Norway has become a consumer society. In the first few decades after the second world war, house purchasers were encouraged to put physical labour into house construction. This reduced the total price of a house. Today, this is not happening. People are simply consumers of houses, and have little understanding of how they are actually made.
In this post, I want to look at the consequences of this consumerism, but focus on just one area, electrical installation.
Everywhere electrical material is sold in Norway, one is met with the following or similar warning, in Norwegian:
“Although installation materials, such as heating cables, can be purchased by anyone, only registered companies can install the equipment. Stores are required to inform the buyer about this before the purchase is made. It is also not possible to install the equipment yourself, then ask an authorized installer to connect it to the facility in the house. That is a breach of regulations. In addition, there are no serious companies that will take responsibility for a work they do not control.” (from Jula.no)
For many people from other parts of the world, this warning is an affront. Where are the electrical inspectors? Registered electricians are given carte blanche to install electrical materials, but their work remains unsupervised by public officials representing other stakeholders, including house owners. Some electrical inspectors do exist, but they are not public employees. Frequently, they are employees of a major producer of electricity, and they only visit a house every twenty years or so, to ensure that it is in conformity with regulations. When they do come, they have a vested interest in finding mistakes, because they can require a house owner to hire a registered electrician to make changes.
Contrast this with the situation in Canada. Here is a typical sign at a store:
There is no discussion as to who is will do the work. In essence, anyone can do it. The requirement is that all work done, has to be inspected. This treats professional electricians and talented amateurs as equals, which in many cases they are. Without inspections, electricians can be tempted to take shortcuts or do shoddy work.
Inside the Home Hardware store, in Essex, Ontario, there is a display that shows precisely how to wire specific items in a house, including the breaker box:
Amateurs in Canada are able to take night school courses in electricity. Here is a description of a night school course, open to anyone, at Saint Clair College, in Windsor, Ontario:
“Electricity 200 is for non-electrical tradespersons and related. Emphasis is placed on safety practices. Electrical protection of motors. Basic test equipment, purpose and testing of fuses, overloads and circuit breakers. Basic relationship of voltage, current and resistance. Basic relays and A.C. 3 phase motor control, interpreting basic motor nameplate information. Introductory residential wiring. Introductory diodes and rectifiers.”
The course lasts 12 weeks, one night a week, for three hours, from 19.00 to 22.00.
One of the resources used by many Canadian home owners is: Ray Mullin, Tony Branch, Sandy Gerolimon, Craig Trineer, Bill Todd and Phil Simmons 2015 Electrical Wiring Residential, 7th Canadian edition.
Despite having an electrical code that requires the use of professional electricians, Norway has a much higher rate of house fires caused by a failure in the electrical system, than many other countries, including Canada. This is to be expected. Without training and experience, a house owner is unable to understand where electrical problems can arise. Because of the high cost of using professionals, potential problems may be ignored, which puts lives in danger.
As a former teacher of Entrepreneurship, there is one other reason to encourage people to do their own home wiring. Consumers are not good at understanding how products work. With a society of consumers, there will be nobody working in basements and garages to develop new products. Garage culture made America great. Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, Harley Davidson, Hewlett-Packard, Lotus Cars, Maglite, Mattel and even Microsoft all started in garages. http://www.businesspundit.com/11-famous-garage-startups-that-rule-the-world/
There is a trend in government to encourage coding, but most of the developments in the “Internet of Things” or robotics involve physical computing, a combination of electrical circuits, mechanical components including sensors and actuators as well as code.
It is possible for people to innovate without insight into residential wiring, but being able to wire will provide insights that will help a person to be more innovative.