Philippines electrical safety is one of a series of articles on building your home in the Philippines. So far, we talked about do you buy or build and then who to employ to build your home and last week, we covered home security.
As a qualified electrician myself, I paid considerable attention to how electricians in the Philippines work and the standards they work to with a view on electrical safety.
Now before I continue, I am not saying that all electricians in the Philippines are bad. There are some good electricians. But as with most of the trades in the Philippines, most are self-taught, and legislation of standards is very new.
Philippines Electrical Safety Standards
The regulations are there and are based on American standards. The issue is that they are a legal requirement, but lack of resources means they are not enforced. Regulations can be found here in Electrician Philippines and here at the Institute of Integrated Electrical Engineers of the Philippines.
Your architect will ensure that a qualified electrical engineer will complete the electrical design for your house. After that, it is down to you to confirm your electrician is skilled and competent.
Currently, there are four types of electricians in the Philippines.
- Outside Linesman
- Inside Linesman
- Installer Technician
- Residential Wireman
The levels for each of these are.
- Electrician Apprentice. Apprenticeships generally include a classroom component as well as substantial on-the-job training
- Journeyman Electrician
- Master Electrician
- Specialty License Types
So, you can see for your house you would expect to have a Residential Wireman Master Electrician do the work.
So, in this article, I want to highlight some of the significant safety issues I have seen whilst watching house building videos in the Philippines.
First of all, in the USA, domestic power is 160v at 60Hz, but the Philippines is 220v at 60Hz.
There are some notable differences between the USA and UK. Such as standard distances for electrical appliances, switches, or outlets from a water source such as a sink, shower, or a bath. An example of UK requirements can be seen here. However, both standards are safe if they are followed correctly.
When you get your drawings back from the electrical engineer, you need to check these distances.
Make sure you are happy with the Philippines standards. If not, you can always increase the distances but never decrease them.
However, you can be safe in the knowledge that the engineer will give you drawings that meet Philippines Electrical Safety Standards.
Old unsafe Practices
My biggest issue in the videos I have watched is how most of the builds I have seen use the rebar in the concrete as the earth lines. This is an old technique for running and earth but is so dangerous and hugely ineffective, so ineffective in fact that the RCD trips are at the power outlets.
RCD stands for Residual Current Detector. These units basically monitor the current in the power circuit and if it senses current flowing in the wrong place. For instance, if you have cut a power cable and touched it, the RCD will see this and switch off the power before you get electrocuted.
The system must be earthed correctly for an RCD to work. Although rebar in the concrete may provide some amount of earthing, I guarantee it won’t be perfect. I have seen a Filipino electrician chipping through concrete to get to a piece of rebar and then just twist a wire around the bar.
Once I reached out to an ex-pat on YouTube and told him that his electrician is dangerous, and I was ignored. From what I saw, he will at some point either electrocute someone or have an electrical fire. This will be a huge problem as you probably know that in typical Philippine’s house builds everything is encased in concrete walls. The power and water are all in concrete, and as such, when there is an issue with either, you need to get the contractors to chip holes in your nice new walls to try and find the broken wire or leak.
So, getting back to the earth issue. Wrapping a wire around the rebar will not give good electrical contact. For earth safety systems to work good electrical contact is a must.
Watch any Youtube video showing rebar prior to concrete pour. They either just laid one on top of each other or were ties together with rebar wire. Again, this does not create the required electrical contact needed for safety systems to work.
People get killed and injured due to RCDs and safety systems having bad earthing.
In another article, I will cover the different building techniques I have seen and what I think are the advantages and disadvantages of each. I will also cover the need for emergency power and renewables.
On another point, look at my article on the environment in the Philippines. Namely the big storms, the rain and the lightning that comes with them. Also, keep in mind most Philippine homes have metal roofs with metal frames.
A good electrical system in your home, will not only protect you from electrocution but will also protect your appliances. Without good earthing, a lightning strike will be devastating. The electricity will find its own way to earth. Namely through your home appliances and your rebar. Destroying everything on its way through.
So, in summary, get onto google and learn about earth rods. Before you leave your country and move to the Philippines, order a minimum of four solid copper earth rods and the appropriate cable to go with them.
Talk to your electrical engineer and get him to recommend an electrician who will maintain the standards and understands how to install systems safely and correctly.
Your life and home are at risk if you get electrical safety wrong.