July 26, 2010

The Electrics

As you would expect, voltage is different here. All outlets are 240 volts. Given how careful I am at home with my one 220V outlet for the stove, having 240V outlets everywhere is downright scary. The professor warned I should be incredibly careful – a misstep with a 240V outlet could take off a finger or two. Actually, his statement was, “be sure you don’t get a finger under there or you could lose it just like that – kerplat! and it will be gone!” Given that my heart might stop in the midst of such a misstep, fingers evaporated off my lifeless corpse might be the least of my worries.

We’re living at what is called Poly Heights on the Polytechnic campus. It’s a 12-story apartment building right inside the main gate. Each flat (apartment) has its own breaker box. I became acquainted with ours when all the electricity to the flat went out shortly after we moved in. Building maintenance sent a gentleman over to turn it back on. I watched in case I had to know this stuff.

First, you turn the switches off for the lights, the plugs, the stove, and the geyser. Then you turn the heavy duty main switch back on.

If nothing sparks at that point, you turn the lights, plugs, stove, and geyser back on.

Good thing I memorized that procedure. More blackouts followed.

Not until the toaster actually sparked did we deduce it was the culprit causing the blackouts. During the blackouts we became comfortable with managing the breaker box. Somehow the straightforward switches in the breaker box seem less threatening than the actual outlets in the flat.

These little babies actually have switches on them to turn on and off the flow of electricity. These are worrisome outlets since those holes are exactly the size of a toddler’s fingers. I’ve yet to see a fingerless toddler so there must be some mega-sturdy baby-proofing systems out there. Even the husky constitution of the plugs gives you pause for thought.

They wouldn’t make them that substantial if they didn’t have to carry so much voltage. According to the professor, the correct finger-sparing procedure should be: turn off the switch, plug everything in, then turn on the flow of electricity with the switch. This also doubles as the cell phone and laptop-sparing procedure, so you can bet I follow it.

There is only one outlet per room so it seems to be commonplace to use multi-outlet extension cords. This is the one that came with the kitchen.

It has the microwave, stove hood, and new toaster plugged into it. I finger-sparingly unplug the toaster to plug in the washer.

It worries me a bit to have so many things plugged into the multi-plug extension cords. However, once we replaced the toaster, it does seem our system easily handles all the stuff that’s plugged in throughout the flat. We’re counting on that now that we’ve added a new iPod player to the electric mix. Just working on our laptops at the flat can make it pretty quiet in here. It’s good to have some musical company.

Oh, yes….you wanted to know what the geyser is.
Simple–it’s the electric hot water heater that is mounted against the wall just above the refrigerator.

If the geyser ever leaks onto the 240 volt refrigerator outlet, caution against finger loss becomes a superfluous consideration.