Anyone can change a light bulb. Including an electrician. Though sometimes it takes us longer. But it begs the question: If a homeowner can change a light bulb, what else can a homeowner (involving electricity) do?

It’s all in black and white. Here’s the link that spells everything out:

http://laws.gnb.ca/en/showpdf/cr/84-165.pdf

Just reading the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act is enough to scare off anyone interested in doing any electrical work. If I were to guess, I would say that’s deliberate. The legal document goes on to make great pains about the who and the what of an electrical installation.

The first part of the document explains who can perform electrical work. They have to be qualified. They have to be a contractor. To become a contractor you have to be a licenced electrician for two years. To become a licenced electrician you have to go through the apprenticeship process. Once you achieve all of that you are allowed to get a permit to perform work. That work is low voltage – up to 600V three phase. Fairly straightforward stuff. Numbers that don’t intimidate electricians, but might scare the bejesus out of a homeowner.

And most homeowners might not know they’re only dealing with a single phase installation (120/208) that’s a maximum of 400 amps. That’s kind’a the idea. Not because electricians are greedy. It’s more because electricity, when not properly understood and respected, can be extremely hazardous. Fires, electrocutions, that sort of thing. Presumably, because we’ve gone to school and worked in the trade, we have a healthy dose of respect for this resource. (And considering it ranks in the top 25 most dangerous professions, justifiably so.)

If the numbers haven’t scared you, the voluminous state of the document usually does. Most give up and figure the only one’s who can do any electrical work on a home is a qualified electrician working for a qualified contractor.

That’s until you read the final paragraph which gives the homeowner one small caveat:

QUALIFIED PERSONS

24 Notwithstanding anything in this Regulation, a qualified person may make minor repairs to or replacements of electrical installations if he does not make any changes or modifications to the circuits and the work meets the requirements of the Code and this Regulation.

It’s the paragraph of a twenty-eight page legal document. We can understand why you might have said ‘uncle’ before you finished trying to read it. But wait, you have to go back to the beginning to understand the phrase Qualified Persons:

“qualified person” means a person familiar with the construction and operation of the apparatus and the hazards involved;

So what’s the short answer: you can change a light fixture. If you feel confident your work will comply to the electrical code you can make a minor repair. Modifications (adding a receptacle) are a no-no. And if you don’t feel qualified to perform any of those tasks then by all means, call an electrician.