          Employees also don't have to pay their own overhead, and they commute to the same place everyday. If I have to do house-calls (I avoid unless absolutely critical) I'll charge extra too.

      • +1 vote

        Situational really

        The word situational is really the key.

        I agree with all the factors you mentioned above about the cost, tax, insurance etc..But I believe it really depends on how much extra profit you want to charge the customer.

        My mate almost got lured by paying $90+GST just to replace her light switch..which I feel, IMO, was way too expensive. (This is a local electrician in her area, so i don't believe he needs to spend much on fuel cost, and low risk job for him).

        Luckily I know a good electrician and told her to use this guy instead. At the end, she just paid $40 + GST.

        Don't take my comment as an offence, as you mentioned, it was indeed a situational thing. We, as customer, should also do our due diligence and choose at our own risk.

        • +5 votes

          Agreed, If you can find yourself a cheap licensed insured electrician with good workmanship, keep him!

        •  

          $40 + gst thats just crazy the guy wold be losing money charging such low rates. Im a plumber and charge a $50 call out fee plus $95 an hour and a minimum of 30% markup on materials. If a tradesman is charging a lot less than that he's a fool and losing money. He would make more money on wages.

          •  

            @kiwimex:

            Im a plumber and charge a $50 call out fee plus $95 an hour and a minimum of 30% markup on materials.

            Who are you kidding? You’re charging this because you can - because most of the population is too stupid or lazy to watch YouTube video and learn to fix themselves.

      • +4 votes

        I wish I could class my travel times as paid work. :(

  • +3 votes

    I do feel like my knowledge as an electrician is lacking

    After 10 years, why do you feel like this?

    • +12 votes

      Construction work can get really repetitive especially if you work in a big company. Once you get put on a certain task and do a decent job, you're mostly likely to be doing it the rest of the job until it's completed. Eg. Putting up cable tray in shopping centres usually seen at under covered car parks usually requires a full time crew. And since I've mainly been doing new installs, there's not much find faulting as opposed to service electricians where you actually fault find and learn more a lot more that way.

      • +3 votes

        I find this to be true quite regularly. As an air conditioning mechanic I often have to fault find the installing electricians wiring as they simply don’t know how.

      •  

        You just need to work at a smaller company. My jobs usually have a 3-4 sparky crews that do everything from start to finish… Submains, consumer mains, pits, conduits, db, cable reticulation, roughin, fitoff etc.

  •  

    Assuming we're being careful, matching the wires up with the connectors on the new one and screwing the wires in properly is there any issue in normal residents changing their own light switches, fan switches, GPOs, etc.? It's expensive to keep getting sparkys out and there's plenty of documentation online for technically minded people. Especially considering the rise in smart home light switches etc.

    Also what brands would you recommend for switches etc.

    • +7 votes

      I understand what you're saying, but I do not recommend electrical DIY work. It's quite common to find a light faulty from the manufacturer end, whether they have wired the lights incorrectly, screws terminals have loosed in transit or no earthing terminal. It is up to the electrician to rectify these issues and install in a safe manner. People with online experience won't spot these things.

      For brands I'd recommend Voltex. 25 years warranty and excellent customer service, however they only sell to licensed electricians and contractors. 90% of my lights and power are Voltex. Just hit your electrician up.

    • +4 votes

      Assuming we're being careful

      I think the point is that DIY amateurs won't know enough to know how to be careful in all circumstances.

      •  

        DIY = Die
        That’s on energy safe magazines and their pages online usually have a warning photo

    • +6 votes

      I'm a (non-practising) qualified electrician, and I have no problem with the average punter doing some of their own electrical work - if you can buy it in Bunnings, you can DIY IMO. We're one of the rare countries where you can legally not do any electrical work. Most places allow you to do some wiring yourself - in the UK for instance, as long as you are not making final connections at the DB or installing in wet areas, you can DIY. Not allowing any electrical wiring is bullshit

      Clipsal is a good brand that you can buy in a lot of places, but even the stuff sold in Bunnings is okay

      • +2 votes

        When I was at school in the UK they taught us basic electrical skills. We all had to learn how to rewire a plug. I was surprised to find out that here an electrician is required.

      •  

        That’s all well and good until someone screws down on the insulation instead of the copper on a gpo and starts a fire

  • +2 votes

    why are we allowed to DIY fix car that gets driven on public road with possibility of endangering others with dodgy fix, but not a simple light fitting.

    • +3 votes

      Still need to get a pink slip even if you DIY car repairs. Electrical work doesn't, unless you're an owner-builder and then that comes with its own requirements.

