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Charging phone in bath

Old 21st Mar 2017, 12:00
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GOULI- had a similar experience in my mum's house, built in the 1950s/60s and wired with rubber insulated wiring, 50 years later had an issue with a socket in the outhouse, took the front off to find the insulation had crumbled into dust leaving two bare wires. House since rewired throughout!
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Old 22nd Mar 2017, 11:08
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I had my house (in a small country town) burn down due to an electrical fault in the power supply line in the street.
My house and adjoining workshop were supplied with 3 phase power, 4 wires on poles ran up the street; 3 single phase wires and a neutral wire.

I went to work, 80 kms away, for the day - and it was a stormy day with gusty winds in early October, but no rain.
The electrical supply wires between the poles had apparently sagged a little between the poles, with age.
In the gusty winds (70 to 80kmh), one of the phase wires between the poles flicked up and laid over the adjoining neutral wire. This then fed current into the neutral wire - around 90V - thereby boosting the current going into the house to 330V.

I had a bedside electric clock which arced up with the overvoltage, melted the plastic clock housing; and this then set fire to the adjoining window curtains.
I came home in the early evening to find my house a charred ruin, and the local fire brigade in attendance.
The firies (local volunteers) told me they'd turned the power off and pulled the fuses out of the main switchboard - but when they'd started pulling sheets of iron off the roof, they'd raised electrical sparks!

Early next morning, the local power authority inspector arrived, and checked the main switchboard. He found the neutral wire into the house still carrying 90V!
Of course, there's no fuses for neutral wires, only for the active wires.

Nothing was ever said about the power supply fiasco, and my insurance company paid out on the house damage.
Nothing could compensate for the loss of priceless photos and dozens and dozens of other personal possessions that were lost in the fire, though.

Later on in the month, the power utility ran all new wiring up the street; indicating to me that they realised they had a major problem. However in those days (1982), it wasn't legally possible to sue a power supplier for a power supply fault or resultant damage.
The Ash Wednesday bushfires (wildfires) in South Australia, only a little over 4 mths later, reset the blame game.
It was proven that numerous Ash Wednesday bushfires were started by clashing powerlines, and also started by a number of fallen power wires, which landed on vegetation that that was too close to the wires.

The victims of the Ash Wednesday bushfires commenced a class action against the power supplier, claiming negligence on their behalf - and the victims won, snaring a compensation payout of somewhere around $480M in total.

If only I could have been able to do the same, I would have been able to secure a substantial compensatory payout for my personal losses in my house fire, that was no fault whatsoever of my own.
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Old 2nd Apr 2017, 06:02
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A fascinating thread. Having lived in several countries, I've seen my share of electrical near-disasters.

The "best" one was my house in Jakarta, where the supply to the house was three-phase 240 v. Because it was a new house, I decided to check the electrical outlets. Some of them had been wired across two of the phases, instead of one phase and neutral!

The installers had also circumvented a problem with the distribution-panel box being too shallow, by cutting holes in the panel door, to allow it to close. All very well, except that live terminals of the main fuses were now sticking out of the holes!

Avitor,

You were being UK-centric in your comment about bathroom switches! You should have said:

"In the UK, one will never see a switch lower than ceiling level and with a hanging cord. Everywhere else, one will see normal switches in normal locations."
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Old 2nd Apr 2017, 11:21
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When my late father first moved to Menorca in the early 1970s, electricity was still somewhat...quaint and unusual.

In his first flat, half of the flat was wired for 127V and the rest was on 230V. Which could be interesting as the sockets weren't labelled!

A friend had rather a posh hi-fi system and was concerned about Menorcan voltage stability upsetting it. So he bought himself a very expensive auto-transformer. The output voltage was monitored and a motor would move the secondary winding tap as required to maintain the correct voltage if the input value fluctuated. None of today's solid state business, it hummed away in a stout, well-insulated metal cabinet.

But after a few weeks, he found that the input voltage had stayed rock-steady at 230V throughout!
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Old 2nd Apr 2017, 14:19
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onetrack:

I've also been informed that the cheap 240V electric kettles have been known to short circuit and cause fires, when the power switch at the wall is left on, but the kettle is off.
I bought one for 6. After about 2 months' use, it went BANG! and tripped the circuit breaker. Fortunately no fire. Current kettle is a 20 Bosch. Well worth paying more for safety.
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Old 3rd Apr 2017, 06:42
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I still have my Flying Kit Odds and Sods Box, loaded into my suitcase before every flight, which contains to this day a pair of wires, bare at one end and soldered to a small crocodile clip at the other, these, with a box of old fashioned wooden matches ( remember them ) solved any foreign fitting for which I didn't have the correct adaptor. ( poke wires in socket, stuff used wooden match - or unused if one really wanted to play with fire ! ) into the same hole to secure, and carefully clip to the prongs of the plug of ones' electric razor, or "Dipstick" coffee making mini immersion coil. Providing that the arrangement didn't touch anything, i.e. remained more or less in mid-air, and one had sufficient length of cable to conduct ones' task so that the arrangement didn't move, and wasn't balanced on the edge of the washbasin - no problem. Remove before leaving the room to the mercy of the maid.

Coffee making "dipsticks". These were initially only available for purchase in the USA, and so were made for 110 volts, which meant that one had to be a bit cautious, and ready to unplug quickly if attempting to use them with a 240 volt supply. However, the F/Eng and I were perusing a bazaar in New Delhi one day, Lo ! and Behold ! we espied 240 volt "dipsticks", securing one each we hurried back to my room and proceeded to use mine by boiling water in the bathroom. Some time later, having started to swap War Stories and totally forgetting the passage of time, we saw black smoke pouring out of the bathroom door ! The glass of water had boiled dry and the gadget caught fire, setting the towel on which I had placed the glass on fire as well.

