I generally prefer to make blog entries showing off my vacations and laughing at you schmucks still working for a living. But a friend asked for a video about the electrical system here. I looked for a lot of this info before moving and did not really find much. And since it was a major concern of mine before moving, I thought I would go ahead and make the video. It got a bit long… but I do babble a lot. So to really be redundant I will repeat most of it here.
I asked on a few chat forums before moving over here and, in usual internet fashion, everyone wants to be the expert and everyone wanted to be “electrical engineers” so I will try and just explain it in plain English. Like you really care if it is delta or wye configuration – and I assure you over 99% of the electricians in the Philippines don’t know the difference anyway! I mean seriously these guys argued for pages over delta & wye – and we all know that is for 3 phase anyway and does not apply much here in Filipino residential wiring.
First things first, the electrical here in the Philippines is 220 volt. And just to dash your 110 volt hopes I will let you know it is not two 110 wires – it is a single 220 volt and a neutral… sorry. I know you hoped it was two 110’s, that is so common in the US, so you could take a 110 and grab a ground to make your own 110 volt circuit. Not gonna happen! So far I have not seen any 3 phase or grounded systems in any house here. If I were to ever build here I would put in a nice, grounded, system. But I may and might never build… (and if your house has 3 phase, ground, or even 110, good for you but I have never seen one here with it)
One of the biggest problems with bringing 110 volt appliances with you is that someone WILL plug it into a 220 plug and blow it up. It may take a while… but it is bound to happen. The standard 2 prong 110 volt American plug is identical to the standard 220 volt Filipino plug. I had everything labeled with 4”x6” tags saying “110 VOLT ONLY!” and no one here understood it. But all my 110 stuff blew up on its own – not by being plugged in incorrectly – so I just contradicted myself. The constant brown outs are bad enough but the power fluctuations are insane. I can plug my meter into an outlet and just watch the power go all over the place. When we say 220 volts it could be 190, 250, whatever. I think that is harder on the electronics than the power outages. The fans speed up and slow down, lights go dim to bright, just really crappy power regulation. Which why you will need to buy Automatic Voltage Regulators (AVR).
The AVR is supposed to smooth out the power fluctuations. Kind of a surge protector on steroids. I now have 2. One in the living room for the TV, Playstation, and laptop. And one in my office for the desktop PC. Nothing has blown up since I got them. Before I knew about them my power supply on the desktop PC blew out during some crazy power surges. The absence of damage does exactly prove their effectiveness, but I would recommend an AVR anyway.
If you are going to bring some 110 volt stuff with you make sure you have a good quality transformer. You can buy them here or ship one from the US. Since x-formers are so heavy, if you are shipping, I would recommend using a Balikbayan box. It is the cheapest shipping option around – and no weight requirement. I suspect the 110 volt appliances use more electricity. I am not sure but judging from the heat loss on the x-former they cannot be very efficient. Since electricity here is so expensive it may be better to just get some 220 volt stuff here anyway. Currently I am paying 12.75/kwh which is about 30 cents in US dollars.
The plugs here are interesting, to say the least. The standard 220 volt plug is the same 2 blade plug like we use for 110 in the US. But many appliances you buy will have different plugs. I think it just depends on what country it is from. The Philippines does not seem to care what they get, in the US we would bitch and moan until the stores bought the right plugs. Here… you take what you get. So there are numerous plug adapters at the hardware store. When you buy a TV, iron, rice cooker… make sure and check the plug. The store will not usually tell you if you what plug is on it. It is up to you to check. There is a “standard” plug on the adapters and power strips that is a one size fits most. It is an odd looking plug but it will accept many different prong configurations.
Most modern electronics are dual voltage. but make sure and check your devices before using them here. My laptop, and phone chargers are 100-240 volt input. My computer monitor is dual voltage, my Blu-Ray player was 110 only. I did not bring my 46″ TV with me so I don’t know what it had. It was just too big for me to ship. I have heard that they have 50 Hz power here but I doubt they are consistent enough for it to matter. But my chargers also say 50-60 Hz. So they are safe in any case. I use the same chargers here that I used in the US. And the first time you plug that thing into a 220 volt plug you just know you are about to blow something up ha ha. But if says dual voltage you are good to go… but it is still a bit scary that first time…
Just keep in mind the power is 220, ungrounded, and generally very poorly delivered. As long as you don’t expect consistency you might be ok.