      Also:

      1. Mess up working on car: Likely the car doesn't run at all instead of failing on the road.
      2. Mess up working on electrical wiring: Get electrocuted immediately.
      • +5 votes

        QLD cars don't require any form of checks at all, until you transfer ownership

        •  

          Wait, not even on renewing registration yearly?

          • +2 votes

            @HighAndDry: Nope.
            That's why a lot of scrap metal running around in QLD.

            I think there is another state same as QLD.

          • +2 votes

            @HighAndDry: Not needed in VIC either.

            A roadworthy certificate is needed only when selling the car (transferring registration from one person to the next), or registering an unregistered car.

            We don't have to do it every year. If you all have to do it every year in your state, mechanics are going to make a killing.

            •  

              @lostn:

              If you all have to do it every year in your state, mechanics are going to make a killing.

              Hmm.

              Only for cars over X years old, and it's usually just $70 to check basic road-worthiness. But yeah. Hmm.

              • +1 vote

                @HighAndDry: That amounts to a lot of money. Especially if the check is a very quick one.

                If someone were to make a car that didn't need serving every year or half year, a lot of mechanics will have to close up shop.

                You guys get a guaranteed once a year customer in addition to the annual/half annual service.

                •  

                  @lostn:

                  That amounts to a lot of money. Especially if the check is a very quick one.

                  Oh yeah it's like a 10min once-over. Effectively something like $400/hr now I'm thinking about it. Damn.

              •  

                @HighAndDry: A pink slip is like $40…If you're paying $70, you're getting ripped off.

              • +1 vote

                @HighAndDry: Here's a curve ball. My car is electric. I converted it myself. I do all my own electrical work on and to that end my house. Come and take me away nanny state. Sparky's screw up sometimes too.

                •  

                  @simmos:

                  Sparky's screw up sometimes too.

                  I mean, obviously, they're human too. The theory is that someone specially trained and qualified will be more aware of what mistakes to watch out for, and make less of them.

                  My car is electric. I converted it myself.

                  No idea what voltage or amperage your car uses, would it be less dangerous than mains power?

      • +2 votes

        Mess up working on car: Likely the car doesn't run at all instead of failing on the road.

        Especially if an electrician did the job.

      • +8 votes

        What makes DIY electrical work so much more dangerous in Australia that warrants making it illegal?

        There are almost no other jurisdictions in the world with these rules. Decades later, there is still no proof that prohibition has improved safety outcomes. In fact, some suspect outcomes are worse because people are still doing DIY work, but without adequate reference materials. LOL.

        •  

          Because you can't be trusted to carry out the prerequisite mandatory checks/testing to ensure the dodgy work you do won't endanger yourself and other for years to come?

      •  

        That's a good thing the idoit got electrocuted but if it causes house fire and burned the whole village that's a disaster.

        I have been electrocuted many times when I was young, idiot and curious I consider myself very lucky to be alive. You shouldn't do this without safety training.

        • +3 votes

          You must be truly blessed to have risen from the dead so many times. Pray tell what you saw on the other side.

      • +1 vote

        @ highanddry

        3.Mess up on electrical wiring:Electrocute one of your family in two years time, as the work was waiting for the right conditions to fall.

        •  

          Oh yeah, that too. Honestly, electricity (from mains, not a power bank I guess) scares me, and I think it should scare most people. If it were a substance it'd be regulated just as highly, since it's undetectable (no smell or colour, etc), potentially immediately fatal on contact, and (very) easily transmissible.

      •  

        What, even for doing your own brakes?

        That's nonsense, surely

    • +1 vote

      I understand where you're coming from but I really don't have an answer

    • +5 votes

      For this reason I encourage people that want to learn a trade to be plumbers or electricians rather than my old trade of motor mechanic.

    • +12 votes

      Because the electrical union is much stronger than the mechanics union.

      • +6 votes

        Yeah exactly.

        Nurses, and teachers do more training IMO than plumbers, or electricians, and arguably have a much more risky, and in some instances, vital vocation, and yet they get paid SFA.

        There’s this myth that in trades both you get what you pay for, which is being exploited ridiculously, or that anyone doing any sort of trade work is both going to kill themselves, or destroy their home. Plenty of electrical work is done by non-trades in the US, and it’s fine.

        So many of the younger generation have absolutely no hands on experience doing any building works, and that will just lead to more and more inflated prices in trades because nobody is either allowed to do anything, or will know how to do anything.

        • +3 votes

          Electricians get paid significantly less than nurses at NSW Health.

          Your training analysis and comparison is also incorrect.

          Modern day healthcare would be nothing if it weren't for the hard working tradies (and other staff) that keep it going. My team quite often do overtime for love,despite the poor wages they receive.

