Electrical (un)safety in Taiwan: the electrician's viewpoint

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.

And how much did the “electrician”'s employer save by using such substandard labor? With a couple thousand $NT slipped to the building inspector to make sure that everything was “up to code”?

That sounds like the work of an incompetent craftsman, which suggests that the builder was either likewise incompetent, or greedy, or both.

Start having a good look at your plumbing as well.

Lots of suprises for you. The standard seems to be the lowest quality denominator to actually get electricity and water flowing.

Do you have steel reinforcement in the concrete? That would be my first question, my second is, does it glow when the lights are off?

Not to rain on your worthy post. Good stuff, and a good trend.


This is the “That’ll do rightly” approach which pervades all installation and repair services here.

Can I surprise you further by informing you that your entire house runs off one big 200 amp fuse? The fact that you actually have a consumer unit rather than a fuse box (how modern!) surprises me, but were you to open it up you would find all the neutrals are patched together, and all the lives are patched together, and the whole thing is one huge circuit breaker that would only trip if it were plugged into the sun. Happy days.

Give yourself a good chuckle by asking a Taiwanese “electrician” what an RCCB or RCD is. If you’re not sufficiently amused, ask him to test the earth for you. Not a clue. Not a baldy. Watch him get out his 200 NT multimeter and insert it into something. They are appalling. And I have had the most qualified kind out to my gaff. A thousand NT an hour for no more knowledge than a semi-literate chimp could glean from a couple of issues of the Readers’ Digest DIY supplement.

Prepare to shite yourself. Tai Power regulations provide for a separate ring for the kitchen, lighting, and socket outlets. They even go so far as to stipulate the microwave must be provided for separately. And contrary to what I have read elsewhere on Forumosa, it is all supposed to be protected neutral earth (yes they do supply an earth, it’s in the basement labelled Taiwanese “Electricans” - Do Not Touch!).

Beautiful stuff, right? Well of course not. For Tai Power to sign this off, all that has to happen is that the architect shows them his plans to do all this. Then Tai Power run two 110 volt lines and an earth up to the property and the builder wires it whatever way he wants.

Fire deaths in houses due to electrical wiring faults are a leading cause of death here. Obviously you wouldn’t expect the government to give a shit about that, because there is no government in Taiwan.


Of course not. In the event of a short-circuit it will be most adequately earthed by whoever is touching the light switch at the time. Why waste valuable cable earthing the bloody thing? I mean it’s only 110 volts anyway. In Taiwan you can’t die from 110 volts, even if the entire building is wired through the bathroom light switch. :runaway:

Taiwan has some excellent workmen? Really? Perhaps it does. Not that you’d notice by looking at the place.

My place in Shanghai had 220V PNE three-ring system all properly wired and labelled through a Legrand consumer unit which tripped once when I connected a huge electric fire to it.* I tested the thing thoroughly and it was in perfect working order. And this wasn’t some expat palace, this was a housing unit designed for locals. Taiwan should be embarrassed, but it isn’t. Because neither the residents, housebuyers, “electricians”, or “government” give a shit. It’s insane. :rant: [<Ranty Man icon is class innit!? :slight_smile: ]

  • Pedants: I didn’t actually connect the fire to the fusebox.

My place is 40 years old and in the mountains above Xin bei-tou. taking a look and the wiring here would make you laugh/cry.

My fuse box is actually just a breaker switch that has been wired to bypass the two fuses which are actually just two pices of twisted copper wire.

Every single socket in the house is ungrounded and has a habit of melting whatever plugs has been inserted.

My god don’t get me started on the plumbing.

I seriously belive that the place was piped and wired by three retarded monkies hopped up on beatlenut and plum wine.


Yeah, I’ve been amazed by the electrical standards here. Mind you, I did live in Spain for 5 years and it wasn’t much better. My first realisation THERE was when I helped a friend by installing his new cooker. I couldn’t find an earth, so I told the guy to ask his electrician where it was (he had just had his flat (appartment) completely renovated). Simple reply from the electrician? “There isn’t one.”

In my flat here, I have ONE socket in the whole place that actually has (soryy, let me rephase that… “APPEARS to have”) an earth (not counting the 220V Air Conditioning ring). So where is this ONE socket? Why, it’s right behind the gas hob, covered in fat most of the time and certainly not in a position where it could have ANYTHING plugged in while I am cooking.

It breaks my heart to break off the third pin on most plugs, so they’ll fit in the socket. I used to buy adaptors, but fuck… what’s the point? There’s still no earth. So now I just break them off.

I’ve also got a light fitting in my bedroom that flickers. No matter what I do it flickers. Oh yeah, and all my wired are heald together with a bit of twist-and-tape action.

Don’t get me started on the plumbing either. Inclined pipes anyone? :frowning:

The point of those three pin jobbies is that they LOOK like there’s an earth. Looks are all that matters. You could have the place wired from top to bottom with Legrand and MK British Standard gear by a British spark in 600V solid core cables with fused socket outlets and 240 volts throughout, but at the end of the day there’s either no earth (you’d have to run your own earth to the Tai Power earth in the depths of hell) or that earth’s broken anyway. The building’s supposed to have its own earth too. Honestly, when in Rome. Just smile and suck it up. But Christ it isn’t hard to wire a house properly. Hardest bit is getting the bloody socket outlets in the kitchen to line up with the worktop. :fume:

Do you have gas there too? Than I would suggest you to RUN!!! :runaway:

OK, I’m going to mention the plumbing now (can’t resist :stuck_out_tongue: ).

