Monday 1 July 2013

Indian Electrics - Not Very Switched On

I find the way our apartment has been electrically wired-up bewildering.  And from speaking to other expats, we are not alone in experiencing the typically poor workmanship and logic than can be applied to any aspect of Indian housebuilding (I am convinced that this is not a sweeping statement!).

Whilst in India, we have never even been 100% sure which plug is a standard Indian plug and which socket is a standard Indian socket.  A British three pin plug seems to work OK in our sockets (if you push it in hard enough and ignore the sparks) - but then again, so does a European two pin plug.  All the lamps we have bought in India have spindly two pin plugs (and I guess no fuse!) but our kettle and iron have a special chunky three pin plug which goes into a different type of socket.  I suppose that this goes some way towards preventing electrocutions by ensuring that such appliances have fuses.  Thanks for that.

A typical Indian plug - not much to look at is it?

A typical Indian socket - in which to fit our typical Indian plug.  However, you can also get a British three-pin plug into this socket as well as a US, European or Japanese plug (no promises!)

If you end up having to buy an adaptor to combine all the different types of pluggage available, the contacts within the adaptor often don't work correctly - so you have to wiggle your plugs again until you make a connection (again, ignoring the sparks). 

An adaptor - and a British plug...

...we don't need the adaptor here as the British plug fits right into the socket (with a spark or two)
Note all the switches - one for each light fitting and one for the fan.

Buying light bulbs is a bit of a lottery too - sometimes you think you are buying a genuine Philips screw-in light bulb but when you get it out of the packet you realise that the metal screw bit is held on to the glass bulb by means of a bit of card wedged in between.  Not good.  Although it doesn't matter which bulb you buy in the end, because they all blow within a few days of use anyway.  

No recessed lighting - but an ugly light fitting in each corner (each with its own light switch)

Because there is no such thing as central heating here - and in fact because using hot water is not the norm for the majority (for bathing, showering or washing-up) - we have to preheat our water by flicking on a 32 amp switch at least 15 minutes before it is required.  I have seen this in France before so perhaps it's not so unusual.  And at least you are only using energy when you need it.  But what makes me laugh (but should make me cry) is that these switches are located right within the bathroom, along with light switches and three-pin plugs!  When I say located within the bathroom, I mean right next to the sink or shower!  It's not like back home where you have regulations about placing electrical fixtures a minimum distance away from a source of water!

Exposed water heater in the bathroom - so ugly

32 Amp shower switch, light switch and socket right next to the shower

With regards to electrical design and ergonomics, you can forget making any sense of it.  In each of our rooms, there are at least four light switches (although there are 17 in our sitting room!).  This is because the builders have provided one switch for every light fitting (doh!) - of which there are also many.  Then there are the switches for the fans, a switch for the intercom and then innumerable switches with no purpose at all. As it is virtually impossible to remember which switch is attached to which light fitting, you can be flicking the switches on and off for some time before you hit the jackpot (whilst at the same time putting the fans on by accident and turning off the TV in error). 

In the kitchen - the white plug is for the sandwich toaster which we have not been able to extract from the socket for six months.  The black plug on the left is for the kettle or iron which both have special plugs.  We can not boil a kettle or iron at the same time as it is the only such plug in the flat.  The other switches are for each of the internal cupboard lights, the water heater, the fan and goodness-knows what else!

Whilst the builders have been very generous with light switches, they have been equally mean with sockets (which are also placed high up on the wall ruining any aesthetic goal you are trying to achieve).  We have only four sockets in our sitting/dining room, which means that we have had to insert the dodgy adaptors described above which are capable of holding two or three more plugs each.  And no wires are ever chased into the wall - so we have cables coming out from our TV/DVD machine/Digibox, ruining the appearance of the room.  And then there are the random sockets high up in the middle of the wall...roads that lead to nowhere. Doh again.

The wiring mess under our TV.

If you applied the same Building Regulations that we have in the health-and-safety-mad UK - India would come to a complete standstill.  Every home would be condemned and made to rewire (and provide an electrical certificate); every office would be emptied of their staff until rectifying works had been done; our schools would be evacuated due to impending danger to teachers and children; manufacturing would have to be halted - and I am sure the power stations themselves would be shut down until proof that electrical regulations had been met!

The cable used to wire in our wireless router is barely long enough and you can just see the bare wires to the left.  Below, the black socket is slightly raised out of the adaptor - we had to wiggle it this way to make it work (sparks again)
Mr Jules and I are grateful to have not (yet) electrocuted ourselves...what do you think to it all?

Random socket high up in the middle of the wall - meaning I can't hang pictures up there.
A socket for the AC - inexplicably placed in the middle of an adjacent wall

Please see my post about construction works going on near our apartment - the general ignorance about Health & Safety takes my breath away!


  1. Somehow it looks like you are staying in one of the cheaper building because I can assure you in all my 25 years I have never faced the above issues! from exposed wires to sparks to multiple switches, our houses are very well planned and do not have these problems. Please do not generalize the problems you are facing in India, or Mumbai to be particular.

    1. Firstly, I did not mention anywhere that it was a 'problem' and secondly, I also think that this post is pretty specific to my apartment - although I have mentioned that I asked other expats who experience similar things. Good for you if you do not live in a 'cheap' property and if you do not face any problems - but I think you ignore the millions and millions of people in the city who face Health and Safety issues on a daily basis without having a right of redress. I think it would be highly ignorant to say that I am generalising.

  2. I am with Jules on this. Even in Hiranandani Gardens, which is a very well planned community with good electrical work, people do face occasional issues with electrical fixtures. The main issue for us is not dangerous sockets, though. I think ours are safe. We would not be living in the flat otherwise. I can assure you. But, the problem we do frequently encounter is that the plugs and outlets are not standardized. So, one three-prong outlet will only fit a specific type of plug, and we must use extension cords or power strips for other plugs.

    Jules, for your wiring mess, I suggest a channeling system. We had the guys from Reliance Digital/Reliance ResQ come do ours. There is hardly a wire anywhere. Of course, we needed to buy something from them first. :) We also found an excellent electrician.

    1. Thanks Jean and good point about the non-standardisation of plugs and outlets - exactly the words I should have used! I would definitely go for the channelling system you mention except we are not with Reliance and it has to be a 'building decision' to change cable NOT get me started on that!! Another thing that keeps breaking well as our internet connection. grrrr

  3. I feel the same way about the water heaters in bathrooms. I never know if I am going to take a shower or be electrocuted.
    And if you think that the inside electrical system is a mystery, then what about the outside! I am firmly convinced that if you take all of the electrical wires snaking along the outside of buildings then you could make them reach to the Moon (and maybe back)!

    1. I know Micky! There are some trailing electrical cables going across the pavement outside - have no idea what they're for but I am not going anywhere near them during the rains!

  4. I can relate completely... We have the same sockets and adaptors here in the Seychelles, although we don't have plugs next to the shower. Our buildings are actually better now that Indian construction companies have taken over!

    1. ooooh you live in the Seychelles...that must be a hard life! ;) Thanks for dropping in Louise..and lovely blog by the way.

  5. Oh my goodness and I though the old wiring in our little cottage was a mess!



Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.