08 November 2009

Get paid by your customer: Top 5 tips

You get a call from someone wanting the services you provide, you listen carefully and prepare a quote for the job, you get the job beating all your competitors (yaaayy!!), you fix a date for the job and shop around for best materials, you accomodate the customer's changing and additional requirements that come up as he understands the product better, you finish the job a few days later and are happy about having provided a great service, you come back and prepare an invoice based on the earlier quote and added tasks, you send it in the mail, and... nothing!! You call the customer another few days later to ask for payment and...
"Oh my God!! That is definitely not what I expected"
"I nearly fell off the chair looking at the amount"
"How did it become this expensive??!!"
"I am really struggling for cash right now, can we negotiate this?"
"Can I pay in installments?"
"Can I pay next month?"

Have you ever faced difficulties getting payments from customers? Have you found yourself struggling to pay your suppliers since you simply dont get paid by your customers on time? Do you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to follow up with slow or non-paying customers, calling them, sending reminders and sometimes totally spoiling the good relationship you have so far developed with them? Here are our top tips to help you avoid this nightmare:

1. Set expectations right

Start even before your relationship starts. What are your call-out charges? Do you charge for a written quote? What is your definition of a quote, is this the same as your customers definition.  Make sure you make your initial charging policy clear the first time a prospective customer calls you. Do not assume that it is simple "common sense" that a particular service is or is not free. Just be honest, transparent and perfectly clear. Do not let anyone accuse you of "hidden charges". 

2. Provide a written estimate before you start

It is tempting to immediately start the work the customer asked for. But STOP! Always provide your estimated cost to complete the works. Think of what obstacles you might find on the way, and put in provisions for them. At the same time put in your terms for payment. Do you want a deposit? If it is a large job, do you want milestone payments along the way? How many days after the job do you want final payment by? Do you give a discount for early payment? What happens if the customer does not pay? Put it all down there, and make this your standard quoting practice.

Tip: Much of your spending on a job will be at the start, to buy materials required. Remember that cash flow is king in the business, and ask the customer to pay enough payment upfront to cover this. It also helps to make the final payment relatively small, so that if unfortunately you do have to chase up later, you are chasing up for a smaller amount.

3. Expect the unexpected

This is one of the greatest truths of any business. The customer wants something that you quote for, but as he sees his thoughts taking shape, he might think better of something, change one thing, add many more. And of course, with the focus on customer service that you have you will do that. But keep note of every change and addition.

Also take note of unexpected difficulties or setbacks at the job. We have had underground cables stolen overnight, hit illegal wiring that absolutely had to be fixed, found customers who had bought large appliances such as a spa without thinking of telling their electrician, had another tradesperson at a new house cut through our wires and.. you get the picture. Some of them we have absorbed into our own cost of doing business, some we have not. But what is important is to note every single one of them, and make sure the customer knows how that affects both schedule and cost. Inform the customer immediately, if possible. And better still, send him a daily running statement of work completed along with cost. This makes sure there are no surprises at the end of the job.

4. Send invoices promptly

Do not wait for the end of the week or month to send out invoices. Do this as soon as the job is done. If you have been sending running statements of work and have been in touch with the customer at all times, he will already be expecting this and will also have an idea of the total cost.

5. Keep track and follow up

Have a system in place that tells you of which customers owe you money. We use MYOB for our accounting and tracking and find it extremely easy-to-use and user-friendly. Even if you are not currently using an accounting software, track payments on Excel. If you have not received payment, you can call the customer the day before the due date to confirm that he has received your invoice. If you are not paid by the due date, do not be afraid to follow up, both on the phone and through written reminders. Sometimes customers do simply forget to pay in time, and a simple reminder is all it takes. If not follow up at least weekly, and try to get a promised date to get the payment by. Be polite, but firm!

Are the 5 tips enough?

Following up, calling, sending repeated overdue reminders. All these do eat up a lot of your time and energy. Sometimes, you will come across some customers who do not pay up despite all these measures. Know when to give up and accept that you are simply not going to get 100% payment from these people. There are still some things you CAN do after this stage - you can call in a debt collection  agency (they are expensive, and remember to read their terms carefully too, do not pay fees before they collect), you can try "factoring ", you can even try negotiating payments in installments or at least some percentage of the total. You can also insure the accounts receivable  from the very start if you just want to sleep in peace. Hopefully, if you have followed the 5 tips carefully, you will rarely reach this stage of non-payment

30 October 2009

Electrical hazards from roof installation

Earlier this month, a young roof insulation installer was killed when a a staple used to fix aluminium reflective insulation pierced an electrical cable . Another person helping with the work suffered burns and electrical shock. At another installation site in Brisbane, the homeowner got zapped when he leaned against a metal awning on the back deck of his house after a foil reflective insulation was installed . An electrician detected a 240-volt charge running through the insulation to sarking in the roof and walls and the roof gutters, awnings and poles, all because the foil insulation was stapled into a power cable that was switched off at the time.

