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Title: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Wren Curtis on June 23, 2014, 02:21:48 pm
Hi everyone - first-time poster, long-time lurker.

I'm going to be working in Scotland for a few weeks in early August, and it'll be my first time working outside the US.  I'm fairly knowledgeable about power (troubleshooting, testing, rewiring/fixing outlets and switches if necessary, etc.), but all my experience is with US power.  Is there anything peculiar or special or unusual that I should know about the power in the UK as compared to what I'm used to, or are the principles pretty much easily transferable to the different voltage and type(s) of outlets?

All the equipment we'll be using is rented from a local company and the venue I'll be primarily in is old but (I'm told) well-kept and in good shape, so I'm not specifically worried about having to make equipment intended to work in the US play nice with UK power.  (Life is unpredictable, though, as we all know...)

Thanks!
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 23, 2014, 03:13:11 pm
UK power is much simpler than the multiple voltages and range of outlets you have in the US.  Our supply is three phase 415 volts. Domestic properties get one phase and neutral (240 volts) and larger buildings (venues/factories/businesses) get all three phases plus neutral.

There are a small number of industrial connectors for both single and three phase at various current ratings.

(http://www.ceenorm.co.uk/images/normal/CEE_2127.png)  (http://www.ceenorm.co.uk/images/normal/CEE_219.png)     (http://www.ceenorm.co.uk/images/normal/CEE_210100.png)

If they are red, they are 415v 3 phase. Blue indicates 240v single phase. You probably won't find a yellow one.  They are for building site use and are transformer isolated 110 volts with a central earth so in a fault condition there can only be 55 volts above ground potential.

For domestic connections - which will include guitar amps, mixers, etc, there is only one connector.  The 13 amp plug.  Despite its name. it is fitted with a fuse to suit the appliance attached. These can be 2A, 3A, 5A, 10A up to the maximum of 13A.

(http://www.russandrews.com/images/products/1861l.jpg)

Most equipment which isn't powered by a 'wall wart' power supply will be connected with the European IEC connector at the equipment end.

(http://www.totalblankmedia.com/images/maincold.jpg)

We don't have the bewildering (to me) assortment of different but similar looking plugs and sockets which you have in the US.


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Mark Cadwallader on June 23, 2014, 10:32:03 pm
UK power is much simpler than the multiple voltages and range of outlets you have in the US.

(Snip)

We don't have the bewildering (to me) assortment of different but similar looking plugs and sockets which you have in the US.

Steve.

Yeah, but you guys are smart enough to have converted to the metric system years ago, despite having invented the "Imperial"'or "English" measurement system. Over here, not so much....  Mark C.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 24, 2014, 01:52:33 am
Yeah, but you guys are smart enough to have converted to the metric system years ago, despite having invented the "Imperial"'or "English" measurement system. Over here, not so much....  Mark C.

Not fully.  Our cars read in miles per hour, road signs are in miles and yards with width and height restrictions in feet and inches.

People of my age (approaching 50) tend to use both.  If I am doing engineering design, I use metric. If I am doing some building work on a house, it is in imperial.


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Jonathan Johnson on June 24, 2014, 04:22:26 pm
Not fully.  Our cars read in miles per hour, road signs are in miles and yards with width and height restrictions in feet and inches.

A friend in the construction industry went to Finland to visit. He asked a builder over there what they call a wall stud -- the answer was "two by four" (or the literal Finnish translation thereof).
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 24, 2014, 04:57:03 pm
He asked a builder over there what they call a wall stud -- the answer was "two by four"

In the 1980s and 1990s when the timber industry was converting from imperial to metric, 2x4 (or 50x100) was sold by the 'metric foot' which was 300mm - a real foot being 304.8mm.


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Lyle Williams on June 25, 2014, 05:58:07 am
Is there anything peculiar or special or unusual that I should know about the power in the UK as compared to what I'm used to

It seems crazy to me, but I hear that they don't use electricity to chill their beer.  That sounds like a dangerous practice you need to be aware of.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 25, 2014, 06:12:09 am
We don't use anything to chill beer... It should be served at room temperature.  And we have proper beer!


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Wren Curtis on June 25, 2014, 11:15:18 am
I dunno Steve, I'm pretty picky about my beer but I do think it's much, much better cold.  Good to know Lyle, thanks!  :o

And Steve: thanks for that first post - that's exactly the kind of info I was looking for.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Jonathan Johnson on June 25, 2014, 01:45:21 pm
50 Hz in UK versus 60 Hz in USA. Of course, most electronic equipment doesn't care about that. What does care are AC motors, which may run slower (~17%ish slower) and many digital clock radios which are regulated by the line frequency rather than a quartz oscillator. So your classic cat clock is not going to wag its tail as vigorously and you'll be late for church.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Chris Hindle on June 25, 2014, 03:17:22 pm
50 Hz in UK versus 60 Hz in USA. Of course, most electronic equipment doesn't care about that. What does care are AC motors, which may run slower (~17%ish slower) and many digital clock radios which are regulated by the line frequency rather than a quartz oscillator. So your classic cat clock is not going to wag its tail as vigorously and you'll be late for church.
And your B-3 will sound like a B-2-3/4 Rent local if you need one. Don't  bring one over.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 25, 2014, 03:27:34 pm
I dunno Steve, I'm pretty picky about my beer but I do think it's much, much better cold.

