The Expatriate and Domestic Electricity
17 h 01 min in News , Information by webmaster
(Some unexpected of a meeting)
(Preliminary note – This text is limited to presenting to the future expatriate not having specific knowledge of the job of electrician a few generalities namely: its sources come from both the mentioned websites and from the personal experience of the editor)
The discoveries of the new expatriate
Electricity is the most common form of energy in the world, whether in homes, offices, hotels, public buildings, factories and construction sites.
This being said, the expatriate transplanted to new countries will experience some surprises, discovering the multiple configurations of the electric current and its distribution on the planet, fruits of the history as well as the respective influences of Europe or the ” America. He will be amazed, in this area as in others, of the diversity of the human species …
If he is to reside in a country with a challenging environment, he will have to learn how to cope with the often unpredictable, often unexpected and unpredictable power outages and their consequences. Voltage and frequency may be somewhat fluctuating, resulting in fluctuations in lighting, engine grunts, “crying” of electrophones. He must also beware of the dangerousness of certain installations (risk of electrocution … or fire: about 25% of the fires are of electrical origin) … and sometimes scams and theft of electricity.
If the expatriate leaves with the family in such countries, he must know that the unexpected discovery of the frequency and duration of such power outages have a disastrous effect on the morale of a wife. In this area as in others, it is wise to inform his wife before leaving, even if even to blacken the situation a little, in such a way that she expects and prepares for it. It is infinitely better that she discovers once on the spot that this situation is “less worse” than it had been described …
Some general recommendations
The first care of the future expatriate will be to learn about the main characteristics of the domestic electricity of the host country: voltage (110/127 volts or 220/240 volts), frequency (50 or 60 periods) Current, to know if the small electrical equipment that it will take with it (razor) can adapt to it – knowing that there is in general incompatibility between the apparatuses intended to operate on current with 50 periods and a network with 60 periods (American type). It should be noted, however, that many laptop, telephone or camera chargers (“adapters”) made up of diodes transforming the alternating current into the low-voltage direct current supplying the device, can operate indifferently with a power supply Input) to 50 or 60 periods, some 100 to 240 volts, others 200 to 240 volts (read the instructions or instructions on the charger).
He will be able to find the necessary information on some websites, such as:
Regarding the use of his mobile phone abroad, he will consult with interest the site of the Guide du Routard, devoted to the use of the telephone abroad:
Another precaution will be to learn about the frequency of power outages, which is unfortunately the case of many developing countries facing major financial constraints (Black Africa, Middle East, Caribbean, Indian subcontinent …). Certain signs do not deceive: electric distribution poles with fairly emberlificated wires, multiplication of small generators in private individuals or traders, factories producing their own current …
Electricity and housing
In these countries, hotels of international type are generally equipped with automatic generators ensuring their customers the permanence of the current. But the problem will arise against the long-term expatriate to rent an apartment or villa on the spot in countries with frequent cuts … this poses a real question if the expatriate leaves with family (the power cuts too frequent And too long seriously affecting the morale of the family).
The first thing to do is to note the indications of its electricity meter in the presence of the owner, which will require to know the transcription of the numbers in local language. If in Europe we use the figures “Arab” in many countries of the Middle East the figures used “Hindu” (see their description in http://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/chiffre_hindou ), which also show slight differences between the western Middle East and the eastern Middle East. The common handwritten transcription of the numbers can sometimes cause problems for the expatriate (in some countries, the transcriptions of 2 and 3 are often confused). And let’s not talk about all the ways of writing figures in the Far East! The reading of the meter will be transcribed in two co-signed copies (one for the owner, one for the tenant) and it will be necessary to know by whom and when will be paid the electricity bills, especially at the end of the lease. If the accommodation remains empty for a certain period of time (for example during the expatriate’s holidays), it will be good to note the indications of the meter on leaving and returning … to check if an intruder has not put a wild derivation , Allowing him to eat at the expenses of the expatriate (case lived!).
The second thing will be to see where is and how is the main switch of the housing, and how it is protected, upstream and downstream: differential system in recent installations of developed countries, but more frequently fuse Cartridge, or even even lead wire fuses. It will be necessary to make sure to have spare parts for these various fuses. In an apartment or a villa, it will be necessary to identify the dispersed fuse boxes.
The third thing will be to inspect the electrical installation of the housing, first to know the voltage (some old houses have two networks: 220 and 110 volts, to be more likely to have a power supply In the event of a local break, etc.). It is advisable for the expatriate to have a voltage monitor, to know the voltage, and also to check the voltage between each plug pin and earth (eg on a water pipe). It is advisable to be wary if the lowest of these voltages (that of the neutral) with respect to the earth is greater than zero, which means that the neutralization to ground is not optimal. Be wary of touching a domestic appliance with a tingling sensation in your fingers. This means an insulation fault (or a faulty earthing) to be reported to an electrician: the appliance may become dangerous.