The federal government's Home Insulation Program  offers ceiling insulation worth up to $1,600 to owner-occupiers, landlords and tenants. [Update: The home insulation rebate has now been slashed to $1,200]

 [Update: This scheme has now been abandoned effective 19 February 2010] If you have had your roof insulated under this scheme, it is best to get it inspected to stay safe.

The subsidies have boosted the amount of roof insulation installed and Australia is moving towards the government's vision of having Energy Efficient Homes. However, the high demand has also attracted a number of inexperience installers to the industry, and their shoddy work is putting homes and lives at risk. Inadvertently, the program seems to be contributing to an alarming spike in roof space fires and electrical risks. Homeowners should be aware of potential electrical hazards that may be caused by unsafe roof insulation and know the ways to protect yourself from these dangers.

Fire Risk from roof insulation

  • Insulation should never be too close to downlights and their transformers, electrical cables or exhaust fans. Though most insulation is heat-resistant to some extent it can still ignite if it directly covers electrical cables or devices and is exposed to the heat generated for long periods of time
  • Minimum clearance required is 50mm around incandescent lamps or 100mm if located next to structural timber, and 200mm for halogen lamps
  • Downlight guards or other physical fire-resistant barriers should be installed before the insulation is put in [Update: Covers on downlights are now mandatory]
  • Blow-in or loose-fill insulation should be secured properly (usually by spraying an adhesive solution) to prevent movement. Else this can jam blades of an exhaust fan, for e.g., and cause overheating
  • A roof fire is not usually detected by a smoke alarm since the smoke is above the alarm. Homeowners are often unaware of the fire until the damage has been done, and embers fall through air-conditioning ducts or the roof collapses. This makes prevention of any potential fire risk even more important

Electrical shock risk from roof insulation

  • This specifically applies to conductive type of roof insulation such as aluminium foil reflective insulation [Update: Government's new safety guidelines include a ban on the use of metal fasteners on foil insulation]
  • Check that the insulator takes adequate care when installing near electrical equipment including cables, light fittings and ceiling fans, etc

Choose a registered roof insulation installer and licensed electrician

  • Select your installer only from the government provided Installer Provider Register  
  • If in doubt or worried about your roof insulation installation, arrange for an inspection by a licensed electrical contractor

Geoff is a registered electrician with over 20 years experience in the industry. He is also licensed to provide data and voice services. Baishakhi is an MBA and looks after the "business" side of Epping Electrical. Read about Epping Electrical here.

Looking for electrical supplies? Check out these bestsellers...

18 October 2009

Stay healthy on the job

Fun run at Meadowglen International Athletic Stadium

You don’t stand in front of a mirror before a run wondering what the road will think of your outfit,
You don’t have to listen to its jokes and pretend they’re funny in order to run on it.
It would not be easier to run if you dressed sexier.
The road doesn’t notice if you’re not wearing lipstick.
Does not care how old you are.
You do not feel uncomfortable because you make more money than the road.
And you can call on the road whenever you feel like it.
Whether it’s been a day or even a couple of hours since your last date.
The only thing the road cares about, is that you pay it a visit once in a while.
Nike. No games…just sports…
from the movie “What Women Want”

Today we went for a 5km "Fun Run" at the Meadowglen International Athletic Stadium. The morning dawned wonderfully bright and clear and we woke up quite early for a Sunday to be in time for the registration and the fabulous pre-run aerobics workout conducted by the YMCA aerobics team. There were smiling volunteers cheering us on along the way and a professional timing company that recorded finish times electronically via an ankle band. At the end of the race there were free fruits, water and even a showbag for everyone. All in all, it was a fantastic way to stay healthy while having fun doing it.

Update: A year on, we have signed on to become the major sponsors of the 10th anniversary of the Meadowglen and YMCA fun run!! :) We at Epping Electrical are immensely proud to be able to take this giant step forward in supporting our local community

As entrepreneurs and small business owners, time is money for us and any time taken off for sickness or injury loses money. So, in quite an important way, health and fitness affects the bottomline of our business. And we do all we can to integrate a reasonably healthy way of living into our lifestyle. In simple terms this boils down to two things:
  • Eat right
  • Exercise
And here's how we do it.

Eat right

Do not skip meals.

Cut down on junk food and sugary fizzy drinks as much as possible. What we do is have an esky or portable fridge in the van  and fill that with sandwiches, fruits and drinks we can have any time on the way.

And yes, do pack your lunch. Just some sandwiches with last night's roast or some deli in rolls not just saves time in driving to a McD but saves a lot of money as well!!


