Thomas Edison might wonder what happened with his wonderful invention of electricity if he was to be on the job today in Mexico. Some basic rules of wiring and electricity that we take for granted up-north seem to have been missed in Mexico.

It has been my experience that the Jaltemba Bay area of Mexico seems to run on 138 volts rather than the 118 volt range we are used to up-north. I’ve heard locally this is sometimes called rural voltage; that is, assuming the drop in power with a lengthy run of wire, or impedance, to remote consumers will provide adequate power. It’s what can happen to this run of wire from the CFE transformer to the consumer that makes life interesting. You would think the wire servicing your road would be adequate for the consumers tied into this service. Take a closer look and you might find a distant neighbour has run a light gauge wire from the power pole to his shack. While a backhoe was preparing my building site, I found such a wire, like a lamp cord, running the 27 meter width of my lot, to tie the small shack on one side of it to the house on the other side. This wire might look adequate to run a light bulb, however he might had a tv set and fridge powered up by it! Figures provided by the Mexican power company CFE in 2002, admit that CFE loses 2% of sales due to theft and 8% due to technical inefficiencies. Some suggest these figures are actually low.

After enjoying the colourful street scenes in town, move your eyes up to enjoy some of the tangles of wires on the power poles. It becomes evident very quickly that the last guy up the pole simply made the easiest connection possible to whichever service he was looking for. Twisted wires with a ball of tape covering them are common.

Up-north, we are used to separate poles on the road for electricity vs. telecommunication or phone lines. In Mexico, all services including cable tv are often on the same pole. To see a tv cable draped over an electrical cable is common. Another finding is an open ground on some Mexican homes. While I was completing the wiring in my new home, we found the whole house was exposed to open ground. Tracing the problem back to the power box, we found a thief had cut my green ground wire from the panel to the grounding rod. You would think that this one meter of wire wouldn’t be worth anything to the metal thief but obviously it was. And though a pain in the rear, it only required a quick minute for me to fix it.

Occasionally, you might see a few burned out tv sets or microwave ovens on the sidewalks and shoulders of the roads in Mexico. This was likely the result of a house or RV experiencing reverse polarity. I have an inexpensive Polarity Checker in my glove box in the truck, and always check the Mexican power whenever we pull into a new RV Park. I regularly use my multi-tester or Voltmeter on my voltage. Last winter we had a few brown-out nights where voltage dropped to 70 volts! This can be very hard on electrical motors, such as pumps or compressors, and will certainly shorten the life of light-bulbs. I have a Square D Surge Breaker to install in my main panel for just that problem, when we get home to La Peñita this fall.

About the Author: Rob Erickson, his wife Heather and their rescue cat Mayo, spend half the year living on Vancouver Island, BC. and the other half in the Jaltemba Bay area of Mexico, where they enjoy the warm weather and slower pace of life. Now that Rob has finished building their new house in La Peñita, he can be found mountain biking around the area, volunteering at the JBAR spay and neuter clinics and relaxing in his Mexican-style hammock.

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