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electricity in the Philippines

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Dear Members,

     Personally I enjoy the arguements about the electric service in
the Philippines.  I\'ve been an electrician for 30+ years in the USA
and I totally rewired my father-in-law\'s house in Sibonga, Cebu.  I
will try to address some of the issues about the electric service you
will find in most of the Philippines, although I understand there are
small areas of American style systems arround the old US military

     \"IDEALLY\", here is what you \"should\" have in the majority of the
Philippines:  A transformer on a pole somewhere near your house, it
will be serving several houses in the neighborhood.  It will have 2
lugs on the secondary with 220 volts between them.  There will be 1
wire from each lug going to each house.  One and only one of the
lugs \"should\" also have a second bare copper wire connected to it
with the other wire and this bare wire will run down the pole to a
ground rod at the base of the pole.  The 2 large wires running to
each house (service drop) will have the hot wire insulated and the
other (neutral) may be bare or insulated.  After passing through the
electric meter these wires go to your fuse or breaker box.  The hot
wire will connect to the supply buss where the fuses or breakers
are.  The neutral wire will connect to the neutral buss which is
directly mounted to the metal box.  There SHOULD also be a bare wire
gioing from the neutral buss to a copper ground rod at each house.
From the fuse or breaker box there will be one black 220 volt hot
wire from the fuse or breaker and one white neutral wire from the
neutral buss for each circuit.  This is what you should have in the
majority of the simple Philippine 2 wire systems, please take note of
the above IDEALLY\'s and SHOULD\'s.

     The Philippine system is a GROUNDED system because the neutral
wire is/SHOULD be connected to a ground rod at the pole where the
transformer is and a ground rod and/or cold water pipe at each
house.  This keeps the transformer secondary from floating: the
neutral wire at zero volts and the hot wire about 220 volts,
depending on the service company\'s supply voltage.  The neutral wire
will be at zero volts because it is connected to ground.  If you have
anything other than zero volts, you have a loose, dirty, or missing
connection to the ground rod; or you are using your volt meter
incorrectly (which is not unusual).  The neutral wire is also called
the \"GROUNDED\" wire and it should have white insulation throughout
the house.

     AS for the 3rd green or bare wire, which is missing most of the
time in the Philippines, It is called the \"GROUNDING\" wire.  It is
connected to the neutral wire in the fuse/breaker box either in the
same neutral buss mounted to the metal box or a seperate GROUNDING
buss, but they should be connected together and only in the
fuse/breaker box, this is the one and only time they should ever be
connected together.  Throughout the house this GROUNDING wire should
connect to the 3rd round prong of each recepticle, all metal electric
switch/ recepticle boxes, green hex head GROUNDING screws, and
eventually all metal fromes of all electric appliances.  This keeps
the metal parts of the electric system and appliances at zero volts.
The same Zero volts your human body is, so no shocks.

     Throughout the house the white GROUNDED wire is at zero volts and
is a current carrying part of each circuit.  The green or bare
GROUNDING wire is also at zero volts, is not part of the circuit, and
does not carry current (except in a fault).  It\'s purpose is to keep
all metal parts of the system and metal parts of the appliances at
zero volts, and to trip the breaker or blow the fuse and shut the
circuit down in the case of a fault.

     As for fuses or breakers, there should be one, and only one, in
each circuit and it should be in the hot wire.  There should NEVER be
a fuse or breaker in the neutral white GROUNDED wire, usually you
will find this mistake in the old 2 fuse boxes.  I have seen a fuse
in the neutral a lot in the Philippines and some old installations in
the US.  If you find a fuse in the neutral GROUNDED wire, please
remove it and connect the neutral GROUNDED wire direct.  If you
disagree with me and that fuse in the neutral ever blows, you may
then understand why.

     There is no magic electrical trick you can do to get 110 volts
from the usual Philippine style 220 volt electric system.  The ONLY
way is to buy a 220 to 110 volt transformer.

      Yes you can ship an American style breaker box to the
Philippines and it will work fine, if you know what to do.  The 2 hot
busses will have to be connected together and tied to the one hot 220
volt wire in the Philippines.  Yes, standard American single pole 110
volt breakers will work just fine on Philippine 220 volt systems,
they are good to 300 volts.  You will only need single pole breakers,
NO/NONE/NEVER any 2 pole breakers.  Also the same breaker on 220
volts will carry twice the power it carries on 110 volts.  A 15 amp
breaker carries only 1650 watts on 110 volts, but a whopping 3300
watts on 220 volts.  So you will likely want/need the smallest
breakers you can find.

     I have no idea if an American style 110 volt ground fault or arc
fault breakers will work on the Philippine system, I imagine you
would blow the test button when you try to test them.  I contacted
the American manufacturer with this question, but they wouldn\'t
answer.  I imagine because of legal issues.  You will have no use for
the Americam style 2 pole GFCI\'s for you hot tub heater, I imagine no
use for a hot tub either.