General fitness and exercise is important for everyone but more so for electricians who are likely to undertake a lot of activities on the job that might lead to stress related injury. Electricians may spend long hours cramped in roof spaces or otherwise stooped over at ground or floor level, work with vibrating heavy power tools, lift and pull heavy cables, copper wires and electrical appliances - putting them at a much higher risk than general public for traumatic joint/muscle injury.

An electrician's needs to attain a high fitness level to prevent these kinds of injuries.
  • Do some basic stretching exercises at the start and end of each day to avoid injury to muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues
  • Join a team sport, go mountain biking, swimming with family and friends or join a dance class. There are various fun ways to stay fit depending on what you like to do, and doing it with a partner, family or friends makes it so much more interesting
  • Look out for fun events in the neighbourhood, like the "Fun Run" in Epping we went to today.  The summer athletics season has just started and such events should be more frequent the next few months
To find the perfect accessory to support your quest for fitness, check these reviews of fitness accessories
To find fitness centres and options in Victoria, check these Fitness VIC reviews

Geoff is a registered electrician with over 20 years experience in the industry. He is also licensed to provide data and voice services. Baishakhi is an MBA and looks after the "business" side of Epping Electrical. Read our story here.

Looking for electrical supplies? Check out these bestsellers...

14 October 2009

Top 10 safety tips for christmas lights

Houses decorated with Diwali lights - India

In three days from now, we will celebrate Diwali - the festival of lights. Soon it will be time for Halloween and then before we know it, Christmas will be upon us. One of the major activities for all of these festivals is decorating our houses and streets with lights. Unfortunately, thousands of people around the country spend the holiday season in hospital - admitted for a decorating related injury including falls, cuts, electrical shocks and burns.

To stay safe and worry-free this Diwali and Christmas, follow these simple tips and avoid decorating hazards

1Make sure you use "outdoor" (weatherproof) lights for outdoors. The packaging should clearly state whether the lights can be used indoors, outdoors or both. Also use only certified, quality products

2When you unpack that box of lights from last year, first check it for defects - frayed wires, burned out bulbs, loose connections. Replace dead bulbs with bulbs of same wattage as original strand

3Use only plastic clips or hooks to hang the lights. NEVER staple or nail the light strings

4Do not place the lights near sources of heat such as heaters, fireplace, candles or even electronic items that are likely to become hot on use. Make sure none of the bulbs rest on the light string either

5Do not cover the light bulbs with inflammable material such as cloth or paper

6Check the recommended amount of light sets allowed on one string and the rating of the extension cord and power point to see that they are not overloaded. Also use a portable safety switch or connect to a circuit protected by your main safety switch. If in doubt, call a qualified electrician for proper outdoor lights installation

7Do not expose the extension cord to the weather or use it near water. Cover it if it is on a walkway and never place it across a driveway. Always unwind it completely to avoid overheating.

8Do not touch a festival-light display. Turn it off and unplug before you do anything

9Have a sturdy ladder for hanging the lights at heights. Move it as you work instead of leaning out. Check the balance each time you move

10Switch the lights off when you are not home, or are asleep

Have a happy festive season and holiday this year. Stay safe!

Geoff is a registered electrician with over 20 years experience in the industry. He is also licensed to provide data and voice services. Baishakhi is an MBA and looks after the "business" side of Epping Electrical. Read our story here.

Looking for electrical supplies? Check out these bestsellers...

13 October 2009

Nepal through an electrician's lens

Just back from a fantastic trip through Nepal, we are yet to get over the absolutely heavenly natural beauty and amazing history of this tiny Himalayan country. [Check pictures here] Good infrastructure, though, is something the nation is still struggling to achieve. It is a much more difficult goal here than in other places, being prone to all sorts of natural disasters from floods and earthquakes to landslides and of course because of its treachorously mountainous geography. Hundreds of small villages are totally isolated - being accessible only by foot or sometimes on mule. Considerable improvement have been made in the past few years, including innovative simple solutions such as the gravity ropeway by Practical Action, and we do wish them the best in their journey as a new democratic republic.

Here is what we saw through our electrician eyes as we travelled from Pokhara to Kathmandu.

An illegal hookup to the powerline to siphon power
Power theft is a major cause of concern in Nepal and other countries in South Asia. Australia has also seen rising cases of power theft in the past few years as electricity costs have skyrocketed. In Queensland alone, customers siphoning electricity through dangerous illegal homemade hook-ups was estimated to cost about $30 million in 2008. The practice is unsafe and also burdens honest customers with rising prices.

How NOT to connect wires: Dangerous open wiring against the backdrop of a Himalayan mountain
While there, we read stories in the local newspapers of injury/deaths by electrocution through coming in contact with naked live wires or short circuit in a home water pump and so on. Such injuries and fatalities are even more sad being preventable.

