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Author Topic: electricity in the Philippines  (Read 117414 times)

Offline harry80020

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electricity in the Philippines
« on: March 03, 2008, 01:56:17 AM »
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.

Offline harry80020

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2008, 04:37:23 AM »
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,

Offline harry80020

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2008, 05:55:00 AM »
     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,

Offline harry80020

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2008, 05:58:21 AM »
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,


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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2008, 07:16:58 AM »
   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

Offline coutts00

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2008, 11:13:02 AM »

I am afraid to say, but your electrician is full if sh*t up to his eye balls. Of course the transformer pulls a load even when nothing is plugged into it, put your hand on it when nothing is running, is it warm or hot, its pulling juice. The bigger the transformer the more juice, is there a breaker on the lines running into the transformer, if so open the breaker when not using a 110v appliance and watch your bills go down. As I posted on another link, we all have bad habits about leaving Cell Phone chargers plugged in, they still pull juice when the phones not being charged. The TV still pulls juice even when in standby mode, most of us forget to turn off our printer when it is not in use, but it pull juice when not printing, you should configure your PC\'s as well for standby or sleep mode or hibernation. Configure your screen to shutdown after 5 Min\'s of non use, don\'t bother with the screen saver, go into the power settings of your PC, configure your hard drives to spin down after 3 Min\'s of non use, and the PC to drop into sleep after 10 Min\'s of non use, it take about 15 - 30 secs to resume, but after doing this I have seen my bills here drop 1000p in one month. also if you have any external drives like a dvd or extra hard drive, even things like usb drives left plugged in all pull extra juice. Do you turn your PC off at night, you should, it only takes as long to turn back on in the morning as it takes you to make the coffee or have the house keeper do it.

Everything we can do to turn off appliances when not running saves juice, do you really need the clock on the microwave, if not unplug it, the clock requires power as well, so it keeps the power supply on the microwave fired up when doing so. Get into the habit of turning off lights as soon as you leave a room. And for those of us with a peaked roof house, whatever the sheeting on it or tiles, that space gets hot, and in turn heats the rest of the house, most insulation I have seen here is junk. Purchase a 40 watt exhaust fan and mount it as high in the roof as you can, like an attic fan, turn it on 30 Min\'s before you crank up the a/c, you will find as it pulls out the hot air it pulls in cooler air to replace it. You may not need to crank up the a/c as soon as you thought, a 40 watt fan is cheaper than a 600 - 1000 watt A/C unit.

Wayne  ;D ;D

Offline graham

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2008, 01:33:50 PM »
 Just a thought. With regards to you suggestion of a 40 watt exhaust fan. In OZ we have a lot of houses that have a raised sub floor. There is a company there selling small solar fans that are fitted to the wall and circulate the air between the sub floor and the ground. These would then run all day for NO cost and move the air in the attic or wherever.


Offline coutts00

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2008, 01:37:46 PM »
Yes, Graham, same thing is done in the US. If you can find one grab it and use it.

Wayne  ;D ;D


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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2008, 02:38:02 PM »
Thanks for the info, Wayne.  Yeah, that\'s what I thought.  I hope he\'s a better restaurateur (his normal business) than he is an electrician.  But somehow, my wife thinks all of her relatives who claim some expertise in everything all know more than I do.  I do turn everything off at night, have the sleep mode set to click in after 3 minutes on the pc, etc.  It\'s just that nagging feeling that I was sold a bill of goods , along with the 15k watt transformer.  But, it doesn\'t feel hot to the touch, because it\'s hard wired in under the dirty kitchen sink, and it\'s inside a steel cabinet.  The thing\'s the size of a Doberman dog house!  Right now I\'m stuck with a brand new 110 side-by-side ref, coffee maker, iron. microwave, vacuum, drill, saw, rice cooker and electric razor.  But in time... I plan on being here the rest of my life!  Thanks again

Offline harry80020

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2008, 11:13:19 PM »

Dear Gary,

Without the ground reference on a transformer, for instance 220
in the Philippines, all you know is that there is 220 volts between
the 2 terminals. But the secondary can & will float in relation to 0
volts: one therminal could be +100 volts and the other at +320
volts. Or one terminal could be at -60 volts and the other at -280.
Or one terminal could be at +80 volts and the other at -140.

By referencing one terminal at ground or 0 volts, the other
terninal will stay at 220 volts. Actually it\'s value will follow a
sine wave path back & forth between +220 and -220 volts, because it\'s
AC voltage.

In the US and at some areas in the Philippines arround the old
military bases, we use a transformer with a center tapped secondary
coil. These transformers will have 3 lugs on the secondary, instead
of 2. By tieing the center lug to a ground rod or 0 volts, the other
2 lugs will be locked at +110 and -110 volts. So you will have 110
volts between the center lug and either outer lug, and there will
also still be 220 volts between the 2 outer lugs.

Best always,

--- In, \"garycottam55\"
> Larry, I\'m a non-electrician and I understood perfectly what you
> except for the part about the transformer floating. I\'ve heard
> term before from a friend that\'s a EE but I don\'t really understand
> the concept. From what you\'ve told me about Philippine power I
> no doubt that I can do about any wiring I need to there, thanks.

Offline harry80020

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2008, 11:55:37 PM »

Dear Gerry,

    I highly recommend you ground your water heater in the best possable way you can.  I realize a 2\' piece of rebar with the wire wrapped arround the top is common in the Philippines, and this is better than nothing.  But an 8\' copper rod and/or cold water pipe in continuous contact with the earth for a minimum of 10\' is much better.  Also proper brass clamps are available in the Philippines with a little searching.

    Salt will increace conduction for a while and I have seen this done here in dry Denver once, but I do not recommend it.  Be your ground rod steel rebar or copper, the salt will eat it away to nothing in a short time.

