03 March 2007

Italian electrical issues

We have always heard that the household electrical systems here in Italia were not quite up to handling the power loads Americans are used to. An Italian residential electrical system will have between 3 and 6 kW, most apartments like ours have 3 kW. If your appliances use too much power at one time the electricity cuts off. When we would rent homes here on vacations the agent always made sure to show us where the fuse box was located in case we tripped the power, but I don’t recall ever having an issue with this.

In our apartment we were here a couple months before we started to have some problems with the power switching off. This is easily fixed as the fuse box is right next to our front door, but still a nuisance. About three months ago we started having problems where the power would go off when our washing machine went into the spin cycle; it had not had that problem for the previous months we were living here. Being the fix it yourself type, I was determined to figure out what the source of the problem was. After running the washer a couple times with various appliances on I was able to pinpoint the culprit: the water heater.

The water heater and washing machine share the same little alcove and apparently the same circuit. If the washing machine is in the final spin cycle and the water heater clicks on – we have lights out. This would not be a big issue but that the water heater also supplies the radiant heaters for the house so we have adjusted to being sure that the spin cycle and water heater won’t operate at the same time.

True, from an American point of view this just seems wacky but just one of those little things Italians seem to take for granted and we have learned to adjust to.

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