Good luck to the electrician who tries to figure out the correct wire in this chaos!!

On the last day of our trip, while we were making the final payment to our travel agent, we suddenly saw some men running past saying something and our agent rushed to the switchboard and turned everything off!! Seeing a lot of people running somewhere, we ran - without understanding anything of course - with them to survive whatever it was they were fleeing from. Then there was a very loud hissing, sparking kind of sound and the crowd ran backwards!! Finally after a minute of running back and forth, the sound died down and we gingerly craned our necks to find the cause. An overhead power wire had just molten and was hanging down. All this while it had been arcing and jumping around from side to side!! Boy are we glad to get back to safer shores!! :)

Geoff is a registered electrician with over 20 years experience in the industry. He is also licensed to provide data and voice services. Baishakhi is an MBA and looks after the "business" side of Epping Electrical. Read our story here.

Looking for electrical supplies? Check out these bestsellers...

29 September 2009

Fuse Keeps Blowing #3 Illegal wiring

I was recently called to a home in Epping where the new owners complained of a power fuse blowing everyday. At first I suspected an electrical fault in an appliance, our investigation however uncovered a number of issues that would require some attention.

The issues found included :-
Part 1. Switchboard with re-wireable fuses
Part 2. Overloaded power circuits
Part 3. Illegal wiring

I will write about each issue over the next week.

Today I will write about the illegal wiring found.

It would seem that the previous owner undertook much of the home improvements, based on the illegal wiring, I would suggest the handy man also undertook the electrical work. Not a day goes by that we don’t see some kind of illegal wiring.

This pic shows exposed wiring on a brick wall and also unsupported electrical conduit that spans approx 4 meters between the garage and the granny flat. Both these have been removed, the granny flat is now supplied with an aerial cable from the garage.

Here is one of the worst examples of illegal wiring found recently in a home at West Meadows. This outlet has been connected to live power. Exposed electrical terminals is a real safety risk. No earth conductor was connected making this illegal wiring even worse. 

Yet another reminder, Never undertake electrical work yourself.

27 September 2009

Fuse Keeps Blowing #2 overloaded power circuits

I was recently called to a home in Epping where the new owners complained of a power fuse blowing everyday. At first I suspected an electrical fault in an appliance, our investigation however uncovered a number of issues that would require some attention.

The issues found included :-
Part 1. Switchboard with re-wireable fuses
Part 2. Overloaded power circuits
Part 3. Illegal wiring

I will write about each issue over the next week.

Today I will write about the overloaded power circuits found.

The home had a number of renovations and extensions over the years, additionally, a granny flat and garage had been built in the back yard. Whilst the previous owner invested heavily in these improvements, it seems they did not consult a qualified electrician to modify the electrical installation to cope with the increased electrical load.

One power circuit had been extended to connect to power outlets in the house extension, garage and granny flat. What’s more, a 3.6KW hot water service in the granny flat was also connected to the power circuit. Because the granny flat was not heated, it is likely that plug in electrical heaters would be used. The simultaneous use of multiple heavy load appliances was the direct cause of the power over loads.

The solution would require the installation of a Sub-board with in-built safety switches, this would supply power to the granny flat power outlets and lighting, hot water service and garage lighting and power.

The Sub-board would also supply power to the extension at the rear of the house. The main switchboard load will be reduced back to acceptable limits. Problem rectified.

17 September 2009

Fuse Keeps Blowing #1 Re-wireable fuses

I was recently called to a home in Epping where the new owners complained of a power fuse blowing everyday. At first I suspected an electrical fault in an appliance, our investigation however uncovered a number of issues that would require some attention.

The issues found included :-
Part 1. Switchboard with re-wireable fuses
Part 2. Overloaded power circuits
Part 3. Illegal wiring

I will write about each issue over the next week.

Firstly, the existing switchboard board was the older Federal board with ceramic re-wireable fuse holders. As shown below.

These boards are increasingly becoming the cause of electrical faults some causing fires in homes around Melbourne. If your home has one of these boards, you should have it replaced as soon as you can. Loose cable connections and/or fuse contacts cause an increase in heat and if unattended will result in damage to wiring or can even result in a house fire. If the fuse wire is replaced too many times over the years, the fuse contacts become loose.

Another issue with re-wireable fuses is that un-qualified personnel attempt to replace the fuse wire after an electrical fault. In some cases the fuse wire is not replaced with the correct fuse wire. This can cause a fire risk to the home. The fuse wire is designed to be the weak link in the electrical circuit, if more current is drawn than the installed cable can support, the fuse wire will overheat and melt, thus disconnecting supply. If the weak link is strengthened, then the weak link in the electrical circuit can become the wire install within the walls and ceiling of the home, replacement of this is very costly.

