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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wired Differently

Our apartment is wired differently, that is.

This post is an open plea for suggestions, as much as anything else.  Scott and I are not experts on electricity, and our apartment is giving us plenty to ponder and speculate on.

When we moved out here, we brought a few electronic devices, some of which had built in voltage converters, and some of which did not.  We also brought three separate voltage converters.  As I said, we are not experts, so we've been using the separate voltage converters with any electronic device we weren't sure about, which in this case includes a desktop computer, phone chargers, electric toothbrush chargers, and a camera battery charger.

Last night, we were watching Netflix on our desktop computer when the computer suddenly shut itself off with no warning.  We hadn't lost power, and the power strip it was plugged into (via the voltage converter) was still working.  We tried to turn the computer back on, but no luck.  The voltage converter was quite warm, but not hot enough to burn our fingers or to start melting.  We switched voltage converters, and the computer was able to be turned on again.

So, we don't really understand what is going on here.  We lugged three (relatively heavy) voltage converters out here precisely to avoid these sorts of problems.  Was the first voltage converter we used with the desktop computer defective?  Or did it overheat and shut itself off as a safety mechanism?  Is it safe to attempt using that particular voltage converter again?

This was one of the more alarming electrical happenings in our apartment, but we have noticed other odd things, as well.  For one thing, our phones, which took hours to fully charge in the US, charge very quickly here via the voltage converter.  Another thing is that both the desktop computer (which we plug in via the separate voltage converter) and the laptop (which has its own voltage converter) vibrate when they are plugged in.  Again, not being experts, we're not sure if we should be concerned about that.

We already know there are some problems with the electrical wiring here.  One of the bulbs in a ceiling light fixture shorted out all of the ceiling lights twice in the first week we were here.  An electrician came twice, and from what we can tell, decided that the "solution" to the problem was to remove the offending bulb.  It's true that we haven't shorted anything out since the, but it makes me wonder what else is going on.

It also makes me pretty cranky, to be honest, because I used US electronic devices in both Damascus and Jerusalem in housing that was not at all luxurious and never had any reason for concern.  Recently built apartments should have wiring at least as good as an old house in Damascus or several decades old crummy dorms in Jerusalem.

Anyway, if anyone who reads this blog has any ideas or suggestions to share, I would be most grateful!

And…here is a picture from a recent walk, completely unrelated to our electricity woes.


  1. You might already know all of the following, but here are some thoughts I had as I read your post.

    Step-up vs. step-down converters. These work counter-intuitively, if I recall correctly. I remember thinking I needed to use one when someone smarter told me it was actually the other. Some Googling might be in order. ;)

    The converters are also supposed to be able to handle more wattage (?) than the device actually needs.

    I've found that most of our electronic devices do not actually need converters, though - just the adapter for the plug shape. It took me years to understand this. If you look on the power cord box thing, there should be an indication of whether it's good for 100-240V or just 100 or 110 or 240. If it is good for the whole range, you only need the plug shape adapter thing.

    Turbo-charging phones sounds kind of awesome, though.

    Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the ideas, Bridget! Another friend of mine emailed me to suggest that I might need a good surge protector for the computer, so I have lots of things to think about and try. As much as I like the gadgets, I think some aspects of international moves would be easier without them. :)