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Old 08-31-2010, 10:21 PM   #16
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differing opinions by two electricians


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Old 09-01-2010, 10:53 AM   #17
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differing opinions by two electricians


Hi again,
Thanks again for that feedback guys.

To JBfan, thanks in particular for that feedback. I thought that the rules here were pretty relaxed compared to Australia, but not that lenient. As I said, it's been a big learning curve for me on that front, and I'll just have to take the lesson and try to take considerably more care in future when hiring tradespeople who call themselves this or that.

I don't know if you guys can spare the time, but I'd be interested to know what the deal is in the USA from the perspective of getting proper qualifications as an electrician - or any of the trades. I mean, it must be pretty demoralizing for some of you to go through all that training and get your licenses, only to see other people getting work without all that effort?

To give you an idea of how the system works Down Under, everything - from being a hair dresser, butcher, bricklayer, mechanic, electrician - revolves around the cycle of a four year apprenticeship. The first year you barely earn anything and are consigned to performing all the crappy and menial work while you watch, listen, and go to tech college (trade school) 2 - 3 nights a week to learn the basics. I know about the first year stuff, because I started out as a cabinet-making apprentice and quit after that first year - stood me in good stead though, as I've done the installation of cabinets myself in our homes through the years - as I will to this home when we finally get this electrical situation sorted out! By the second year your employer will start giving you a bit more responsibility and moderate work to do, pay goes up a little, and tech school ups the level of your education, a theme that continues right through to your final year. By the third year you're pretty well handed most of the responibiltities of the trade you've chosen, pay takes another step up to a point where you're probably earning 50% - 60% of what someone fully qualified would be getting paid, and by the end of the year you should pretty well know the job from one end to the other. The fourth year is just the cream on the cake for the employer as a reward for taking you on as an apprentice and teaching you his skills, where you build up experience and hand him (or her) a year's worth of your new-found expertise for something like 75% of the going rate in the trade - AND, having overseen your training, they get first opportunity to offer you your first real job as a fully qualified trades-person. The other point is of course that, having completed your apprenticeship and passed all the various exams at tech school, you receive a certificate/diploma that states unequivocally that you have met the government's educational requirements for that particular trade. Just like a college graduate who's an architecture, an engineer, a doctor, whatever, you can't get a job unless you can produce the requisite paperwork showing that you've passed the appropriate standard of education. And there's the end user angle as well, in that government regulations (set by the state, not city or local authorities) stipulate that work can't be performed by anyone other than a qualified individual, who, in instances such as electrical work has to sign off on the appropriate paperwork with his trade ID. So there are safeguards allround to ensure that the right people perform tasks to the appropriate standards.

So in a nutshell, that's what I meant earlier when I stated that if someone calls themselves an electrician in Australia, than you can safely assume that you're dealing with someone who's gone through the entire process of serving a four year apprenticeship and passed the appropriate exams. There are no shortcuts or ways to finding employment otherwise. That's why I stupidly walked right into it with the first guy we employed here, because I made an assumption that wasn't correct. I'm guessing that this guy's probably done a bit of work for a contractor or licensed electrician and branched out on his own.

I guess I should have realized that something like that might be a possibility by the experience of meeting a fellow Aussie here who worked for a local electrical contractor on major building sites. What he described led me to believe he was an electrician, which he said wasn’t the case. Yet all the duties he was performing would have normally fallen within the regulatory province of a qualified electrician and no one else in Australia. That’s when he told me that the situation was entirely different here, and that anyone and everyone could perform the kind of work he was performing as long as there was a licensed electrician on site to supervise.

I guess all of that makes for a two-edged sword regarding the trades in both countries. From an individual’s point of view Australia’s probably a better place to work as an electrician because regulations safeguard their trade both from an employment perspective and via regulations that essentially forbid home owners to do any electrical work for themselves (with 240 volts being the norm in Australia, that’s probably not a bad thing!) I once travelled round Australia with a buddy of mine who was a sparky, and I used to envy the way the guy could walk up to any major building site, produce his papers, and get a job almost instantly on good money! From a contractor’s perspective though I guess it would be a different kettle of fish, because if you’re looking to tackle larger work with a number of employees on the payroll, every one of them has to be fully qualified, which translates to higher wages and thus higher fees for the work. Here in the States I’m assuming that it’s probably the opposite, in that the kind of electrical work on construction sites like my friend in Australia performed would be non-existent here because a contractor can just come in and employ a bunch of semi-skilled people on a basic hourly rate to do much of the work. Which of course translates to comparatively less expansive fees for the contract.


It all probably explains why I’ve always been somewhat puzzled by the fact that homes here seem to be considerably cheaper to build than Australia, and the answer may well be that with so many people on site having to be fully qualified tradesmen (carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, plumbers, etc) with commensurately higher wages, the costs get pushed up considerably compared to the U.S.A.. I guess the overall winner under such circumstances must be the American consumer – and perhaps larger contractors.



One final question. The first electrician we employed stated that we only needed to install one GFCI outlet on each of the counter-top circuits, as one was all that was necessary to safeguard it and that the others could be standard outlets. The book on wiring that I read stated that they should all be GFCI. I had already bought the extra GFCI's and had them on hand, but he said I'd be wasting my money to put them on.

Last edited by timbo59; 09-01-2010 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 09-01-2010, 12:30 PM   #18
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differing opinions by two electricians


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Originally Posted by timbo59 View Post
One final question. The first electrician we employed stated that we only needed to install one GFCI outlet on each of the counter-top circuits, as one was all that was necessary to safeguard it and that the others could be standard outlets. The book on wiring that I read stated that they should all be GFCI. I had already bought the extra GFCI's and had them on hand, but he said I'd be wasting my money to put them on.
Both right. The book means that all the receptacles must be GFCI PROTECTED, not that each of them must be a GFCI itself. The electrician's method of installing one GFCI to protect all the downstream receptacles is typical.
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Old 09-01-2010, 03:44 PM   #19
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differing opinions by two electricians


@Mpoulton. Thanks very much for the clarification.

I think what the wiring book stated, from memory, was that hooking standard outlets to a GFCI made it a little more twitchy to variations in current because of the number of appliances that could be running off it downstream. That's why I think the book suggested GFCI units for each outlet, and why I bought all the GFCI's.

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