A better way.

The installation of a new circuit breaker board with in-built safety switches (approx $700 inc GST) will not only better protect your home and electrical wiring, it will protect family and friends from electrocution. The circuit breaker installed is factory set with a current limit. When more current is drawn than the rating of the circuit breaker, the breaker will trip. If this occurs, push back to the on position to reset. If the breaker trips immediately, a fault exists somewhere in the home. Disconnect all appliances you can find and repeat the process. If the breaker trips again call an electrician ASAP. If the breaker stays on, then one appliance you have disconnected has an electrical fault. Have this appliance repaired or replaced.

15 September 2009

Christmas lights: Bring on the festive season

Tomorrow we head off on a two week trip to India and Nepal. This trip coincides with the biggest festival in that part of the world and we are definitely looking forward to the festivities. But more importantly we are waiting eagerly to see the amazing electrical artistry in the dazzling lights on display in every neighbourhood and city during this carnival

The usage of "lights" during festivals is quite universal around the world, whether it be for Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Chinese New Year or Kwanzaa. With electrical innovatons and techonological advancement, the festive lights have moved on from a static display of festival symbols to a scintillating spectacle with sound and motion integrated in it. As our own festive season draws near, we hope to come back from India with some fantastic ideas of Christmas lights. We'll come back with loads of pictures for sure, but till then - enjoy these from years gone by.

[Photos credit Calcuttaweb]

09 September 2009

A power outlet that has never worked

Today I was working at a customer's eight year old residence in Bundoora.  Apart from the additional lighting points and power outlets required, the owner asked if I could have a look at a power-point in her ensuite that is not working. She said, in fact this power-point has NEVER worked since the house was built over eight years ago. 

I tested the outlet and found no power was present. I removed the outlet and tested at the terminals, again no power (or so I thought). At this time I was wondering if this cable was connected. I removed the terminal screws to find that the cable was not prepared correctly, the terminal screws were lightly clamping the PVC insulation, the bare copper conductors were not in contact with the outlet. This picture shows the three conductors each with the terminal screw marks.

Luckily for the owner, the terminal screws were not in contact with the copper conductor, as this could have caused a fire.

Every day I work I see signs of sub-standard Electrical Work, clearly this installation was not undertaken by a qualified electrician nor was the installation tested. Yet another warning for consumers not attempt DIY electrical work.

If you have a power point not working, call me on 0431 232 796 to rectify the problems for you.

Geoff is a registered electrician with over 20 years experience in the industry. He is also licensed to provide data and voice services. Baishakhi is an MBA and looks after the "business" side of Epping Electrical. Read our story here.

Looking for electrical supplies? Check out these bestsellers...

08 September 2009

A safety switch or RCD can save your life

Last weekend in Western Australia's north-west , a two and a half year old toddler suffered a fatal electric shock while playing hide-and-seek at home. Primary investigations reveal that there was no Safety Switch or Residual Current Device (RCD) installed at this property. Almost 80% of the deaths by electrocution in WA in the last 17 years could have been prevented if RCDs were installed, and new regulations there now mandate homes to have two residual current devices (RCDs or safety switches) installed at the time ownership is transferred or, when a new rental lease is made.

RCDs are a mandatory requirement for socket outlet (power) circuits in all new dwellings across Australia since 1992. Having an RCD for lighting circuits too is mandatory in some states and provides extra protection and peace of mind.

What is an RCD and how does it work?

An RCD is a device that immediately switches off the electricity when it detects leakage or flow of electricity to earth (or other fault path) ie. through a human body, for instance. This happens within a few milli-seconds, much before electrocution can cause death. RCDs also prevent fire from faulty appliances by detecting electricity flowing to earth in electrical wiring and accessories.

Is an RCD the same as a circuit breaker? Am I protected if I have a circuit breaker?

No. A circuit breaker protects the wiring by disconnecting supply when a higher level of current flow is dectected than can safely be carried by the cable.  This is often not fast enough to prevent electrocution.

A circuit breaker and safety switch look somewhat similar, but the RCD is easily identifiable by the Test Button.

We have an RCD installed. Is it working?

Once every three months, use the test button on the RCD to see if it is working. This should turn off the appliances connected to the powerpoints (and possibly lighting) the RCD runs through.

We want to install an RCD

Call a registered licensed electrician to install an RCD. Regulations today require domestic installations to have at least two RCD's.  Most RCD installations are done at the same time the entire swichboard is upgraded.  For a FREE quote, call us on 0431 232 796. To check our prices go to our electrical services page.

Geoff is a registered electrician with over 20 years experience in the industry. He is also licensed to provide data and voice services. Baishakhi is an MBA and looks after the "business" side of Epping Electrical. Read our story here.