It will be necessary to look closely at the electrical installation and its isolation, in particular in the kitchen and the bathrooms (sockets, lighting), and to check if there are not bare wires here and there. Some very old buildings are still equipped with twisted electrical wires that are not waterproof, and can be dangerous if they are wet. Also check the power of the appliance, bedside lamps and electric air conditioning, ventilation and heating. Remember that the risk of electrocution is maximum, when there is both electricity and water, which is the case of bathrooms (this was the cause of the death of the famous singer Claude François) and Kitchens, or by washing the tiles with water. The risk is less when dry, with shoes with insulating soles (rubber, crepe); It is maximum when wet (sweating) and bare feet on the floor.
In the case of local sockets, the expatriate will inquire before departure to find adapters for his equipment. Caution: adapters sold in Europe do not include all types of plugs, especially those used in countries with old British tradition (English-speaking Africa, Indian subcontinent); They can be found on site. It is necessary, however, to resist the dangerous temptation to make connections more or less tinkered with flying wires, more or less well isolated from the chatterton. Generally speaking :
– Always unplug an electrical appliance or disconnect power before working on it. Be careful that the current is not restored by another person! An apparent label on the switching device must prohibit maneuvering until the end of the work (this is called a “logging of the equipment”),
– Electrical safety is incompatible with the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and imposing certain rules, you must not intervene yourself and entrust the work to a qualified electrician
Regarding lighting, developing countries are still equipped with only incandescent bulbs or conventional fluorescent tubes. Experience shows that the longevity of these cheap components, exposed to cuts, voltage fluctuations … is generally reduced: it will be necessary to buy locally a certain number in reserve. Do not forget that broken fluorescent tubes are dangerous because of the nature of the chemicals in their coating.
In the streets or roads of some countries, poorly arranged electrical cables are sometimes uninsulated, but at hand, and sometimes even landed. It is of course necessary to deviate from it, never to touch them, and especially to warn its children, if the expatriate has come with family.
They will then find the parades against power outages, if they are frequent: have a good endowment of portable electric lamps (including frontal), with a good supply of batteries, candles with candleholders (pay attention to the risk of fire) , Or even oil lamps, use blade shavers rather than electric shavers. Power to personal computers and their printers will be protected against voltage fluctuations or power outages by a battery backup (small units including rectifier, battery and inverter).
Electrical cuts usually mean stopping the pumps, and therefore water supply, it will be strongly advised to have in the apartment a reserve of drinking water, periodically renewed (for example five jerricans of 20 liters – With a drop of bleach or hydrochlorazone for sterilization). But in countries where drinking water is not assured, drinking water is recommended in bottled bottles (or sterilizing municipal water with the “ad hoc” pellets sold in all Good pharmacies). The water stored in reservoirs located on the roofs is not in optimal conditions for maintaining its potability. You can wash with, but to brush your teeth, it is better to use bottled water.
As for the kitchen, we prefer – like most local users – bottled butane gas stoves, rather than electric cookers. Or town gas, if there is a reliable urban food supply.
As for heating, do not forget that it can get cold in winter, even in subtropical climate. Rather than electric heaters, well-designed apartments have stoves for heating oil or wood. Butane radiant heaters are also used. In this case it is necessary to make sure a good ventilation of the apartment to avoid asphyxiation: we do not advise them too much. It is better to have a supply of warm clothes, and good blankets for the beds.
As for hot water, the electric water heater is safer … if it is of good brand (we saw explosion of electric heaters inexpensive, badly designed and realized, with thermostats and safety valves little Reliable). If it has a sufficient volume, its reserve can compensate short cuts. Otherwise it will heat a large pot of water on his gas stove for toileting. Or take a cold shower, which is not afraid of sportsmen!
In many sunny subtropical countries, the roofs of houses are equipped with solar water heaters, installation relatively simple and economical, the sun (when it shines) is free and never falling down …
As far as appliances are concerned, it is not advisable to carry personal equipment (refrigerators, washing machines or dishwashers), cumbersome and often unsuitable for the context. It is necessary to see what is the local use and to get supplies on the spot, if necessary: rent preferably a furnished apartment or villa and equipped. In hot countries, one or more air conditioners are usually installed permanently: remains to know their condition. An air-conditioning shutdown in the hot season due to a power outage often has a disastrous effect on the morale of the occupants! It should be noted that in countries with low labor costs, it is usual to have his laundry washed by his cleaning lady or by a craftsman. In countries with frequent cuts, do not keep food in refrigerators for long. We advise to have freezers very well insulated, able to keep the cold at least twenty-four hours.
