Powering On

One of the things I’ve learnt while working in this beautiful country is that you need to be able to adapt & learn quickly. I may have worked in the built environment in various capacities but I’m no electrician. Fortunately, God blessed me with a curious mind and after a quick photo of my design to Danko (an Australian electrician) to confirm I’m not crazy we were ready to go, kind of.

Did you know that that earthing or grounding a building is optional in Timor – I can tell you this from a few (electrifying) personal experiences. Earthing or grounding is the process of installing a copper rod, approximately 1.5m in length, in the ground and having it connect to the building’s wiring via the electrical panned. Its purpose is to protect occupants from electrocution by providing a path of least resistance for electrical faults. We decided that although it is optional in Timor our building was going to be earthed, So I informed the national electrical authority that our project would be earthed and to install our power connection with that in mind. What we got was a tent peg. Yes! You read that correctly. A tent peg in place of the standard 1.5m copper rod – not exactly the adaptation I had in mind!

The electrical panel with all the switchy things

After much back-and-forth with the authorities about how our power should be connected into the main grid (more on that later), we were off to buy some single phase mains cable along with the necessary connectors. We also needed a switchboard with all the circuits (the switchy things you turn on & off), RCDs (residual current device, the switchy thing that saves your life when you’re being electrocuted), and busbars (they help connect all the wires to the switchy things). After our shopping spree, we had all we needed to build our electrical panel and do some safety upgrades to our other panel, RCD and earth rod.

Remember the back-and-forth with the authorities? Well, we have a three phase switchboard in one corner of the property, installed some years ago, it now has an RCD and an earth rod but I digress.

Three phase switchboard before the RCD & earth rod upgrade.

The back-and-forth was because our intent was to run a 120 meter single phase sub-main from the three phase switchboard to the building. This would make the switchboard on the building a sub-board (for all you electrical geeks out there). One connection to the grid, one meter. Keep it simple, no? NO! The national electrical authority insisted we have a new connection to the main grid with a second meter. We finally came to an agreement: they had the power, they won.

Anyway, a contractor to the national electrical authority came and installed the cable we bought and connected it to the electrical panel we built, via a new electrical meter. Now we have the power to continue the build.

Fund fact: the power outages are often in Gleno.. but so are romantic candlelit dinners . 🙂

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