Looking for electrical supplies? Check out these bestsellers...

04 September 2009

A wireless future for electricians?

Tangled powercords a thing of the past? [Photo courtesy: JAMM]

Light bulbs powered by wireless electricity that travels several feet from a power socket. Think that's the stuff of science fiction? Tell that to Eric Giler, CEO of WiTricity, a company that's already able to do this, and predicts that electronics such as phones and laptops may start shedding their power cords within a year. Such is the theme of this interesting article on CNN.

The technology is already working on numerous test vehicles and is set to go commercial soon. At a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, power tools inside an industrial van parked outside a special booth receive signals that their battery is running low and start charging themselves - all while still inside their case. An LCD TV is powered by a coil hidden behind a painting a few feet away. And a power hungry ipod charges itself up when brought within 2 metres of this coil.

A company named Powercast has already sold wireless artificial Christmas trees strung with LED lights for about $400. Still beyond the ordinary Australian's budget, but this shows how near this wireless future is.

What does this mean for an electrician? First, it reiterates what was said in this video post. Besides the practical side of the job that requires manual skills, electricians need to have an aptitude for the academic side of the business to be successful. Like any other technology related field, electrical technology is fast changing. Devices and methodologies keep changing and electricians need to keep up with it and retrain and upskill themselves at all times. We attend many trainings in new fields such as home automation to stay in touch with the newest tools and developments.

And of course, new developments mean a lot of fun. Imagine how cool it would be to be the first few electricians who can offer you a wire-free home that automatically charges cell phones and laptops and magically powers blenders and heaters with not a cord in sight. Go WiTricity, go Powercast! Bring on the innovation. We can't wait to share the fun!

02 September 2009

A day in the life of an electrician

Although from New Zealand, this video captures the essence of what it means to be an electrical contractor anywhere in the world. To be successful as an electrician, as it rightly points out, one needs to have an aptitude for the practical side, academic side and the people's side of this business.

We will soon come up with our version of what it means to be an electrical contractor AND the owner of your own business.

01 September 2009

How to build a burglar-proof holder for your car GPS system

After our Navman was stolen from our van parked in our driveway, we resolved to never leave it in the car again. But as an electrical contractor, we are always on the road or at unfamiliar job sites and it is a hassle to always take it out even when we are away just for a few minutes. So finally we designed and built this burglar-proof holder for it.

  • GPS must not be able to be seen from the outside
  • GPS must be secured in a way that would deter the most determined thief
  • GPS must be positioned in a way that it can be easily used
  • GPS controls must be accessible
  • GPS must operate in the normal manner
  • GPS to be locked into position
  • GPS to be identifiable and PIN secured
  • GPS power cable to be concealed in a permanent position.
What you need to build it:
  • 3mm mild steel plate
  • 6 1/4 nuts and bolts
  • Felt (to prevent scratches and reduce vibration of GPS)
  • High tensile lock
  • Jigsaw, metal jigsaw blade
  • Welder
  • Grinder
  • Paint

How to build it:

Step 1 Cut the metal with the jigsaw according to the shapes shown in the image. Measurements should be as per your satnav system. Leave some space for the felt to go in before the satnav. Remember to leave a hole for the power button as shown and also for the charger and any other button that needs access.

Step 2 Weld the cut-into-shape metal plates together to make a box with one side open for the satnav to slide in. Make sure the lower rear section of the satnav is open so that GPS signals are received.

Step 3 Cut out the backing plate and clamp to the holder. Drill six well spaced bolt holes. Drill the vehicle plate as required. Weld six nuts on the backing plate. Fit the backing plate behind the panel of the vehicle and bolt the holder through the vehicle panel and through the backing plate.

Step 4 Paint the box and stick the felt on the inside.

Step 5 Cut out & paint "padlock fill plate": a separate piece of metal that will fit onto the right-hand side before the padlock is fitted.

Step 6 Slide the navigator in the holder and put on the high tensile lock.

Step 7 Rewire the satnav so that the wiring goes behind the vehicle panel and is out of sight. You may need to extend the original power cable to do this.

What’s for sure, nothing you can do with totally guarantee the GPS will never be stolen. Its all about making the task of stealing it so hard that it is just easier to move onto softer targets. Despite the doubts of family and friends, the GPS is still in position and I can rest easy that it is safe and secure.

If you are interested to know more, leave a comment and I will try to answer your questions.

