Ari Katz – Electrician

Ari Katz

“My business vision is to create clients, not more customers”

Interview with Ari Katz, Mr. Fix It Electrician

What are your credentials in the electrical field?
I have been an official electrician since I was a child and was able to fix anything. My university degree is in chemistry as I found that biochemistry, electricity and even a difficult Tosfos, were all expressions of my primary mental programming: To know how things work. After aliya, marriage and most of the money running out, I began fixing things for money. Thank G-d it’s been going well. I have polished my skills over the past five years and am now focusing on the area that I enjoy the most, namely electricity. I have a wide client base in the Anglo-community who know me as the “go-to guy” for almost anything. What can I say? I’m Mr. Fix it.

Do clients call you for your expertise in the field or is it due to your personal service and your relationship with them?
The question already includes the answer. My business vision is to create clients, not more customers. Customers come to a store to buy milk; clients come to THIS store to buy milk because more than just fresh milk, there is an immeasurable feeling of customer care. Two electricians can offer the same quality product at around the same price but doing business with one of them just feels better. For a woman to have a technician in her home with all of his equipment can feel unnerving. Having a repairman that she feels at ease with is worth way more than price alone. A quality product is the ante into the game. Client retention is all about personal relationships.

What are the most typical problems you are called in to fix?
The range of issues could be anything from outlets that won’t stay in the wall to a full AC installation. If I had to list the five most common problems they would be: Burnt outlets, Shabbat timers, electric trissim (more on this in another article), installation of lights and fans and boilers.

What was the most dangerous technical problem you have seen in a home?
Old apartments are often limited to 40 amps, which may have been fine 35 years ago, but a couple of new air conditioners can overtax and repeatedly trip the main. Often a “specialist,” a.k.a. the ba’al dira’s [landlord’s] nephew, will swap the main breaker to provide that extra power. This is a recipe for a disaster because the whole point of the breaker is to shut down before overload. Higher level currents need thicker wires and more lines to spread out the electrical load across the board. Without this, there can be a meltdown, damage to the appliances or even a fire.

Tell us about the LED lights that you sell. What are the benefits of using them?
By now, most people have heard of LED lights but know very little about them. They’re not just another good idea in lighting, they’re the future! They are brighter, last many times longer, require no maintenance and although more expensive, pay for themselves many times over in electricity savings. The LED lights I am providing are commercial-grade lights, which were built to be left on for twenty hours a day, seven days a week. Shuls, yeshivas, office buildings, hospitals and parking garages can save tens of thousands of shekels per year by switching to LEDs. However, as with everything, there is a large quality scale and people shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking a LED is a LED is a LED. Otherwise, they’ll only be LED down. HA!

If someone is handy in the house, does he really need to call an electrician for something like connecting a ceiling fan or can he do it himself?
The answer is yes and yes. Unlike other areas of home repair, people are generally very scared of electricity and for good reason. The 110 volts in American homes can give a very powerful and painful electrical shock. The 230 volts in Israel can be deadly. If a person knows he is competent and turns off all the electricity, then he can probably handle small jobs like changing an outlet. A ceiling fan is a much larger job which, in addition to the wiring and assembly, also requires the tools and knowledge of how to anchor it to the ceiling. Sometimes it can feel like you’re drilling into a solid steel beam and guess what? You are! Other times it’s like trying to anchor a fifty pound rotating fan into a piece of stale matzah.

Are there any differences in the electric infrastructure in Israel and America?
In theory, the electrical systems work the same, however there are two major differences. First, the vast majority of buildings here are built from poured concrete with newer and renovated apartments using drywall for the secondary, inner-walls. In America, the majority of homes are drywall over a wooden frame. This is why when people move here they cannot manage to hang a picture as they mercilessly try to pound a nail into the concrete wall. The electrical aspect of the job is actually the easy part, but cutting into the wall, cementing in a round connection box, laying insulated wire into the cut, and finishing the wall with plaster and paint needs the proper tools and experience. Second, there are far more regulations in America and requirements for whom you hire. Everyone is afraid of a lawsuit, so the inexperience novice is generally not hired, but here, it’s like the Wild West and anything goes. Regulations are like suggestions and paying the lowest price for a service provider is almost guaranteed to be that inexperienced novice that in the end will cost you much more.

Do you recommend upping the electricity in the house to three phases? What does that mean anyway?
Simply put, the power you use flows in a single line from the city grid to your electrical box. From there, separate lines are laid out throughout the home each with a breaker in case of overload. The more power used, the thicker the lines need to be. Most homes may have a line for all the living room lights because all together they may only use 200 watts, but an oven can use 2000 watts for hours on end. So that oven line has thicker wires, a higher tolerance breaker, and nothing else connected to the line. That’s fine until you start adding a dud (2000 watts), a space heater or two (1500 watts each), an AC unit (700 watts minimum), and even a hair dryer (1000 watts), and suddenly the whole system is being over-drawn and the house goes dark. A three phase main is basically three separate lines flowing to the house instead of one, so the larger loads are spread-out over multiple lines allowing for much more power to be used without overloading the system. If you find that the house can’t handle the load you’re using, than this could be a neat way of upping the capacity of the house.

Is it worth bringing in electrical appliances from overseas?
I’m very opinionated on this. I buy everything here. Not for ideological reasons, but pure practicality. Appliances from America, big or small, need electrical converters to run them. Often people are told whether in American stores or Israeli Tambor stores that a certain small converter is fine. So the fancy hair dryer/electric shaver/coffee machine/toaster oven/washing machine works for a few months or weeks until it stops working altogether and all that’s left is an almost new, completely worthless appliance. Even if you manage to buy a big, bulky converter, eventually your appliance will need service or parts, and that’s a whole new problem. Another factor is that bulky American appliances are meant to be used in more spacious homes. I was once on a noticed a massive refrigerator sitting by the entrance to a building. Nearly the size of a Subaru, it was clearly fresh off a lift from the States. It took me about five minutes to figure out what it was doing there— any guesses? Their four-door, refrigerator sedan wouldn’t fit in the building. We’re a well-stocked, first-world country with access to quality appliances from all over the world, so really, there’s no need to bring the fridge.

What piece of advice can you give our readers to help them lower their electric bill?
WARNING: There is a myth out there I want to bust even at the expense of rebuke from readers…The dud doesn’t need to be turned on and off each time you need hot water. YIKES! Yes, it’s true. Does this strange ritual exist in America? All that needless worry of standing in the bathroom, foot in the shower, waiting for it to get hot, only to remember that you forgot to turn on the dud is all for nothing. Wanna be a rebel? Go ahead, LEAVE IT ON. How? The boiler is like a giant kum-kum that has a thermostat to automatically turn the element on and off when the temperature is below a certain number, which can be set by the user. If it is on the roof and connected to solar panels, than the water will be hot already and the burner will not turn on. Why the myth? It seems that the standard thermostats are not of the best quality and if they fail, the dud will boil and boil until either the electrical connections melt or the switch melts or a hose blows off. Changing a thermostat is usually quite simple and inexpensive and if done every few years, will prevent any damage to the dud. The benefit of leaving it on all the time, particularly in the winter, is that it’s much less expensive to keep 150 liters of boiling-hot water hot, than it is to bring that amount of water from freezing cold to a boil every time you need a shower, especially if there are multiple people living in the home using it all the time. This little tip should save a few shekels and a whole lot of aggravation.

Contact 052-736-7369
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