What to know for your new build or reno
Budgets are a complex part of any new build or renovation, but they're easier to navigate when you understand how the costs for each area break down and what you should prioritise.
When it comes to electrical spend, it’s about more than just lights and power points. Choosing the right electrical products and putting enough of them in the right places can add so much to your everyday living with added convenience, comfort, safety and energy saving.
Taking time to think through your electrical plan and choosing an electrician who can guide you through those decisions will make a huge difference to your end result and give you confidence that your money is being well spent.
Understanding electrical costs
Tom Matic of Melbourne’s Matic Electrical says that budget is one of the first things that new customers ask about and it can vary hugely. “Your costs will be made up of the product itself – what sort of product and the quality – as well as labour and installation,” he explains. “That can start from switchboard upgrades to the very last power point and everything in between, like wiring. There are a few stages where we have to come in and do our work and wait for other tradies to come in too.”
Tom says renovations can also have hidden costs right at the beginning. “The age of the property would determine the age of the wiring and whether that wiring is safe. If it’s deteriorated, then you’d have to look at those costs of replacing that wiring also.”
If you’re renovating, Tom recommends starting with an assessment of your home’s wiring and switchboard as that can have a significant impact on your overall budget.
Make a plan
Your electrical plan will give you an overview of all the electrical elements in your home and where they are positioned. But before you get into details, take a step back and decide how you want your home to work for you. Think about each room and what you’ll use in it, and even how you’ll move through the house.
Tom says he often finds that electrical plans haven’t been explored in detail. “People need to imagine how they might use the space when they’re living in the home. Maybe you need an extra power point in that corner because that’s where you’ll put the Christmas tree each year, or maybe you’d like to have garden lighting eventually. Or maybe even a bit of smart tech to create a homecoming lighting scene so you’re not coming home to a dark house.”
He says that with renovations in particular, it’s about updating a home to better suit a client’s lifestyle. “It’s knowing how they’re living in that home and what they love about the home and what they dislike and want to change.”
That can be something as simple as the everyday frustration of only being able to turn a bedroom light off from the doorway, or not having enough power points or lighting in a room that’s been turned into a home office.
Explore different types of lighting
For Tom, functional lighting is an element that clients often overlook. “Sometimes lighting isn’t used in the correct way,” he says. “Explore different types of lighting for different types of situations.
People throw a whole bunch of downlights in a room and think that’s the best way to go, rather than placing the lights where they’re best suited over a workspace – where you actually need the light, so it doesn’t create shadowing.”
He also suggests considering overhead LED strip lighting for benches and adding wall lights to spaces where you might want to create more ambience, such as living rooms or bedrooms.
Positioning power points and switches
“Locations of switches and power points is another big one,” he adds. “You want to be practical with where you position your points and consider 2-way switching too.
Sometimes people forget that they might be travelling from one end of the hallway to the other, or from the kitchen to the al fresco and you don’t want to walk back to turn a light off, so having the option of the 2-way switches is good.”
Once you have an idea of how much you want your home to be able to do, then you can discuss how to achieve that with your electrician and work out what sort of products will fit within your budget.
Smart homes made easy
As electrical products include more smart home capabilities, Tom says it’s getting easier to incorporate them into electrical plans and he finds more people are interested in what sort of difference it can make to how they experience their home.
“It’s how you go about not just turning a switch on and off but changing a particular setting to adapt to your lifestyle. They can put a little piece in to get a taste for it and then in six months they can add more without altering any of the wiring.”
He says his company is also doing more futureproofing, such as pre-wiring for EV car chargers. “I don’t think we’re far off going down that path where every home will be fitted with a charger, so for the cost of putting some wiring in at this stage it saves a lot of hassle down the track. They can just take a plate off the wall and install the charger.”
“Definitely consider safety products,” says Tom. “Anything else can be changed or updated later, but safety products protect you and your family and it’s something you don’t want to compromise on.” He says smoke detectors are a must and emphasises the importance of a switchboard safety check and considering arc fault detection devices as part of that.
And if in doubt – Tom says just ask. “Sometimes clients aren’t sure if certain things can be done and then when we come in to consult, they’re surprised that we can add things like smart home automation. The way technology is going makes it easier not just for trade, but for the home owner to be able create the perfect home that works according to their needs and lifestyle.”
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