We put out the towel fire, and noticed that the some of the bathroom was covered in a sort of greasy black residue, so opening the room door and seeing a maid down the hall I beckoned her to join us and crossing her palm with an ample supply of Rupees suggested that she might clean the bathroom ? She readily agreed and also said that she would "smuggle" the burned towel out of the hotel when she went home. That earned her some more Rupee entitlement.

Do I earn a Darwin Award ?
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Old 3rd Apr 2017, 08:07
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You were on track!
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Old 3rd Apr 2017, 17:54
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Can't Trust Those Pesky Inspectors & Electicians

A couple years back, I was helping a friend settle into her brand new home. One of my tasks was replacing all of the toggle type wall switches with those "Decora" style paddle things.

Although the home had been inspected and signed off, we called the city and the electrical contractor back for some rework after I discovered loose wires on every switch I removed.

Most disturbing was that many switches in modern homes go to one section of each outlet in a room, so that you plug in floor lamps and operate them easily.

Downside is that people tend to plug other things -- like vacuum cleaners in.
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Old 4th Apr 2017, 08:59
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Originally Posted by rottenray View Post
A couple years back, I was helping a friend settle into her brand new home. One of my tasks was replacing all of the toggle type wall switches with those "Decora" style paddle things.

Although the home had been inspected and signed off, we called the city and the electrical contractor back for some rework after I discovered loose wires on every switch I removed.

Most disturbing was that many switches in modern homes go to one section of each outlet in a room, so that you plug in floor lamps and operate them easily.

Downside is that people tend to plug other things -- like vacuum cleaners in.
In the UK, I think you're supposed to fit round pin socket outlets to use with floor and wall lights etc if you want to operate them in conjunction with a conventional wall switch (5 amp max?). These are not compatible with higher power socket outlets which in the UK are square pin so of course you can't plug them into a low power outlet under any circumstances.
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Old 4th Apr 2017, 15:34
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In the UK

... and of course after 'Two Jags' gift of Part P of the building regulations, only a qualified electrician may wire up anything unless you want to shell out 250 notes for the building inspector to come and certify your handiwork.
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Old 5th Apr 2017, 02:47
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Originally Posted by yellowtriumph View Post
In the UK, I think you're supposed to fit round pin socket outlets to use with floor and wall lights etc if you want to operate them in conjunction with a conventional wall switch (5 amp max?)
In the US, most circuits are 15 amp. There are some 25 amp circuits, but most of the kit you can buy which takes that kind of power will also plug into a 15 amp outlet.

It's a dog's breakfast, in other words.

Normally, everything's pretty abuse tolerant, meaning you can usually draw enough to trip a 15 amp breaker without heating the wiring up too much.

Unless, of course, you've failed to tighten the screws on the outlets and switches.

Then you build up a lot of heat.

One thing that bothers me is that it's perfectly okay to use plastic junction boxes. They supposedly won't support flame once the source of heat is removed, but I've tossed a few of those blue bastards into a fire on occasion, and they'll burn like candles as long as they're hot enough.

Like when there's a pair of arcing wires inside, creating little pulses of sun-hot copper and brass plasma.

Go figure.


I've been thinking about this, too. Some of these little power supplies -- chargers, adapters, so forth -- have a lot of leakage from the mains to, say, the shell of a USB port. This is mostly true of inexpensive replacement units.

You could fry yourself just by using one and standing on a wet surface, or touching something with a good ground. Like a faucet, or the water in your bathtub.

Be careful!

Last edited by rottenray; 5th Apr 2017 at 02:59.
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Old 5th Apr 2017, 02:56
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I read an article once where the thrust of the story was, a lot of American homes were wired up with electrical wiring that was aluminium.

The metal is prone to corrosion at the best of times, but with the 110V standard, American wiring carries a higher amperage for a given wattage, thus increasing the heat load on the wiring.

The article spoke of numerous house fires in America that were caused by corroded aluminium wiring at connections, aided by the larger variation in the heating and cooling cycles of the wiring, as compared to the higher voltage countries.

CarsonDunlop.com - Home inspector training - the true story behind aluminum wiring in the U.S.
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Old 5th Apr 2017, 03:06
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Originally Posted by onetrack View Post
I read an article once where the thrust of the story was, a lot of American homes were wired up with electrical wiring that was aluminium.

The metal is prone to corrosion at the best of times, but with the 110V standard, American wiring carries a higher amperage for a given wattage, thus increasing the heat load on the wiring.

The article spoke of numerous house fires in America that were caused by corroded aluminium wiring at connections, aided by the larger variation in the heating and cooling cycles of the wiring, as compared to the higher voltage countries.

CarsonDunlop.com - Home inspector training - the true story behind aluminum wiring in the U.S.
This was a HUGE problem in the manufactured housing industry back in the 1960s and 1970s.

There are specific outlets and switches which must be used with Al wiring. Corrosion is one problem, coefficient of expansion is another.

Al expands and contracts more than brass or copper. It will actually stretch the terminal screws over time, loosening the connection and creating resistance.

I don't think you can do a new build with Al wire anymore, and I think if an electrician runs into it during repair work, the home owner is probably in for a spendy surprise.

But, yeah, there have been lots of fires. A friend of mine lost her daughter two years ago to a house fire caused by someone using Al wire in the attic to repair a run of old wire that had been eaten by squirrels. A hundred year old farm house, dry as tinder upstairs.

Bad stuff, that electricity, if you don't respect it.
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