Voice and data


We have an open registration for communications and provide the following services:
  • PABX
  • telephone points and extensions
  • ADSL
  • CAT5
  • network cable
  • patch panel
  • switch
  • hub
  • router


Electrical services

We are licensed, registered and insured. We provide the following services:
  • Powerpoints and lighting
  • Computer Network Design and Installation
  • Telephone wiring
  • TV point installation
  • New homes
  • Home Rewiring
  • LED Smart lighting
  • Exhaust fans
  • Ovens

In-car GPS navigation system to make life easier

One activity that is constant in the life of every electrical contractor is travel. For an electrician, time is money. We cannot afford to get lost even if we've never heard of the place a prospective customer calls from. On the job we might need to drive out again to get some supplies from the nearest Middy's or other wholesale electrical supplier. Along the way, we might need to grab a quick burger to keep us going. And doing all this travelling and route planning would be next to impossible without our in-car GPS navigation system.

We bought a NAVMAN S150 in February, right after we bought our van. At $390, it comes with the following features:

  • Bluetooth so the phone can be connected to this and used handsfree
  • 3D lane guidance. At intersections, the lanes and nearby landmarks are shown in 3D, with prominent arrows making choosing the right lane and taking the turn easier
  • Local Live Search: You can search for places of interest such as restaurants, railway stations, parks, gas stations in the surrounding area. With job sites often in areas we are not familiar with, this feature comes in quite handy
  • Safety and alerts for speed limits, speed cameras, school zones, black spots and railway crossing
  • Audio navigation guidance with distance, street and direction to turn into. This is pretty much a given for all in-car navigation systems these days. However some free maps that can be used on high-end phones or other hand-held gadgets may not have this spoken street names feature. A blue dot showing where you are and a red showing the target may be ok for a day trip, but quite frustrating for an ever-travelling tradesperson. So invest in a system that gives detailed instructions. It will even let you choose what woman and with what accent you'd want to be told where to go! :)

    The more premium S-series models (S200 and S300T) come with FM transmitters, media players and live traffic updates. The new MY500XT even has live weather updates and travel books. We have found that the S150 suits our needs fully and we'd hardly use the additional features the higher end models offer. There are also a host of other companies that offer in-car GPS navigation systems - Garmin and TomTom being the top two that come to mind. Head over to forums like CNET Australia to see what other users say about each of them and choose what suits you best.

    Do not throw out the Melway or other maps you used before you bought the GPS. At the rate our cities are growing, GPS maps do not always keep up with new suburbs and it is worth having a backup for finding all the new homes we wire up. New maps are updated by Navman once a year. Checking up on Google Maps is also useful for new estates.

    And finally, once you buy one of these - keep it safe. Never leave it in your car on the windshield or dashboard. We had our van broken into and the GPS stolen when we did that. We had to replace the Navman and also shell out a few hundred more to replace the broken side window! Lesson learnt: Never leave valuables (GPS included) in the car, especially overnight on a regular basis.  However, we did come up with a way to not have to take out the GPS everytime we left the van at a work site.  More about this in this post.

Contact us

For a FREE quote call Geoff on 0431 232 796

Email     geoff@eppingelectrical.com

Address Factory 12 59-61 Miller Street
               Epping, VIC 3076

Hours    Mon-Sat 7AM to 7PM

Suburbs serviced  All northern, western and eastern suburbs. For more details, check suburbs we service

Thanks Geoff for your excellent work on my recent rewire and switchboard replacement. Very happy with the work you have done.
Geoff provided excellent communication, was able to give me a quote on the spot and then when the guys did the work they spent a solid day working on what was a big job, got it done in time, and more importantly right on budget.
Thanks again! I highly recommend Geoff and Epping Electrical!

On Truelocal.com , Customer from Reservoir, 12th October 2009

Geoff responded to my email query within hours and arranged to come over at a mutually convenient time. He turned up on time, quickly and efficiently completed the requested tasks and was very accommodating when it unexpectedly turned from a small job into a much bigger one. He completed the electrical safety certificate on the spot and carried on his way leaving one very satisfied customer behind. What's more, he cleaned up after himself! As someone who has had several bad experiences with electricians I would wholeheartedly recommend Epping Electrical to anyone who's looking for a truly professional electrician
On Truelocal.com, Customer from Lalor, 23rd May 2009

Geoff Connor, Completed my electrical work in a professional manner. Quotation was very reasonable and I would highly recommend his company
Mrs K Thompson For an outdoor electrical socket in Moonee Ponds On ServiceSeeking.com.au

28 August 2009

Excavation safety "Dial Before You Dig"

A Dial Before You Dig picture showing typical congestion of underground pipes and cables

Damage claims running into millions of dollars, criminal prosecution charges, serious injury, even death!! The risks in doing excavation work are plenty. Learn how we manage these risks and make this a profitable business.

A number of years ago on an early Tuesday morning in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, I was talking to a client half a world away from me. Halfway through my conversation, the line abruptly went silent.