The cold seems to hide the taste... probably an advantage with American beers!  (and lager over here).  Real ale needs to be at room temperature.


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Tim McCulloch on June 25, 2014, 04:07:28 pm
The cold seems to hide the taste... probably an advantage with American beers!  (and lager over here).  Real ale needs to be at room temperature.


Steve.

Why do the English drink warm beer?  Because they own Lucas refrigerators...

Why do Triumph cars leak oil?  Trick question - they're Triumphs!

Why don't Soundcraft mixers leak oil?  Soundcraft hasn't found a way to put oil in, yet.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 25, 2014, 04:32:55 pm
http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/4052
http://www.omf.blogspot.co.uk/2004/03/warm-beer.html


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Tim McCulloch on June 25, 2014, 05:44:35 pm
http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/4052
http://www.omf.blogspot.co.uk/2004/03/warm-beer.html


Steve.

To many Americans, any beer that isnt ice cold, is warm.  I'm only partially American - the only beers that taste acceptable at that temp are made here for folks with mass-market taste. Silly wabbits.

You didn't deny the Lucas refrigerator, though, or the leaky Triumph (the TR3b my old biz partner had was good for a quart a week).
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Mark Cadwallader on June 25, 2014, 05:55:13 pm
IIRC, the 1960 Austin-Healy Sprite (Mk I) my ex used to own had the classic three-position Lucas headlight switch:  Off--Dim--Flicker. Mark C.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 26, 2014, 02:47:02 am
You didn't deny the Lucas refrigerator, though, or the leaky Triumph (the TR3b my old biz partner had was good for a quart a week).

I don't think Lucas ever made a refrigerator - but I understand what you mean.  Lucas electrics are more likely to be in the leaky Triumphs, cars and motorcycles, along with BSAs and the many other glorious British motorcycles which are much better than Harley Davidsons in every way imaginable! 

Of course they leak oil.  You always need something to repair!

Back to beer - A few years ago, the American band Hayseed Dixie played here.  Their rider stated "a good selection of fine British bottled ales in a container with ice to be placed behind us on stage before we start".  As it was a very hot day, we forgave them the ice faux pas but we did educate them about the proper temperature for beer.  They do like British beer!


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Mike Sokol on June 26, 2014, 07:17:29 am
Why do the English drink warm beer?  Because they own Lucas refrigerators...

Why do Triumph cars leak oil?  Trick question - they're Triumphs!

Why don't Soundcraft mixers leak oil?  Soundcraft hasn't found a way to put oil in, yet.

And here's what you need if you let the magic smoke out of your gear:

http://www3.telus.net/bc_triumph_registry/smoke.htm (http://www3.telus.net/bc_triumph_registry/smoke.htm)
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Mike Sokol on June 26, 2014, 08:26:12 am
We don't use anything to chill beer... It should be served at room temperature.  And we have proper beer!


Steve.

If I was heading over the the UK, the first thing I would have for lunch is Bangers and Mash or a Scotch Egg with a properly poured pint of Guinness. Maybe even two pints... or can you order it in liters?  ;D

I don't know how to get this thread back OT.

Wait.... Don't drink Guinness and do live wiring. I think that qualifies.  ::)
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 26, 2014, 08:36:07 am
can you order it in liters?

No... but you could try litres.

You Americans with your funny spelling!...


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Mike Sokol on June 26, 2014, 02:34:51 pm
No... but you could try litres.

You Americans with your funny spelling!...


Steve.

Hey, my spell check passed it. How do I know you're right.

BTW: Try to say Aluminum 3x fast in front of an American sound crew if you want to hear them bust out laughing. But seriously, I do like your beer, music and cars.

Golly, don't know if this thread will ever get back OT. 
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 26, 2014, 02:59:59 pm
Golly, don't know if this thread will ever get back OT.

Let me help out.  I can sort of bring it back on topic and steer it away at the same time.

As this thread has now involved cars, I have another bit of advice for the OP.

If during your time in Britain, you have need to drive a motor vehicle, make sure you drive on the correct side of the road, not the wrong side like you do at home!

How was that?

And I would never say aluminum although we do have Humphry Davy to thank for getting the spelling you use wrong. He managed to get potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and strontium right so I don't know why he messed up with aluminium by missing out the i.


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Mike Sokol on June 26, 2014, 03:29:02 pm
Let me help out.  I can sort of bring it back on topic and steer it away at the same time.

