Grounding Your Computer in Taiwan

How do you ground your computer in Taiwan?

  • I don’t.
  • I have three prong sockets in my apartment.
  • Run a wire to a big metal thing.
  • Run a wire to the A/C ground.
  • Something much more clever than anything listed so far.

0 voters

I have been stymied by the lack of three prong sockets in Taiwan, and I am quite alarmed by the occasional mild schocks that my computer’s case gives off when I touch it. But my girlfriend (who is an electric engineer) is quite blase about the whole thing.

Since they in fact sell PC power cords with no third prong, I’m not quite sure what to do. As I see it I have a few options:

Run a wire to the window frame (my girlfriend claims that this is very bad).

Run a wire to the plumbing (ditto).

Run a wire to the AC outlet ground. (but maybe this is unsafe for the computer).

I can’t help but feel sure I am destroying my box’s electronics. Any opinions or advice would be much appreciated.

My PC does have a three pronged plug. Can you change the cable or power supply? Running a cable from the case to ground is safe.

I’m don’t think it does anything, but I bought a battery backup. It makes me feel safer.

Not sure if I understand this correctly but why should it be unsafe? Ground is ground and it’s indeed possible to use the plumbing (metal water pipes in particular). Not the first choice but better than a window frame (which I rekon is useless).
If the AC outlet has a ground (wire) then you should have a 3 prong socket already. Perhaps you can change the socket itself in that case.

The problem is that in most building here, due to their age, no grounding is provided.

Nope, you are playing with your life. The ground protects you from being “damaged”, it does not protect the PC nor is the ground usually necessary for the equipment to work.
If the power supply is encapsulated in plastic (like this is the case with most toys) there is no need for a ground. Only equipment where humans could come in contact with the (metal) enclosure must be grounded, like PC power supplies, washing machines (water!) etc.

The safety issue for connecting to the A/C outlet ground might be that if the ground wire is poorly installed and the A/C pumped out a major high current ground voltage, then my computer might be toasted by the voltage. I have heard of such things happening with big laser printers.

I can change the case/power supply/wire, but my girlfriend would be certain to look at any such purchase as extremely frivolous considering our upcoming wedding. But the PS and the cord do have grounding and the power strip has a nice little wire for grounding sticking out the end: it’s just not attached to anything at the moment (after my girl got very upset at me for trying to connect it to the pipes). She claims this will shock the neighbors, which I don’t believe.

There are various references that bad grounding can damage your equipment, but they are mostly on the web pages of data center consultants and don’t have much information for the guy in Taiwan like me.

She’s clearly not an electrical engineer. :o

Take away its dinner and make sure it comes straight home after school. Three weeks is the maximum though. Don’t enforce this punishment any longer than that, or it may stop loving you.

What is a “major high current ground voltage”, i.e. how and where should it originate from?
Whatever you heard but I would think the equipment was deffective then.

Sorry, I won’t get involved in this … :wink:

Nonsense. If the pipes are grounded than it fullfils the purpose of guiding any harmfull current to ground and won’t ‘shock’ anyone.
The little wire BTW is a joke IMHO. It’s there in case you don’t have a 3-pin wall outlet but I have never anyone seen connecting it. Who likes to run a ground wire through his house anyway?

But as I said, you can actually use this to connect to the water pipes if it gives you peace of mind (that’s the correct phrase, isn’t it? :blush: ). Otherwise you need a contractor to install a new grounding system - might not be practical and or course it will be costly.

Never heard about that. Won’t claim it never happened or it’s incorrect but the ground is primary for human safety (i.e. when the life touches the casing due to some defect), not for normal operation of the equipment. At least this is valid for most if not all electrical houshold equipment.

In the e.g. telecom business we do indeed ground everything but for entirely different reasons which don’t apply at home.

But the PS and the cord do have grounding and the power strip has a nice little wire for grounding sticking out the end: it’s just not attached to anything at the moment (after my girl got very upset at me for trying to connect it to the pipes). She claims this will shock the neighbors, which I don’t believe.

Once my wife was complaining about being shocked by the knobs that turn on and off the water for the shower. I didn’t have a problem until I had a cut on my hand and touched the knob with it. I got a big shock. I measured it and got about 70 volts. Our water heater had a short and we had it changed. It shows that our pipes were definitely not grounded and I have thicker skin than my wife.

If you have no ground wires in your outlets, you can run a lead to the main box. You’ll see a large gauge green wire running out the conduit to the board, terminated with a screw. Just connect to that. If your gf disagrees, she should have her degree revoked. You won’t shock anybody grounding to water pipes either, but this will be an easier sell. You might be able to get an electrician to pull a ground wire from your outlet to the box if it isn’t too far and the conduits aren’t too convoluted.

Taiwan’s electrical supply is pretty dirty, lots of voltage spikes. A good-sized UPS and grounding is essential if you care about your power supply or the mainboard.


Just because you have three prongs doesn’t mean you have a ground. (My flat has Live Live Neutral - specifically for creating 220V out of 2x110V supplies, I am told).

The only way I have heard of to ground anything here is to run an earth wire to the water pipes and hope they are copper all the way down to the ground. The backplate of what is called the consumer unit in the UK is not actually attached to anything in particular (the wall!). Taiwan Power does not supply an earth, and unless your building has its own earth then the water pipes are your best bet. Your 110 or 220 volt AC is not necessarily earthed, although the fact that it is attached to the building may mean that in the event of a short to the case, the path of least resistance to earth may be through the building directly rather than you and then through the building (the floor you are standing on).