          •  

            @DisabledUser266835: That's pushing the analogy a bit I think. Without working equipment a lot of modern hospitals would struggle but a level 1 tech gets paid quite low. Plus they have to deal with customers.

            •  

              @wyrmy: It's my day job dude…. AMA I'm a senior manager at NSW Health … …i would love to share , but against the code of conduct..

        • +1 vote

          Without clean water and effective removal of waste, a nurses job would be a million times more difficult, disease would be rife

    •  

      Electronics on a car run off 12V DC. To do low voltage DC work, whether it is in your car or at home - you do not require a license. Touching the mains (240V AC) does.

      Whilst a large part of this is due to unions - should be emphasized mains electricity is significantly more dangerous. You can definitely kill yourself. If you try hard enough, you might be able to intentionally hurt yourself with your car battery - but it wont kill you.

      Interestingly enough, not even an Electrical Engineer can legally touch the mains. Must be a licensed electrician only.

      • +1 vote

        Yeah I don't think this is a reference to the electrics in a car, more the normal mechanics. I can repair my car's brakes all within the letter of the law no problems, but as soon as I want to change a power point it's a no go.

        As has been said above this is just about unions. I believe in NZ you can do your own electrical work and can have it inspected afterwards. Same electrical standard, lower death rate from electrical accidents.

      •  

        I am far more likely to kill myself falling off a ladder trying to get on and off the roof than i am swapping a power point over. Should ladders require the use of a trained professional?

        It isn't hard to:
        1: ensure the power is off at the switchboard.
        2: double check the power is off with a tester.
        3: Wire in the the new point.

        If you can't get that right you probably couldn't work out how to get the old one off the wall to start with. IMO some of the basics should be taught in school as well as a healthy respect for the dangers, it works in other developed countries.

    • +3 votes

      Exactly

      Not allowing DIY wiring is nonsense

      • +2 votes

        In some ways you could say the authorities largely look the other way and somewhat allow it. Do they really believe all the electrical equipment at bunnings is installed by electricians?

        • +1 vote

          Agree. It was great when Masters was still going as they stocked excellent electrical stuff - including 3-phase and industrial gear that Bunnings never will

    •  

      Simple answer. If anyone's done anything risk management wise they'd understand. It's hard to (profanity) up working on your car to the point that there's a catastrophic failure, and the damage from the failure isn't even all that likely to be significant. I'm a dumb shit who's made mistakes working on their vehicles and had issues on the road, none resulted in any significant danger at all, let alone to anyone besides myself. Even if you forget to properly refasten brakes or whatever, you've still got multiple other brakes (hopefully) for redundance.

      (profanity) up electrical work on the other hand, and there's a way higher chance of death or serious injury.

  • +1 vote

    Have you ever accidentally electrocuted yourself or seen somebody do so?

    • +22 votes

      If I electrocuted myself, I wouldn't be here

      Electrocute - fatal
      Electric shock - non-fatal

      I didn't know the difference either until I went to trade school haha.

      I've been electroshocked a few times. I always underestimated electricity even during my apprenticeship until that one time… I received a shock that I will never forget and now I appreciate electricity.

      Switchboard blew up right in front of my workmate, was in hospital for a few months and had to get skin graft. It's not pretty

      •  

        was in hospital for a few months

        What was the actual injury? is it literally a burn localized on a part of your body or all the way through or something else?

        •  

          He was badly burnt on one whole side of his body, blistered at the time and now half his body is somewhere pinkish colour. The affected area also have this beehive like pattern possibly from the bandages, that's about the extend of my knowledge medically

      •  

        Electrocute comes from Electric Execution. So yeah, as a writer known about that for a while.

      • -2 votes

        Electrocute actually means death or serious injury.

        • +2 votes

          Originally it meant death ("execution").

          Now it means "I felt some static electricity discharge when I opened my car door".

  •  

    How much gear do you have to own?

    •  

      I'd say as a qualified Trademen, you'd have to own about $3000-$4000 worth of hand and cordless tools as a minimum

      Starting out as a first year, you're not really expected to have much. Generally tradies know that you being paid peanuts so they just lend them yours. Employers provide any unordinary tools such as concrete cutter, drop saw and rod cutter etc.

      • +1 vote

        This depends where you work.

        I've got slightly more time in the game than the OP, but my experience is moreso on the heavy industry and electrical engineering side of things.

        When I started as an apprentice, we paid a bit under $1000 for a hand tool kit (via payroll deductions) and the employer paid for the multimeter.

        All cordless tools were always provided to us.

        Even now where I work, we only expect the electricians to provide basic hand tools. All meters and cordless tools I provide them with under the company's electrical budget.

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