As this thread has now involved cars, I have another bit of advice for the OP.

If during your time in Britain, you have need to drive a motor vehicle, make sure you drive on the correct side of the road, not the wrong side like you do at home!

How was that?

And I would never say aluminum although we do have Humphry Davy to thank for getting the spelling you use wrong. He managed to get potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and strontium right so I don't know why he messed up with aluminium by missing out the i.


Steve.

Steve, someday you and I are going to drink a (room temperature) beer together and discuss wiring in the UK.

See.... we're back On Topic  8)
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 26, 2014, 04:03:32 pm
See.... we're back On Topic

Probably not for long.

Live - Brown, Neutral - Blue, Earth - Green/Yellow (hope that helps).


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Wren Curtis on June 26, 2014, 04:49:25 pm
...and I thought this was going to be a pretty dull, innocuous thread.... :D

Won't be driving, thankfully (I really don't trust myself to not do exactly the wrong thing), and that color code is SUPER-helpful - I didn't know that at all.  Thanks!
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 26, 2014, 05:08:00 pm
and that color code is SUPER-helpful - I didn't know that at all.  Thanks!

I will add to it:

That colour code is for all appliance flex leads which terminate in a plug.  It is also now the colour code for fixed wiring e.g. connecting sockets, etc.

However, up until recently, the fixed wiring code was Red - Live, Black - Neutral.  Installed cable over here is called twin and earth and is rated by the conductor cross section in square millimetres.

e.g. 1mm˛ and 1.5mm˛ is used for lighting.  2.5mm˛ is the usual size for ring mains and larger sizes betwenn 4mm˛ and 6mm˛ are used for heaters, ovens showers, etc.

This cable has a bare earth conductor in the middle which is fitted with an insulating sleeve when terminated.  Now green and yellow, previously just green.

Anyway, rather than me trying to remember this, read what some experts have to say:

http://www.diydata.com/materials/electric_cable/electric_cable.php
http://www.practicaldiy.com/electrics/electrical-cable/electric-cable.php


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Mike Sokol on June 27, 2014, 06:56:02 am
...and I thought this was going to be a pretty dull, innocuous thread.... :D\

We don't do dull here...  8)
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Andrew Broughton on June 27, 2014, 12:37:36 pm
50 Hz in UK versus 60 Hz in USA. Of course, most electronic equipment doesn't care about that.
Not true. Anything with a transformer can be a potential problem as the lower frequency creates more heat in the transformer. If the transformer is not designed for 50hz, it can burn out. It's common that small wall-wart transformers designed for 60hz will burn out at 50hz.
Anything with a switching power supply is fine of course.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 27, 2014, 01:35:47 pm
Anything with a switching power supply is fine of course.

Except for the piece of test equipment our American half of the business sent to me a few years ago.  It wouldn't work on a transformer.  I had to build a 60 Hz inverter to run it.

I was insisting that the frequency wouldn't matter but a work colleague kept suggesting that it needed 60Hz.  I built the inverter to prove him wrong - unfortunately, he ended up wearing the smug hat* for the rest of the week.

(* something we invented - I'm sure you can work it out).


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Andrew Broughton on June 27, 2014, 02:48:53 pm
Except for the piece of test equipment our American half of the business sent to me a few years ago.  It wouldn't work on a transformer.  I had to build a 60 Hz inverter to run it.

I was insisting that the frequency wouldn't matter but a work colleague kept suggesting that it needed 60Hz.  I built the inverter to prove him wrong - unfortunately, he ended up wearing the smug hat* for the rest of the week.

(* something we invented - I'm sure you can work it out).


Steve.
Interesting. I've been touring all over the world and I've never had a problem with any switching power supply. Must have been a strange configuration. In fact, a proper universal power supply can work with any voltage from 90 - 240v 50-60hz.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Steve M Smith on June 27, 2014, 03:41:00 pm
We were making control panels for a piece of domestic equipment (can't remember what it was now) and we were using a modified version of the device's PSU and control PCB re-programmed as a tester.  I can only assume it did a check of the incoming frequency and decided not to continue when it realised it was too slow.  I don't think it was the PSU being awkward.


Steve.
Title: Re: First time working in UK - anything I should know about power?
Post by: Ron Hebbard on June 29, 2014, 12:41:21 am
Hello Steve;

Back in 1996 I spent three weeks in London loading in and setting up the first full blown production of the musical 'Tommy', we built the show in our shop here in Canada, one of the colonies.
One thing that really surprised me was how you distributed three phase to the dimmer racks in the West End; all FOH dimmers were from a phase, all dimmers supplying flown electrics were from a different phase and all dimmers supplying deck level circuits were from the third phase.  The explanation I was given was this minimized chances of anyone getting shocked by anything greater than 240 volts, 415 volts for example.

Thanks for the memories.

Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard