With all the outrage against the insulation program causing electrocutions and fires, something that seems to have been missed in all the hoo har is that nearly all of these problems appear to be originating from poor, sub-standard and pre-existing electrical work. Afterall, insulation doesn’t spontaneously combust.

Down lights with no proper thermal insulation and their transformers laying about, wiring that isnt properly insulated or connected or is of the wrong gauge, and types of lighting installed in fixtures they weren’t designed to house are but a few of the issues that are causing electrocution, and when combined with insulation, causing ceiling fires.

I spoke to one of the best electricians in the business earlier today – not only an electrician by trade, but an electrical engineer by qualification as well. He was pretty scathing at not only the standards that exist in parts of his own industry, but the complete lack of common sense shown by DIY renovators and home owners generally when it comes to the electrical systems in their own house.

A few choice quotes with most of the colourful adjectives removed:

[Depending] on the suburb, up to 50% of the ceilings I’ve gone into have been wired up by dickheads

…ceiling insulation can only cause fires when either the wiring or down lights haven’t been properly insulated or installed or maintained. People seem to think that once they build a house the electrics are good forever.

Any fool can install insulation safely, have you ever seen the industry?
You just need an electrical safety inspection done first, by someone properly qualified and get any problems fixed before the insulation gets laid

The only thing he’s really surprised at about the insulation program is that more people haven’t been fried.

Something that doesn’t appear to have been mentioned anywhere in the press about the insulation program is the actual cause of the problems. That’s hardly surprising – sensational and vacuous muck about politicians causing death, destruction and mayhem grabs far more eyeballs.

The media loves its political deathporn.

But at a more serious level – and if the rest of the media ever decide to get their act together – the insulation program may eventually come to be seen as achieving something unexpected; bringing into public light something that has been known for decades in the building and electrical industries:

A majority of the housing stock has sub-standard electrical systems to the point of being physically dangerous, caused by a long history of shoddy workmanship and corner cutting, poor regulatory standards on DIY work and a public ignorance when it comes to the expectations of longevity of electrical systems.

When asked about higher levels of standards being placed on the industry, our electrician said:

The sparky industry would hate higher standards. They’d fight like a cornered dog against it. Half would lose their jobs and the other half would lose a big piece of their business that comes from fixing up the f*ckwits mess.

The coroners reports on the deaths may touch on some of this, we’ll have to see, but for the time being it’s worth asking whether higher levels of standards or policing of existing standards are worth considering, whether some sort of inquiry is worth undertaking to find out the true extent of the problem, and whether existing regulations on DIY work need overhauling.

Earlier today on Twitter when I was throwing out some of these quotes as I was writing this piece, we were swapping electrical horror stories that we’ve experienced – previous house owners stuffing up their DIY work and you footing the bill for it, electricians coming around and asking who the hell installed this rubbish, through to some pretty outrageous horror stories of bare wires being found and the place being a time bomb – where the problems weren’t picked up in the original inspection when the house was purchased.

So, tell us your electrical horror stories, old or new.

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