What do Unicorns and good electricians have in common?……… They are both majestic creatures that are impossible to come by! If you do happen to find one, you will want to treasure it and hang on tight. What if that weren’t the case though? What if I were to tell you that they are out there but you’re just not looking properly? Below I will discuss what it takes to be recognised as a good sparky and what you can expect when you need one.

How do you become a sparky and how long does it take to become fully qualified?

The pathway to becoming a fully qualified electrician is to achieve an apprenticeship with a suitable employer and enrol in a Certificate III in Electrotechnology course at TAFE. As part of this process you’ll need to undertake onsite training and work with said employer on the tools. Once onsite competencies are signed off you are required to sit a final theory and practical exam. If you manage to achieve the required pass mark in these exams you will qualify to pay for your electrician supervisors/contractor’s license.

What makes a good sparky?

You definitely need to be good at mathematics and physics, a lot of the work involves complex calculations to ensure the correct equipment or size of cable is used. This is especially true for the TAFE theory part. Being fit and healthy is also important; accessing tight spaces in roofs and under floors can be a daily occurrence. Having sound communication skills also comes in very handy. I always say that you can be the best electrician and find the faults quicker than any other, but unless you can communicate that to the customer and let them know what they are up against then what is the point?

Our apprentice, Tom (below left) has been studying hard at TAFE and is on track to become a fully qualified electrician in the next couple of years.

What does an electrician cost?

Depending on the size of the business and its level of overheads, it really varies. Some businesses can charge a call-out fee and a minimum charge. Hourly rates can range from $90-$150 an hour for a tradesman. A quoted job can be beneficial if you have a budget to work to and we certainly prefer working on a fixed price basis with all of our clients. Personally I am against call out fees, I think of every call out as a privilege and am grateful that customers have made the decision to use our services, often on a returning client or referral basis.

Why should you only use a licensed sparky?

Electricity, if not handled properly can be extremely dangerous and should not be tampered with unless you are licensed to do so. Other than the risk of death by electric shock, other things like fires can occur very easily from shoddy DIY work. We often find electrical work that Dad or Pops have completed on the weekend and although in their mind they are doing a good deed, some of the stuff we find is scary. Note to those DIY dads, just because it works, doesn’t mean its safe. If you value your life and that of your family, then get a licensed sparky in. the potential for death or serious injury is real.

What is a GPO and why are they all different shapes from country to country?

A GPO (general power outlet) is your standard power point or socket you will have on walls distributed around your home and workspace. They differ in shapes purely and simply because there is and never has been any international standard, so as electricity has evolved through time so have all the different shapes and sizes of plugs and sockets.

If I have an old fuse box is it dangerous and what does it cost to update this?

If you do have old ceramic fuses, it would be strongly advised to get a quote from an electrician to update it. It is my duty as an electrician to always provide advice to upgrade switchboards as it can be the difference between life or death. Costs for a domestic switchboard upgrade can range from $600-$4000 depending on the level of complexity and the standard of the incoming supplies and metering.

As houses age people look to renovate. What is cotton cable, how do I identify it and why is it dangerous?

The cotton sheathed cable or VIR (vulcanised India rubber) as it is known is easy to identify as it will usually be crumbling away at the point of entry to a lighting fixture or power point. Most remaining VIR or cotton cable is now in a dangerous condition, especially at termination points. It is common to see insulation that has fallen off, often leaving the live conductors bare. If you do come across this cabling, do not i any circumstance attempt to move it and seek to have it rewired ASAP.

Below is and example of VIR cabling passing through an old conduit. It is easy to see the deterioration of the cable and the exposed live conductors that this reveals.

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