Living electrically in rainy season Cambodia

Brian Tue, 2015-06-23 13:04

Here are some of the challenges of living in a developing country (which is also very high on everyone's corruption index) during the rainy season:

  • There are thunderstorms all the freaking time to accompany the rain (I don't blame the corruption for this.)

  • The electricity system is private, and very, very unreliable—your electricity can go down at any time, even during periods of low demand; of course, electrical storms drive it crazy

  • When the electricity comes back on, it often comes on with a big surge, frying your screens if you've been dumb enough to leave them on (yes, there's some sad experience talking here)

  • If you want a circuit in your residence to be grounded, you'll likely have to install a ground yourself; that's the kind of frill most Cambodians can't or won't afford

  • Stuff in Asia is often very cheap; on the other hand, it's often crap

Naturally, you buy surge protectors and uninterruptible power supplies to protect your computers and screens, but they're not all that reliable either. (Most surge protectors rely on the ground.) So at the onset of thunder, you learn to shut your computer down safely, and unplug it from the hydro circuit. You can work on a laptop, but I'm thinking it's wise not to leave it plugged in and charging. You're taking a chance leaving the modem and router running, but otherwise you're totally unconnected. Horrors!

The other day when the lightning started, I shut down, only to see that familiar notice: "Updating Windows: operation 14,368 of 227,933 underway; do not unplug your computer." AAAaaaacccckkk! What to do? So I unplugged it.

It survived.

(And yes, that IS one of the things I get for still using Windows.)


(There's a lesson in this, methinks, for Ontario, which is knee-deep in the mire of selling its electricity transmission/distribution system, Hydro One, to the privateers. Privateers often say public electricity systems are too "gold-plated." Too much money spent on reliability raises the cost of electricity, they say. But what they really mean is, once it's ours, we'll take care of that drag on profitability. "Efficiency" means maximum production at minimum cost. So if you want it to be even more certain that your air conditioner will shut down on the hottest day of the year, just let the private sector take care of your electricity.)

(While drafting this post, I had to shut down my desktop three times. The thunder/lightning would stop, but then would start up again. The electricity went off last night at around 11pm, and today around 3:30pm.)