This weeks article is called building fails in the Philippines – part 2. As I mentioned in last week’s article, it is not to highlight foolishness but a collection of areas I need to think about when building your home in the Philippines.
In most of my articles, I have talked about topics that are the “normal” way of building a home in the Philippines. In my mind, some of these topics are certainly not the way I want to build our “forever” home.
Have you heard of the Mulberry harbour? They were made up of floating concrete structures in world war two designed to be moved over the channel and used to aid in getting heavy equipment into Europe for the war effort.
The SS Palo Alto was a concrete ship and is now on Seacliff State Beach, California
Why am I talking about concrete Ships? And floating concrete structures?
The chances are the swimming pool you are having built now or planning to have built effectively has the same effect in water like the hull of a concrete ship.
If your land has a high-water table coupled with a storm and a lot of rain, then the pressure underneath your pool of the water trying to escape will try to float your pool, and it will lift out of the ground a complete building fail.
If the pool lifts out of the ground, there is no going back, and you will need to demolish and rebuild.
A hydrostatic relief valve is all your pool builder needs to install in the bottom of your pool, generally at the deepest point. There are around the $80 price point, so considering the cost of your pool and the cost of potentially rebuilding your pool, $80 is nothing.
However, that $80 will help you sleep at night when you hear the rain start to fall.
You may have guessed by now that my trade is electronics and heavy electrical. My building experience I have gained through various projects in my life.
It always amazes me how people will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on building a house and then only a few hundred on a generator without understanding what the generator needs to do another building fail in the making.
Let’s look at the auto start systems quickly to get them out of the way.
The Philippines, as we know, has a fragile power infrastructure. So when building your home, you need to plan on extended power cuts.
A good auto-start system will constantly monitor your incoming mains supply, and at the point where the voltage drops below a certain level, it will fire up your generator, and after the warm-up period when the generator output is nice and stable, it will switch the supplies over.
Once the system sees the external supply has been restored and is stable for a set amount of time, the system will switch back the supplies but will keep the generator running off-load for several minutes to allow the generator time, in effect, to cool down.
If your auto start system does not do the above as a bare minimum, then you may want to look elsewhere.
Now before you go generator shopping you need to do some maths. You need to look at your home design and work out what equipment you want to run during a power cut.
If you have already built your house and are living in it then for a “Full Load” calculation look at your monthly bill showing your usage, find the highest month and add 25%.
This is a good way to do things if the cost of a generator is not an issue.
If, like most of us, your generator budget has a limit, then basically walk around the house or design with a notepad and write down all the equipment you will want to power. So things like, do you want all the lights powered? The fridge and television?
In the Philippines, your biggest power consumer is going to be your air-conditioning units.
Now the math.
Look at the label of your appliance, and we need to end up with a kilowatt figure.
If there is a figure labelled Watts, then take that number wattsx1000=Kilowatts and put it on your list.
If there is no Watts figure, then the calculation is Power=Amps x Volts; this will give you the Watts, then you can times by 1000 to get the Kilowatts.
Add everything together, and it will give you a final figure to show what the minimum size of your generator will be. You would also look to add 25% more to allow for future expansion.
Certain things to remember about generators. It is bad to overload them! It is also bad to run a generator with a low load or no load at all (unless on a warm down cycle). One of the effects of low to no load is what we call “Glazing” this is a layer that will form on the inside of your engine cylinders and will eventually kill your engine.
So, the choice of your generator should ensure it runs no less than 70% of its capability. Most good quality diesel generators will happily run forever on 100% capability.
For those of you already in the Philippines, you will already know that power cuts range from a few hours to a few days or even weeks.
I have seen ex-pats on YouTube proudly show off the generator they just bought. The generator has zero branding so you can guess straight away it’s Chinese. The physical size of the generator suggests something you may use for a few hours whilst weekend camping to run a light and a charging block. They generally end up in the building fail chapter of their Vlogs.
Would you buy a car that was the same? No, so spend the money, buy good quality branded generator with a good warranty and a suitable size for your property.
The next thing you need to do is learn how it works and learn how to service it. As with everything, if it is going to break down it will happen in the early hours of the morning and you will not be able to contact the supplier so you need to fix it yourself.
Diesel generators are almost bomb proof. You keep the filters and oil clean and as with any diesel engine it will run forever.
You don’t need to restrict yourself to petrol or diesel. There are conversion kits out there to run the engine on LPG.
I am hoping by the time I start my build I have a good supplier for LPG so I can get a tank in the garden to supply not only the kitchen cookers but also the generator.