Chicago Boyz

What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?

Recommended Photo Store
Buy Through Our Amazon Link or Banner to Support This Blog
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Lex's Tweets
  • Jonathan's Tweets
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • India Electricity

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on November 27th, 2012 (All posts by )

    Since I spent a lot of time in the power generation business I am always interested in electricity systems. India is probably the first country I’ve ever been to where you can regularly witness electricity theft from the system on a large scale.

    The electrical systems seemed to be reliable during the time I was there, although it was likely “low season” since it wasn’t very hot out (November) which I assume sets the peak demand for India.

    The power routinely turned on and off in one of the hotels I stayed at. The lights would go out completely for a moment until the “hum” of the backup generator kicked in. Likely the inclusion of backup power is an absolute requirement for the type of higher level tourist hotels that I stayed in.

    High quality hotels in India had the European model where you had to put your key card in the slot when you entered the room in order to turn the power on or keep it running for more than a few minutes. This model power down the room when you are out.

    The newer office parks where the IT service industry was located had what appeared to be modern electrical systems with many of the lines buried underground. The transmission lines along the highway often appeared new, even if they ran right by huts and houses that obviously had no power since they weren’t connected to the local distribution system.

    India also appeared to be air conditioned in the major tourist areas for hotels and shopping as well as the newer office parks. The buildings were designed as if to rely on central air conditioning and the backup power was there to provide electricity when the power goes out (although I don’t think they could run A/C indefinitely).

    Cross posted at LITGM


    10 Responses to “India Electricity”

    1. Dan from Madison Says:

      That second photo is absolutely crazy. I would be surprised if the residents of that area aren’t getting constant current of some sort through their bodies since I am positive that the grounds there are non-existent.

    2. Shannon Love Says:

      Those pictures look like the cabling in America in the prior to 1910 before power generation was socialized. Each company ran their own cable (they were in the begin DC generators which were short range) and the poles and anchors on buildings were treated as a kind of public easement that anyone could attach a wire to.

    3. Carl from Chicago Says:

      Ha ha Dan someday you should write a post on that electrical system that you inherited on your farm. Talk about gerry rigged…

    4. Dan from Madison Says:

      Just a month ago we discovered that the wire for our chicken coop was hot. There are little surprises all along the way with that place but we are fixing them as we go unlike that insanity in India.

    5. Sgt. Mom Says:

      When my father helped my grandfather do some renovations to the grandparents’ little cottage in Pasadena – which was built in the teens and early twenties – Dad was absolutely boggled to discover that the house electrical system was based on bare copper wire run between ceramic posts set in the wall cavities. And that the house hadn’t actually caught fire at any time over the subsequent forty years or so.

    6. Stan Says:

      Sgt. Mom,
      That’s “knob and tube” wiring and is common in houses built in the 20’s in Ca. All 5 bungalows my parents and I fixed up in northern Ca. of that era had it. The hardware store from the same era down the street still had bins of the ceramic parts to repair it (we used Romex). The ceramic and copper parts are fine. It’s the cotton insulation in the switch and outlet boxes that degrades and the Bakelite (brown “plastic”) outlets and switches that crack and crumble that you have to watch out for.


    7. Mike K Says:

      That photo of the pole looks like Mexico. When I used to spend a bit of time in Ensenada, we used to see that arrangement all the time. It seemed that there were no meters and everyone just hooked up.

    8. Dan from Madison Says:

      My question is who pays for the “power” then. Or is there just some sort of flat tax on everyone to pay for it since it clearly isn’t being metered? Which would, I imagine, encourage most people to use as much power as possible if they are all paying the same price.

    9. T.K. Tortch Says:

      My house has remnants of the “knob and tube” wiring up in the attic. It was built somewhere between 1910 and 1915; not sure when the wiring was put in – probably later in the ’20s.

      I didn’t know they originally used bare copper wire!! Some stretches of the old wiring are of the cloth-covered type; others are bare copper. I assumed the bare stretches had originally been covered and the cloth had dry-rotted or been nibbled away, but maybe the bare wires are the original spec and the cloth-covered stretches are later additions or rewiring.

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      T.K. Tortch,

      …but maybe the bare wires are the original spec …

      They were. In the beginning the only flexible insulator they had was asbestos cloth with was fairly expensive. Big cables, like undersea telegraph line, were coated in rubberized cloth that wasn’t very flexible. The easiest solution was to simply separate the lines by a joist or the like and put them where people or critters wouldn’t blunder into them. Even if they did, you had to touch both wires at the same time or ground yourself to get shocked. The later rather hard to do in the attic space of all wood house.

      When I was a kid doing roofing work circa 1980, we found all the glass insulator stuck on either side of the joist in many old clapboard farmhouses. My cousin and I were puzzled but my grandfather explained and later I verified with some book learning.

      The system worked because most houses had no more than a single, one plug outlet per room, usually hanging from the ceiling. A lot of farmhouses only one plug in the kitchen and then another line to the barn or chicken coop. Since the electricity has to arch to cause a fire, and most arcs and them most dangerous archs are between the wires themselves and not a ground, bare separated wires are quite safe, perhaps more so than carelessly installed paired wires we use today. Back in the day, most electrical fires started where the wires came together in the appliances or lights. That’s how United Laboratories got its start.

    Leave a Reply

    Comments Policy:  By commenting here you acknowledge that you have read the Chicago Boyz blog Comments Policy, which is posted under the comment entry box below, and agree to its terms.

    A real-time preview of your comment will appear under the comment entry box below.

    Comments Policy

    Chicago Boyz values reader contributions and invites you to comment as long as you accept a few stipulations:

    1) Chicago Boyz authors tend to share a broad outlook on issues but there is no party or company line. Each of us decides what to write and how to respond to comments on his own posts. Occasionally one or another of us will delete a comment as off-topic, excessively rude or otherwise unproductive. You may think that we deleted your comment unjustly, and you may be right, but it is usually best if you can accept it and move on.

    2) If you post a comment and it doesn't show up it was probably blocked by our spam filter. We batch-delete spam comments, typically in the morning. If you email us promptly at we may be able to retrieve and publish your comment.

    3) You may use common HTML tags (italic, bold, etc.). Please use the "href" tag to post long URLs. The spam filter tends to block comments that contain multiple URLs. If you want to post multiple URLs you should either spread them across multiple comments or email us so that we can make sure that your comment gets posted.

    4) This blog is private property. The First Amendment does not apply. We have no obligation to publish your comments, follow your instructions or indulge your arguments. If you are unwilling to operate within these loose constraints you should probably start your own blog and leave us alone.

    5) Comments made on the Chicago Boyz blog are solely the responsibility of the commenter. No comment on any post on Chicago Boyz is to be taken as a statement from or by any contributor to Chicago Boyz, the Chicago Boyz blog, its administrators or owners. Chicago Boyz and its contributors, administrators and owners, by permitting comments, do not thereby endorse any claim or opinion or statement made by any commenter, nor do they represent that any claim or statement made in any comment is true. Further, Chicago Boyz and its contributors, administrators and owners expressly reject and disclaim any association with any comment which suggests any threat of bodily harm to any person, including without limitation any elected official.

    6) Commenters may not post content that infringes intellectual property rights. Comments that violate this rule are subject to deletion or editing to remove the infringing content. Commenters who repeatedly violate this rule may be banned from further commenting on Chicago Boyz. See our DMCA policy for more information.