I have checked the quality of my “earth” (water pipe) by measuring the potential difference between live and neutral and between live and “earth”. It is almost the same. Not that that’s a solution. But I’d rather the taps went live than me.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Taiwanese apartments are wired in a manner that would be rewarded with a prison sentence in the UK. I have a 220VAC A/C drawing 33 Amps with no earth. Nor is it “double insulated” (the bits you are likely to touch are plastic and therefore do not conduct electricity), as the arse end of it pokes out onto my balcony and kills my plants.

My landlord has paid over NT$7,000 for a spark of unknown provenance to come round and fiddle with the wiring, to little end as far as I can see.

Your computer leccy filter device needs an earth to work.

Remeber an earth is just a very good connection to ground, better than you, and therefore the electricity will flow through it rather than you. When there is a short to the case of your device, the earth wire becomes live at one end and ground at the other. (Electricians please don’t shoot me!). Therefore your touching that closed circuit will not result in electrocution at these low voltages UNLESS you represent a better earth than the earth itself.

I thoroughly recommend getting a proper electrician out - and be warned they all appear to be ferociously expensive (my landlord paid NT$1,000 an hour - comparable to the UK).

What, pray tell, is wrong with a 220VAC 13Amp ring main, a 5 Amp lighting circuit, and a separate circuit for heavy kitchen appliances, all on two earths - one from the electricity company, and one deep in your back yard ? (To be sure, to be sure…!)

Hexuan, Richard - thanks both of you. Some very interesting information. I may simply buy a UPS (plus new power supply) and deal with the money argument later. I wondered if perhaps more shoddy Taiwan building practises might in fact mean that the plumbing = earth idea wouldn’t really be safe.

Rascal: The bad earthing trashing your equipment scenario came from an A+ study guide. The basic idea was that when you turn off a laser, a the high voltage caps and wires release all their energy to ground. If your grounding setup is bad, and your are power supplies less than excellent, this could supposedly trash your equipment as the surge overloaded your diodes in the power supply.

I have no idea if this is plausible in an A/C setup but given what hexuan said, that idea is definitely out. I have no wish to electrocute myself fiddling with what I think is a ground, but turns out to be a second live wire.

My girlfrind says that drilling a big screw into the concrete can serve as a reasonably effective ground.

Unless the ground is provided by the building there will be no such green wire. Taipower does not provide an earth as the ground is usually obtained at the building itself.

To protect against a shock as discribed by hsiadogah you would need a device called ELCB (Earth Leakage Current Breaker) or RCD (Residual Current Device) - but both require a proper grounding system and must be installed by a qualified electrician.
ELCB/RCD are compulsory in some countries for all "wet"rooms (like bathrooms etc.). Never seen one in a Taiwan houshold though.

To clarify grounding to the pipes: you should ground to the supply pipe, i.e. the one going into the heater.
That said it will only be effective if those pipes go straight down and not to a water tank first.

Fair enough but do you have a laser with a power supply that generates several thousands volts (as it would be required then)?
Industrial applications are not really comparable to those at home.

Certainly not. Ground is obtained by inserting one or more copper rods into the soil. From there you will have a thick wire going to the MGB (Main Grounding Bar) which is usually located in the basement / near the main distribution. Then you distribute from there, if necessary Intermediate Grounding Bars (IGB) can be used.

Rascal: I should have been more clear. I meant a laser printer. Of course, the corona wire on a laser printer does hold several thousand volts.

In a discussion about this with my girl she mentioned that gangsters like to kill people by plugging in electric space heaters and throwing people into the tub. Looks like a dumb accident.

Unless the ground is provided by the building there will be no such green wire. Taipower does not provide an earth as the ground is usually obtained at the building itself.[/quote]

Taipower themselves supply nothing beyond some thick cables to the main box at the first floor of the building. No ground wire at all. Grounding and all the wiring in the building is provided by the building contractor. Yes, the ground wires (if they exist at all) are all attached to a metal rod buried in the ground somewhere.

Wasn’t me, not guilty.

[quote=“Rascal”]To clarify grounding to the pipes: you should ground to the supply pipe, i.e. the one going into the heater.
That said it will only be effective if those pipes go straight down and not to a water tank first.[/quote]

Yes, agreed. Thanks for adding that point.

Yes again.

If you have no green wires behind your outlets, no green wire in the breaker box in your apartment, then you are down to a DIY solution like the water pipe. The wall won’t do it. Make sure the water pipes are (1) steel (PVC is useless, duh) and (2) they run right into the ground, not to a tank or pump on the roof insulated with more PVC fittings.

[quote][quote]Rascal wrote:
To protect against a shock as discribed by hsiadogah[/quote]
Wasn’t me, not guilty. [/quote]
Sorry, Richardm was of course the “guilty” one. :slight_smile:

I always thought that one of the reasons everyone in Taiwan wore rubber soled slippers at home instead of going barefoot was to prevent receiving shocks from non-grounded appliances and electronics. :slight_smile:

Hey, don’t laugh. It really works. For a short while my electric hot water heater had a corroded wire in it that sent electricity through the water or pipes. I got a slight shock whenever I turned on a water tap in the bathroom. But there was no shock if I wore rubber house slippers. Yes, I got the hot water heater repaired real fast.

Not only the grounding can give a lot of headache here, if Taiwan would change its standard voltage to 220V there would be fewer fires and a lot of electricity saved…

You can’t leave us hanging like that…please explain how (on earth) you come to this conclucion :?: :?: :?:

This does indeed work but you shouldn’t rely on that; but surely it’s not the reason why people wear rubber house slippers. :wink:

Rubber soles saved my ass when I was still a little Rascal (around 3-4 years old I think) and inserted a screw I found into the 230V AC outlet - and lucky as I am I managed to find the life on the first try … BANG and I flew a meter backwards but nothing else happened (except my mum freaking out). Pretty much the only thing I remember from that age.