In this kind of country you will be wary of the elevators, where the power cuts you irremediably between two floors, and where the good organization of emergency calls can be controversial. It can be added that the maintenance of lifts is a real issue, especially if the elevator is old, and therefore lacking spare parts: its proper functioning depends on the resourcefulness of the local electrician … Living in the upper floors of a large building allows for a splendid view. But, from experience, have to go down each trip (with the garbage can, if the garbage clog is blocked – some unscrupulous occupants sometimes not resist the temptation to throw their waste by the window at night …) or go back on foot (With its provisions) a staircase on twelve floors or more lacks charm, especially for a mother with children! This is why we advise to seek accommodation in a small building or a villa – or, if the big building is the only interesting possibility, do not stay above the third floor.
Understanding the electrical situation of countries with a difficult environment
You have to understand how a network works.
Electricity must be produced in power stations, transported at high voltage, and distributed at low or medium voltage after passage through suitable transformers. Since electricity is not stored, it is necessary to constantly adjust production to consumption, which is the role of central dispatchings.
Their task is difficult because forecasting the evolution of consumption is a delicate art, and the permissible fluctuations in frequency and tension are very limited (a few percent). Moreover, putting production units into operation or fluctuating their power is not instantaneous: it is faster for hydroelectric dams, rather fast for large diesel or gas turbines, slower for conventional steam power plants Coal or fuel oil, which generally provide the bulk of production. As for wind turbines (when there are), they depend on the wind …
Power cuts are:
– Is involuntary and unpredictable as at the time of occurrence for duration to the following incidents (climatic incidents, for example), either on power plants, transformers, on overhead lines or underground cables carrying current . The companies are busy repairing them or finding alternatives (emergency generators). Cuts may be short (fleeting default on lines), or longer, due to the time needed to repair (find the cause of the incident, gather the necessary teams and equipment, carry out the intervention and then the controls And testing before return to service)
– Either voluntary power cuts (load-sheddings) when electricity production is below demand. It is necessary to cut off the supply of big consumers (big factories, sometimes complete cities), to avoid the total collapse of the network throughout the country. These loads are sometimes programmed and can be announced in advance (eg in case of unavailability for maintenance of a large power station) or unforeseen, when urgent action is Damage to a plant)
When an unplanned outage arrives at home, the first thing to do is look at the neighborhood (public lighting for example) to see if it remains powered. If so, the cut comes from the building or apartment (disjunction). If not, the cut is general. Be careful not to touch any electrical cables during power cuts: the power may come back unexpectedly! It should be noted that if the electrical installation of the housing is protected by a circuit breaker, it will be necessary to reset it when the current returns.
he frequency and duration of these cuts are high in countries where states and citizens have only very limited financial resources. Everyone wants to benefit from the electricity, but the users do not have the means to pay it at its right price. For reasons that are easy to understand and easy to access, governments often set the price per kilowatt hour at an extremely low level. This does not prevent the temptation to steal electricity by dangerous wild branches.
It follows that the companies, often of State, are financially exsanguous. They also have some difficulty in recovering their bills from their clients, for example when they have to feed public administrations, hospitals or industries themselves in great financial difficulty.
In countries with a challenging environment, extreme financial shortages affect the three areas of production, transport and distribution.
– firstly, on the capacity to produce the current, when there are not enough power plants to meet the needs, or not enough qualified personnel to cope with the incidents of walking. Or when financial or other restrictions do not allow a sufficient supply of fuel, which can happen for fuel-fired steam generators, or diesel generators fueled with light fuel or diesel.
– then when the financial shortage restricts the means of maintenance (maintenance), for the prevention of the uncertainties of operation (preventive maintenance) or the interventions necessary when they arrive (curative maintenance). This applies both to the power plants that produce electricity, the transmission lines that carry it and are particularly exposed, the transformer stations, and the distribution to the final customer.
These means of maintenance concern as well:
– Staff, which must be sufficiently numerous and well trained, especially in such a dangerous area that electricity
– Maintenance means (tools, specialized vehicles)
– The technical documentation (often poorly maintained, outdated, or written in a language little known or poorly practiced locally)
– And last but not least, parts and spare parts, whose supply has always been and remains the nightmare of the engineer in overseas territories.
Generating units using steam turbines operating alternators, which are the basic foundation of electricity production in urban areas, require a period of preventive maintenance of a few weeks each year for the control and revision of their essential organs . Every seven years, they have to stop about three months, for a major revision, with complete dismantling. In countries lacking electricity, the temptation of the political power is not to allow these periods of stoppage, in order not to aggravate in the short term the shortage of electricity. Disastrous policy, which causes major and costly damage, putting the production units out of service for many months … and thus aggravating shortages in the future.
The fact that the expatriate understands the reasons for all these hazards has no effect on their resolution (except when its mission is to participate in the improvement of the network). But it does not mean too much to the agents of the electricity companies: they do what they can with the means they have.
In short, o expatriates who arrive in a new country for you, be on your guard with regard to the electric current …
by Gerard Neyret