Bright ideas for installing your own lights


If you’re planning a home renovation, you might assume that changing lighting fixtures has to go on the “hire a professional list”. Not so fast, you may be able to do the work yourself! Canstar Blue breaks down what electrical tasks are within the realms of DIY and when the law requires you to call in the experts.

So, you’ve bought an old character bungalow but you feel like the light fixtures should have stayed back in the era they came from. The good news is that changing lighting can have a dramatic impact on the look and feel of your home, without breaking the bank. And the even better news? If you are competent and confident enough, you don’t even necessarily have to call in an electrician to make it happen.

Here are some tips to help you with DIY tasks involving a simple light fixture or basic electrical changes, according to WorkSafe guidelines.

First things first: Basic safety rules of installing lights

Before you do any electrical work, there are a few important steps that you need to follow. You need to ensure that:

  • you have the necessary knowledge and skills
  • the power is turned off
  • you are not working where conductors or terminals are live or could become live.


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What electrical work am I legally allowed to do?

According to WorkSafe, there are a number of electrical tasks, including lighting upgrades, that you are allowed to do yourself. However, you must own and live in the property – so not renting it OR renting it out – and the work only applies to “low voltage electrical installations when there is no payment or reward”.

New Zealand regulations state that you can remove and replace any of the following kinds of electrical fittings, as long as the work does not involve any switchboard:

  • switches
  • socket outlets
  • permanent connection units
  • light fittings
  • cord grip lamp holders
  • ceiling roses
  • flexible cords connected to any permanent connection unit, ceiling rose, or cord grip lampholder
  • water heater switches
  • thermostats
  • elements

You are also allowed to carry out the following electrical tasks yourself:

  • Remove and replace fuse links.
  • Connect and disconnect fixed wired appliances.
  • Relocate existing switches, socket outlets, and lighting outlets that are supplied with electricity by tough plastic- sheathed cables.
  • Install, extend, and alter sub-circuits (including sub-mains)

To change any of the fittings mentioned, or carry out any of the permitted tasks, just make sure you follow these WorkSafe regulations:

  • You cannot enter – whether that is personally or by holding any material or equipment, any enclosure where there are likely to be active conductors.
  • You cannot connect your work to the electricity supply yourself.
  • You must get the finished work tested and connected by a licensed electrical inspector, who will verify the safety of the completed work before connecting it.

WorkSafe advises that you consult an inspector before you start any installations, extensions or alterations.

Two smart moves you can make with your electricals

While you’re updating your electrical fixtures, it is a good time to think about whether you are being money smart when it comes to your electricity and lighting and whether your current provider and plan are working for you. When you’re replacing your light fixtures, think seriously about replacing your bulbs with LED bulbs. LED bulbs are thought to use 80% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb. Manufacturers also claim that LED lights last up to 15 times longer than standard bulbs, so you don’t have to change them as often.

And while you’re at it, when was the last time you reviewed your electricity provider and plan? Canstar Blue rounds up customer satisfaction ratings for electricity providers in New Zealand, to help you work out which provider is best for you. Have a look at how providers stack up by using Canstar Blue’s free comparison tools.

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