Anyone who’s lived in the busier areas of Taiwan longer than five minutes will already know to trust the electric and fire safety about as far as they could throw a hippo.
What surprised me is when I moved into a newly built, modern house in the mountains that I thought had been built to high standards.
Then tonight I heard the crackling from the consumer board. When I had ruled out the possibility of ghosts from the future trying to communicate something really exciting, I tracked the problem down to a light switch. Whoever installed the electrics had decided that twisting wires together and insulating with electrical tape was a safe method of joing cables behind plasterboard.
A stray wire had popped out of the modular light switch and was intermittantly shorting live + neutral. Despite a serious fault condition, neither the MCCBs nor ELCBs had tripped. This worried me. So I killed the power to this floor and investigated further. Perhaps you North Americans do this too, but I was shocked to find that first floor sockets and lighting were connected to the same ring and running from the same 15amp MCCB. There is a damn good reason why British wiring regulations state that lighting rings and the socket ring main should be connected to separate MCCBs or fuses at the consumer board - as demonstrated when a short on the lighting ring failed to trip the breaker.
I tested more of the ELCBs and none of them tripped under fault conditions. The MCCBs are all rated much higher than is safe (I can imagine the Taiwanese electrician now - ‘hmm… bigger must mean BETTER, RIGHT?!’). The house is full of twist + tape connections. Ring main cables are too thin to carry high load safely. Outdoor wiring is completely unprotected and obviously water only affects people who don’t understand Taiwanese wiring culture. Outdoor wiring also shares a circuit with first floor lighting + ring main, contravening both common regulations and common sense. Live wires are exposed on the outdoor lighting. Two floors have no earth connections on any of the sockets. Fifth floor lighting ring’s earth system is not actually connected to anything. This is completely unacceptable in an old house, let alone a new build. Taiwan has some excellent and experienced workmen, so when did they stop giving a shit?
To sum up, all it would take is severe rainfall to short out the outdoor lighting and/or outdoor water pumps, overheat the wiring and cause a fire. Be careful, people.