     Now for the American style 110/220 volt system you might find
arround the old US military bases:  The transformer on the pole will
have 3 lugs for the secondary.  The middle lug is the \"center tap\"
and will be connected to the ground rod that should be at the bottom
of the pole and at the ground rod that should be at each house.  The
second wire connected to this lug and running to each house may be
called GROUNDED, neutral, or common.  The other 2 lugs are the hot
wires.  Each hot wire will be 110 volts to the
neutral/common/GROUNDED wire.  And there will be also be 220 volts
between the 2 hot wires if you leave the 3rd neutral/common/GROUNDED
wire out of the circuit.  The American style system is a single phase
system even though there are 2 hot wires.  One hot wire will be at
+110 volts at exactly the same time the other hot wire is at -110
volts, thus they are in the same phase.

     If there are any budding electrical engineers out there, please
no arguements about American style 208 volt systems, I already know
they use 2 phases from a three phase system.  If you do have a 3
phase system for the secondary in your area of the Philippines, I
think you will find it to be a 380 volt 3 phase \"Y\" tied secondary.
Thus any phase to ground will be 220 volts.  Besides, I thought
engineers were supposed to drive trains?

     If I can be of help or if anyone wants to argue (I enjoy both),
you may contact me on or of the list.

Best always,
Harry Morgan

     I understand Don Herrington, the list owner, especially enjoys
discussions about electricity and tin roofs.

List website and to Join this List, Livinginthephilippines3 our website

Join out new Forum at
The Living in the Philippines Community

Dear Members,

There is one (likely several) very important point I mentioned in
my original post, but didn\'t stress enough. Even though the \"usual\"
Philippine 2 wire 220 volt system is considered a GROUNDED system
because one leg is referenced to ground, this serves only to keep the
transformer secondary from \"floating\" and does very very very little
to protect against shock hazzards. The most important primary thing
you can do is to add a third seperate green or bare GROUNDING wire
that connects to the metal frame of all electric appliances and ties
the metal direct to your ground rod.

I appologize that I am not a good writer and am difficult to
understand for non-electricians, I have mightmares of someone causing
all the lights to go out on the whole island of Cebu because of my
article. I have the advantage of several years of practice, and even
then sometimes have trouble chatting with some other electricians.
Even though they know the correct way to do things, some electricians
haven\'t taken time understand why things are done a particular way,
including me.

Also, I have no problem with the wonderful people who have
disagreed with what I said in the original article. There are almost
always at least 2 different ways of doing things, but I do know what
I found in Sibonga, Cebu. Please be sure you understand what you
have before you play with it. Just because the light is lit doesn\'t
mean it is wired the best way.

Best always,

     I do want to warn you about the electricity in the
Philippines. It is a full 220 volts to ground, not the 110 like in the States.
About the only way you could get hit with 220 in the States would be to jump in
the air and grab the 2 hot wires before you land. Also the houses there are
mostly masonery which is a good ground, not wood like in the States. I am used
to messing with live wires, but I am doubly careful in the Philippines.

Best always,

Dear Greg,

Thank-you to you and one of the KIWI members for pointing out this
important omission on my part. To use a cold water pipe for ground
it has to be:
1. metal
2. continuous. No removable fittings to interupt the continuity such
as water meters, unions, water heaters, etc.
3. in direct contact with the earth for a minimum of 10\' since the
water pipes in the PI are on top of the ground rather than burried, I
would want much more than 10\' because the pipe isn\'t in total contact
and the soil could be drier, neither of which is good

It is prefered to connect to the pipe as close to where it comes
out of the ground, rather than in the house so you will always have
an intact path to earth. I know in the Philippines the water pipes
are on top of the ground and the removable water meter is usually out
by the gate beside the street. I still used the water pipe at my
father-in-law\'s because it was over 40\' to the water meter and I also
had tied to a ground rod.

The older plumbers here in the States do not trust electricians
and will always look to make sure the ground is connected ahead
of/before the water meter.

Thanks again,

   Hey, guys!  Love to read these posts; very informative and entertaining.  I have a comment and a question:  When I moved here, I brought all 110 appliances, remembering that houses I had visited in the past were equipped with both 220 and 110 power.  I was informed that, with the departure of the Americans in 1991, the 110 went away in all but the older areas close to Clark air base.  My building contractor rewired the entire house, with each outlet equipped with 110 on the left, and 220 on the right.  I bought child safety caps, and inserted one in every 220 outlet, to remind us of the difference.  By the way, that works great; have only had two incidents of plugging 110 appliances into 220, and both were repaired cheaply.
   My dilemma:  I had calculated the requirement for a whole-house transformer, and of course, my wife has a relative who is an electrician (by name, guess, or schooling I\'m not sure), and had a 5,000 watt unit he would sell me.  Someons stole it before he could bring it over, so I \"had\" to buy the only other one he had, which was a 15,000 watt transformer.  Much more expensive, but, hey somebody had to pay for the theft; might as well be me.  It was hardwired in, and everything works fine.  The \"electrician\" said it pulls no juice when there is no load, but I seem to have the highest electric bills in the subdivision.  Here is a snapshot of my bills; is he right?
Power  Bills            
Month   KWH   PESO   PESO/KWH   Dollar Equiv
June   645   5,586.50   8.66   136.26
July   1,031   9,024.77   8.75   220.12
August   986   8,222.64   8.34   200.55
September   864   7,201.40   8.33   175.64
October   786   6,434.67   8.19   156.94
November   679   5,382.55   7.93   131.28
December   817   6,217.91   7.61   151.66
January   931   6,548.66   7.03   159.72
February   763   6,211.11   8.14   151.49
Peso:41   AVG =   6,758.91      164.85


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