    You may dig a hole for the ground rod or drive it with a sledge.  You may also dig a trench and lay it horizontally, the trench should be at least 2\' deep.  But the easy way if you don\'t have a lot of rocks is to use a half gallon of water and one hand.  Dig a small hole about the size of a dinner bowl where you want the ground rod and fill it with water.  Start working the rod into the bottom of the hole, when it just begins to get stiff pull it out of the hole it\'s making and let more water run down into the hole the rod is making.  Keep the bowl sized hole filled with water and keep repeating this process until the rod is to depth.  Do not stop with the rod partially in the ground because it will stick and you won\'t be able to move it up or down.  The rod is acting like a piston on the water and the water is forcing the dirt away from the point.  Stop when the top of the rod will be a few inches above ground.

    I can also tell you how to set large power poles with dynamite in this same mannor if you like, but an auger is quieter.  No charge for the \"trade secret\".

Best always,

--- In, \"ogergree\" wrote:
> -
> mY SHOWER heaters have a green wire coming out of each ,can I join an
> earthwire to it ,run it down the outside wall and attach to a rebar
> banged deep into the ground ,I was going to throw a kilo of salt
> around the bar to attract moisture all the time [Or i could loosen a
> bolt in the heater and srew it back on the earth wire
> Gerry

Offline RUFUS

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2008, 12:50:01 AM »
The metal casing on wells makes 4 a pretty good ground...


Offline harry80020

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2008, 09:45:05 PM »
Dear Bob,

    Most engineers are a little windy, but not bad people in general.  I imagine he is not familiar with what you are dealing with in the Philippines.  It sounds like you have already figured out what you need to do, but I do wonder how your panel found it\'s way to the Philippines?

    I imagine the breaker panel you have is 4 or 6 branch circuits , since it doesn\'t have a main breaker?  Yes you can feed both busses from a 2 pole breaker, but you will have to use a short jumper wire so the one hot wire is tied to both terminals of the breaker.  Breakers work just fine, no matter which way the current goes through them.

    You can also feed the busses direct and skip feeding through a main breaker, you will still have to use a short jumper wire to tie the 2 busses together.  This will gain you 2 more branch circuits in the panel.  I don\'t know if this is still mentioned in the code book, but it is legal so long as there are 6 or less branch circuits.  The main breaker is really serving as a main disconnect and does little for over current protection, since the busses can handle more current than the breaker.  One square inch of copper buss can handle 1000 amps. 

    Over current/ground fault protection for the wiring from the buss all the way back to the transformer is supposed to be provided by a \"fusable link\" cut-out somewhere in the transformer primary or secondary, but don\'t count on this in the Philippines.  Either way, a main breaker would do little, if anything, to protect the outside wiring.  Your inside wiring will be protected by the branch circuit breakers.

    You are correct, you will want to remove the tie bar from the 2 pole breakers to make them single pole for your branch circuits.  You are also correct that the neutral NEVER feeds through a breaker or fuse, connect it directly to the neutral buss.  The only time the neutral connects to a breaker is when you are using a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) breaker.

    I doubt you will need 30 amp breakers for your branch circuits in the Philippines unless you are powering something really large like an electric range, large air conditioner, or clothes drier.  30 amps on 220 volts is a lot of \"whammie\" for a normal home branch circuit, and it needs 10 gauge wire.

Best always,

bob roper wrote:

High Harry, I\'m bob roper residing in Manapa which is in the province of Mindanao.

I read your article with great interest as I am just in the process of wiring my house. I bought a beaker panel which has two busses just like in Canada but no provision for a main breaker. The clerk could not answer my question how do you feed the panel. I found a contact who is and electrical engineer, he told me you attach the line to one contact on the breaker and the neutral to the other contact on the dual breaker/tandem breaker. Also upon questioning he confirmed that each circuit in the house is wired this way, switching load and neutral. I didn\'t tell him but I think that is bullshit and upon reading your article confirms what I thought you do not switch the neutral. So back to my original dilemma how to power the other buss. I can only guess that I jumper it from the load line thus powering both busses and then I can use each breaker individually. But but I am confused because they only sell tandem breakers with a tie bar, which I soon found is easily removed.

So can I jumper the 30 amp tie breaker to power both buses and terminate the neutral on the neutral buss in the panel and run each circuit from a single breaker and it\'s neutral to the neutral buss just like north America???

Thanks for any help


Offline harry80020

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2008, 10:31:10 PM »
Dear John,

    I only actually measured the frequency in Sibonga, Cebu, which was 60 cps.  I have also heard from others that 60 cps. is the norm for all of the Philippines.  I\'m not that well versed on electronics, but I don\'t think it would work to have 2 frequency standards in one country.  And I \"think\" it takes a different TV to operate on 50 cycles?  I don\'t know why because the first thing the TV\'s power supply does is change the alternating corrent to DC, then it has an oscillator operating at somewhere arround 16000 htz for the scan.  But this is a wee bit beyond my area of knowledge.

Best always,

John Logan wrote:

Harry, tell me this is nearly all the Philippines operating on 60 cycle or is some areas on 50 cycle (european standard) ?  John Logan

Offline harry80020

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Re: electricity in the Philippines
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2008, 05:53:12 AM »
[linP3] Re: Step Down Transformer,

In all likely hood no, unless it\'s a small TV. Look on the back
of the TV, it should say haw many watts it uses. If it doesn\'t and
just lists voltage & amperage, volts x amps = watts. Buy a step down
transformer that has at least 20% to spare for the load. I other
words, you only want to load the transformer to a maximum of 80% of
it\'s capacity.

Best always,

--- In, larry lynch
> There are many places that sell step down transformers. Will a
stepdown transformer that will handle 50 watts maximum be ok for a tv?