Monday, April 16, 2012

Reinventing the Wheel

Our new microwave arrived, but we still can't use it. In Brazil, appliances come in two voltages, 110/127 and 220. I bought the right voltage, so that wasn't the problem.

No, the problem is that we have no plug-ins or adapters in the house that will house the electrical plug. It's yet ANOTHER model, a 20A, one with fat and chunky prongs that refuse to cooperate with the myriad of adapters we've already purchased, as well as the BRAND-NEW plug-ins I had the handyman install all over the house. See?

I checked the description of the product online, and nowhere does it mention this little twisty problem. Apparently, the fact that it is a microwave should be self-evident that it needs a special outlet, at least if I'm to understand the men at the hardware store. Also, for this kind of plug, NO ONE MAKES ADAPTERS. That's right. You'll have to change the outlet instead.

It seems Brazil has, yet again, managed to put their own unique slant on things, reinventing the wheel to such a degree that it ceases to function. And somewhere, someone is patting themselves on the back for being a brilliant engineer of electrical plugs.

Granted, I have little experience with electricity, but it seems to me that if you have 2 voltages, you should have at most, two different kinds of plugs. I don't understand this idea that "oh a microwave or a hair dryer, they use a lot of electricity, so they use a special plug" when they're on the same voltage as a toaster or a fan. How does the plug style have anything to do with the amount of electricity that the appliance pulls? Am I missing something here?

When I first moved to Brazil, I was impressed by the undiscriminatory electrical plug-ins. Featuring slots for both a round and a flat prong, one only needed an adapter for three-prong plugs. It was smart, efficient and reliable. And then someone decided to make things...better.

There are at least seven different styles of electrical plugs in use in Brazil; new products are supposed to be sold with the new model plugs, but that doesn't mean they can't sell old stock. We have a variety of options on appliances in this house, as you will see.

Exhibits one and two contain two plugs, either flat or round, equally sized. They fit into these old outlets without issue:

Exhibit three, mostly on American appliances, has two flat plugs, one fatter than the other, which will work in these outlets (or must have an adapter):

Exhibit four is the microwave, seen at the beginning of the post, with three round plugs set closely together and fat. No adapter available.

Exhibit five is the old-style of two thin round plugs with a thicker center grounding plug almost in a straight line with the other two, seen in the white double adapter.

Exhibit six? The traditional American-style three prong (two flat, one round) plug.

And exhibit seven, with three thin round plugs, the grounding plug slightly offset, supposedly the new standard (ha!):


The solution at the hardware store for a while was to simply saw off the grounding plug when no one was making adapters for the new models. I thought that was less than safe, so we hunted throughout the city until we found adapters that would work for our particular products. But for this particular 20 A plug, for which adapters apparently aren't made, I'll have to install a new outlet. Joy.


I promise not to electrocute myself and ask the porteiro for assistance.

Brazilian engineering is stunning, is it not?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your brother installed a different dryer for me while we were gone. The plug on the new (used) dryer didn't fit the existing outlet. However, it's an easy fix to swap out the cords ... just annoying. Your situation sounds much worse. I remember all those plugs !!