Electricity takes it’s name from the Latin “electrum” which in turn comes from the Greek “elektron” which, as we all know, means “amber”.
“Amber?” I hear you think.
Yes amber. You see the ancient Greeks had a habit of rubbing things and they noticed that if you rubbed amber with something furry (such as a dead cat) it attracted small objects to say nothing of suspicious looks from the neighbours. This attraction was caused by electrons, teeny weeny little blighters that are so small they run around inside atoms.
Near Surabaya there is a large factory where they abuse electrons. They have a great big piece of amber and thousands of people rub it with dead cats. The electrons get really excited and they set off down a wire to Bali so we can use them to drive our air conditioners, water pumps and electric nasal hair clippers. Electrons can be very useful but don’t be fooled by their small size, when they get out of control they cause all sorts of mischief, they set fire to things and electrocute people.
All across Indonesia electrical faults are causing fires and deaths on a daily basis. In the first week of 2019 166 families lost their homes in Jakarta in two major fires caused by electrical faults. Closer to home we recently hear of yet another fire, this time in Sanur where the offices of a tourism business burned down and, as is so often the case, the cause is believed to be an electrical fault.
The fact is that if electrical systems are correctly installed, most of these fires would not be occurring and not so many people would be dying in their swimming pools, fish ponds and showers.
Unfortunately, in a country without effective training or certification, capable electricians are rarer than hen’s teeth and the highly skilled tradesman who turns up your door may well have learned his inestimable skills wafting satay or picking up fag ends.
To be fair many of the people who are working on your electrical systems are probably trying to do things correctly but mistakes are often made through a lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, however, there are also those who simply don’t care or who, through laziness, change things in your circuits to save themselves work and end up leaving your house in a dangerous condition.
To comply with the legal requirements laid down in the national electrical standard (SNI 04-0225-2000) electrical circuits should have safety measures built into them that will protect us from fire and electrocution even if the rest of the wiring is poor. These measure have three important components:
- An earth connection which connects all your plug sockets and electrical equipment to earth. The earth is designed to drain electricity from your circuits should there be a short circuit. Many buildings in Indonesia do not have adequate earth connections, a situation probably due to a lack of understanding of how important earthing is and how it should be installed.
- Safety switches or MCBs (Miniature Circuit Breakers) should be installed on each circuit in your electrical panel. If there is a short circuit and a large current flows through a circuit, the MCB is designed to switch itself off. Contrary to popular belief an MCB will NOT save your life, by the time it switches off you will be toast however, if working correctly, it should stop a fire. Unfortunately MCBs often don’t work because our lazy Satay Wafter, faced with the problem of having to find and repair a fault, may instead install a larger MCB to stop it cutting out – a very common practice. If, when you have a problem, your main PLN circuit breaker (the blue one on the meter) switches off but the MCBs do not, then you know that the MCBs are too large.
- Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB). This is the one component that is designed to save your life. It switches the power off instantaneously if it detects a fault, so quickly in fact that the power is switched off before it can do you any harm. Unfortunately ELCBs are very sensitive (they have to be) and so, once again, our lazy Satay Wafter rather than going to all the trouble of finding the fault and repairing it they bypass the ELCB making it ineffective and putting your life at risk. Note that ELCBs will not work if there is not a good earth connection.
So, to keep safe, you need:
- A good earth connection.
- Contact breakers that are not too large.
- An Earth Leakage Detector.
How many buildings do I see that have these three vital components correctly installed? Sadly far too few. To protect yourself and your property from wayward electrons, get your electrical systems checked and do not let incompetent people anywhere near your electrical circuits.
Previous “Fixed Abode” articles can be found subject indexed on our website at www.mrfixitbali.com. Opinions expressed are those of Phil Wilson. He can be contacted through the website or the office on 0361 288 789 or 08123 847 852.
Copyright © 2019 Phil Wilson
You can read all past articles of Fixed Abode