Electrical work: 4 things you need to know

21 October 2021

Anyone who experiences a power failure, even for a few minutes, knows full well how dependent our modern world is on this energy source. Power outages can occur if your electrical system is obsolescent or poorly maintained, so we’ll be taking a look at various aspects of electrical work: current regulations, the most frequent requirements, and the new and growing trend of home automation, or how to have a smarter house.

What are the rules governing electrical work?

When renovating your home, you are legally entitled to make a number of improvements, but electrical work is highly regulated due to the risks it can pose to your family’s safety. Legally speaking, your actions are limited to changing bulbs and connecting appliances to electrical outlets. The confusion is easily explained by the wide availability of electrical supplies in renovation centres, but the Building Act (s. 49) couldn’t be any clearer in stating that only authorized contractors can carry out electrical work. In short, if you do such work on your own without the necessary accreditations that prove your expertise, you expose yourself to fines (which can range from $1,028 to $154,000) as well as the risks of malfunctioning devices, not to mention potential fire hazards. The amount you have to pay for the work may seem high, but is it higher than the risk of making a mistake?

The most commonly requested types of electrical work

There are a variety of reasons for calling a master electrician:

  • You may live in an old house with an electrical panel that still works with fuses
  • Your electrical outlets get hot when connected
  • You’re replacing your old wood or oil furnace with an electrical system
  • You want to up your electrical panel from 100 to 200 amps
  • Your wiring is in a worrisome state, or you suspect it may be improperly installed
  • You’re adding a garage, a hot tub or a pool to your home, and you need to connect them to your current electrical system

In short, anything that requires electrical power requires safe and efficient installation. You don’t have to get all the work done right away. A first step could be to have your current installation checked by a professional to see what needs to be prioritized.

Hourly electrician rates

The amount an electrician charges isn’t regulated by law. It’s a free market, and while the Corporation des maîtres électriciens du Québec (CMEQ) publishes recommended hourly rates, each master electrician is free to set their own. For residential work, the hourly rate will depend on the type of work (light or heavy). In 2016, it ranged from $99.59 to $163.50 an hour, as indicated on the CMEQ’s recommended hourly rates page (in French only). These rates don’t include taxes and may not include travel expenses.

Home automation: new and increasingly popular

The Internet of Things is more and more a presence in our homes. Home automation is seductively appealing to consumers everywhere who want to automate their household appliances. The most common form of home automation is no doubt digital control of heating and air conditioning devices. For several years now we’ve been able to program our heating systems to adjust to our daily needs. And our ability to do so has become increasingly more sophisticated as wireless networks have developed and mobile device apps have proliferated.

So what exactly is home automation? It can be defined as follows: A set of techniques for fully automating a home’s safety, energy management, communications, and other functions. Home automation is part of a new range of services offered by a number of licensed electricians. It often requires connection to the home’s power grid, and thus the assistance of a licensed professional. Some of the most popular automation items are:

Lighting: At the touch of a control on your smartphone, you can turn your house lights on or off. You can also schedule the times when lights are on and off.

Blinds: Shades can be raised and lowered depending on daytime sunshine and the season.

Heaters: You can turn the heat on in the house as you’re leaving the office so it warms up a bit before you get there—all with just a few taps on your phone. You can also set room temperatures individually, which is great for those who like it cozier without making the more hot-blooded people in your home uncomfortable.

Other options: Video surveillance, garage door activation, living room cinema atmosphere, door lock management, or even watering your lawn on demand.

Our homes will likely become even smarter in the years to come. It’s a good bet that one day you’ll have to call on an electrician to help you with home automation issues. It’s tempting to try to save on labour costs in the short term, but the risks are high—fines, potential trouble with your insurer, malfunctions, fire hazards, etc. As we said above, the cost is nothing compared to the peace of mind you get by calling on a professional.

Here are some references to learn more:

Régie du bâtiment du Québec – Choose a licenced contractor https://www.rbq.gouv.qc.ca/en/you-are/citizen/construction-or-renovation/dealing-with-a-licenced-contractor/choose-a-licenced-contractor.html>

Corporation des maîtres électriciens du Québec: https://www.cmeq.org/protection-du-public/ (in French only)