"Hello, you there? Hello..." I repeated for a while. Tried calling back, no success. "Strange" I thought and decided to try again a while later. A visibly angry colleague rushed back to his desk right then. "These support guys are so unreliable" he was fuming. "Such an important video conference with the Tokyo team gets blacked out, and they can do nothing to fix it! No signal, they say".

As more and more colleagues joined us to complain of telephones and even internet services cut abruptly, we realised something was amiss. And so it was...

Nearly 5,000 telephone lines of the Bangalore Telecom went dead on Tuesday morning. Reason: Workers employed by Reliance Industries Ltd cut across their concrete duct and cables while laying its Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) ...

Not just that. Over 80 per cent of Spice Telecom Network's services were hit and the entire ITPL was plunged into non-communication. Both their telephone lines and data circuits were affected.     Read whole story here...

  • Commercial damage claims by businesses (including hospitals, emergency services, schools and community centres) unable to function
  • Damage claims by the underground asset owner
  • Criminal prosecution if negligence can be proved as cause in certain cases
  • Serious injury or even death from accidents such as ruptured sewage or gas pipes or contact with electricity cables

Quite scary, isn't it? It is definitely a risky business, but there are also various ways to stay safe. The first thing required is to get to know the location of underground assets in the work site. A wonderfully easy way to start is to Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) on 1100. This is a free referral service for underground pipes and cables anywhere in Australia. They partner with all underground asset owners around Australia and act as a single point of contact for excavators.

Unfortunately though, not all asset owners in Australia will be members of DBYD, so do not assume that the plans received through them are the only assets. So dont go running the trenching machine blindly, dig around by hand first to establish exactly where the assets are. Once exposed, protecting the assets is the excavator's responsibility too - so get this done before starting the job. Put up barriers in case it is an area that other people may use. Proceed to the excavation only when all of this has been done, and stay safe!

25 August 2009

DDIY (Dont Do It Yourself) Electrical Work

Recently I was called to a job in Preston. When I arrived the house had been disconnected from electrical supply by the local distribution company. A fault in the main switch board caused a fire that destroyed the entire switchboard, electrical meter and wooden meter enclosure. Luckily for the tenants, the smell of burning plastic and wood was noticed early and the relevant authorities were called immediately. If the tenants had not been home, the fire could have easily spread to the rest of the house and also the adjoining residence.

Examination of the burnt switchboard components revealed the cause of the fire to be illegal and substandard electrical wiring connecting an air conditioner. The costs to restore power not only included replacement of the switchboard, but also the mains cable, service fuse and earthing system components. More than $2,000 was spent by the owner to restore electrical supply to the residence. This was yet another reminder for consumers to never undertake electrical work themselves.

Nearly every day I come across illegal and/or unsafe electrical wiring. In most cases the current property owners are unaware of the condition and potential risk the illegal wiring presents. It is unfortunate that even when the wiring does not comply with standards or is highly dangerous, the equipment connected works. With the equipment in working order, it often comes as a shock to owners that the installation is illegal and/or dangerous. It would be easier if illegal wiring did not work at all, but unfortunately this is not the case.

Sometimes the owners have had an unqualified friend or family member undertake electrical work in an effort to save on the cost of a qualified and insured electrical tradesman. What is not often considered is the financial impact should the illegal wiring cause a fire.

When I discover illegal electrical wiring, I make sure the owner is informed. In all cases, this will impact the planned schedule of electrical work and will increase the cost of the job to rectify the illegal condition. In severe cases, I will provide the owner two options,

a. Rectify the condition
b. Isolate/remove the illegal wiring

Ignoring illegal wiring is not an option. Last week I come across one of the worst cases of illegal wiring, the owner had paid more than $1,000 to have low voltage down lights installed some years back. He believed the wiring was installed in a compliant manner by a registered electrician. The cost to rectify the illegal wiring was $1,500

The pitfalls of a DIY Culture

Go to any large hardware store on a weekend and you will see thousands of consumers deciding to DIY. In a country where the cost of labor is high, it is inevitable that many people will choose to do many jobs in and around the home themselves. I don’t have a problem with this at all; I myself will often shop at the local Bunnings store to pick up tools and or materials for a weekend project around the home. What I do have a problem with is consumers going to hardware stores to purchase electrical wiring and equipment with the intent to install this equipment themselves. Whilst it is not illegal for hardware stores to sell electrical wiring and equipment, they (in my opinion) should never provide guidance or instruction to consumers on how to go about installing the electrical wiring and or equipment. In my opinion all hardware stores selling electrical equipment to consumers owe a duty of care to consumers to make clear the fact that all electrical wiring and equipment must be installed by a Registered Electrical Contractor no matter how large or small the job is. This should be communicated to consumers in written form and also importantly communicated verbally to consumers who purchase (or about to purchase) electrical wiring and / or equipment.

More: You may not be insured if DIY electrical causes property damage including fire