We had our new bathroom installed (it was almost included in the cost of buying it, so I thought “What the hell, let’s just get someone else to do it”).

After the guy left I noticed a coouple of things that bugged me.

  1. The toilet wasn’t exactly horizontal (the water is higher on the right than on the left). Trouble is I can’t do anything, since it is held in place with CEMENT.

  2. The sink slopes forward, so the water doesn’t drain completely, as the plug hole is near the back. No problem I though, I’ll just get in behind that and sort it out. I realised the plumber had not tightened the two nuts up properly so there was a gap between the wall and the sink, but gravity was holding the sink quite strongly in place, albeit with a gap at the top.
    I tightened up the nuts and the u-bend pulled itself out of the wall. I realised he had cut it too short and rather than use another one, he had worked out that leaving the sink hanging at an angle was just eenough for the u-bend to reach the wall (bugger). Anyway, I got a new u-bend for like 100NT or something and did it right.

Bloody cheapskates.

Sure the earth is supplied by Taipower? AFAIK Taipower supplies 2 Life and 1 Neutral while the Earth is taken locally (copper rod in the ground or connected to the iron in the foundation).

I posted on another thread about buying a ups or something like that to protect my computer gear from the electrical wiring in my house. The electrician/plumber was shocked at all the gear I had plugged in - he gave me the impression that electrical in this house is mainly for the lights, a tv, and a fan or 2 only.

He is the second guy we had over. The first patched the electrical well enough for it to last 30 minutes after he left. When I asked this guy (the 2nd one) if he was going to replace the wiring and the switch box he simply stated he didn’t have time. Weird prick - why not stick around and do some good work instead bouncing around Hsinchu nickel and dimeing his time.

Here is a picture of the lovely switch:

Holy crap! That’s like those things out of Frankenstein!!

A plumbing story:

We have a water filter device thingy that we wanted to connect to the tap when we moved to a new place, In the old place they came and fixed it to the ancient tap we had there for us. So we called an plumber to fix it to the new one, because I’m no plumber. He arrived with his tools in a plastic carrier bag, umed and ared and said there was no way and gave up. We went to B&Q to look for something else, and I had a look in the plumbing section, and saw exactly what we needed, and it fitted first time (just needed a washer from the old set up). Why was I, a non plumber, able to connect it first time, when a so called professional didn’t even know that B&Q sold exactly what was needed ? :loco:

Yes, I do feel proud I was able to do it :slight_smile: But he should have been able to too.

He knew it. He just didn’t want to do it.

He knew it. He just didn’t want to do it.[/quote]

He just didn’t know about the existence of B&Q so he just wasn’t able to get the part which was needed. :wink:

So when are you opening your plumber service and what is the phone number we can reach you? :smiley:

I plumbed our washing machine into our bathroom. All I needed was a little t-junction thing (one part had to be able to join onto a flexible hose), so I could steal the supply going into the washhand basin, so we went to the local “expert” plumbing shop. “No… that part doesn’t exist. You need one of these (shows us one of those hideous things you clamp onto the end of a tap)”

Went to B&Q and found one for less than 100NT$.

Also check for so called
‘fault interrupters.’
In the states, often one appliance wire prong is shaped differently.
A label says 'do not defeat the purpose…etc".
Friends saw a salesman 'modify the prong, thus defeating the
purpose…" He said ‘the system is not yet national, etc. so
it really doesn’t matter (yet).’ Beware of coins used in ‘fuse (fuze) box.’

Well anyone from the UK will know that for many years now, you simply cannot plug anything in without an earth pin, due to a safety mechanism.
Not that you would even need to break it off, cos all the sockets have an earth (and it’s even connected somewhere).

You now also need certification to perform any remotely serious electrical work - even in your own home. In order to sell your house you need to provide documentation of your certification plus details of work carried out. This is a Good Thing.

I have a lot of electrician friends back in the UK and the gap between their skill and the average Taiwanese electrician could bridge the Atlantic.

In any given British home, you get constant, reliable earthing (it’s not even possible to buy 2-pin sockets except for industrial use); proper cable core dimensions; WORKING ELCBs/MCCBs… beautiful, brings a tear to my eye thinking about the disaster that is my home right now. And how many times do I have to say it - THIS IS ALL DONE FOR A DAMN GOOD REASON. Go into a British house, switch off the main breaker then open up a socket. Short the live + earth - ELCB trips. Short neutral + earth - ELCB trips. In fact, short the live + neutral and flip the power back on and the RCCB will react before you even get a spark.

In Taiwan, shove a crowbar across the 30A 220V circuit and you’re still about 150A away from tripping anything. It’s an f*ing disgrace.

[quote=“irishstu”]Well anyone from the UK will know that for many years now, you simply cannot plug anything in without an earth pin, due to a safety mechanism.
Not that you would even need to break it off, cos all the sockets have an earth (and it’s even connected somewhere).[/quote]