Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Life with 220.

I’m not talking about “life at 220” either.  Although I’ve had occasion to boot it along on the Autobahn at those speeds,  it takes a certain amount of concentration.  I seem to come up short in that department.


It’s surprising what you can get used to.  I remember my old man used to say that you could even get used to “shit in your hat”,  and he and some of his Harvest Excursion buddies even did a little experiment once upon a time back in his days as a bachelor.   Something to do putting some smelly substance in the lining of someone’s hat, and the idea that they eventually got used to it.  Bit of a nasty trick I thought. 

Back in August when we were home in Canada,  for some reason that I don’t seem to recall,  I had to iron a couple shirts.  Something to do with not looking like a street person I guess.  So I got the iron all set up and ready to go,  plugged ‘er in,  waited the appropriate length of time (I thought)  and then couldn’t figure out what the heck was wrong with the thing.  It’s a good one.  We don’t cheap out on those types of things,  since that particular one had previously been used by Travelling Companion in her sewing room,  which was now my daughter’s craft room.  I sometimes refer to it as the “crap” room,  but I’m funny that way.   Note how were tying everything in with the “excrement theme”?

I even asked my daughter what the heck I was doing wrong.  I just hadn’t waited long enough.   See,  it was only getting 110 volts.  It takes a while.   The iron that I use here heats up in nothing flat.   Naturally, it runs on 220.  Everything does.  I guess it’s something I’ve gotten used to.

I’d even go so far as to say that, somewhere along the way someone made a bit of a blunder when it came to the voltage that was chosen for the “Americas”.   220 works heaps better.  Trust me. 

(I blame George Westinghouse)

Maybe I’ve been in Europe too long?  I’m not sure,  but this is one little snippet of the “lifestyle”,  if I could call it that,  that for the most part,  while unobtrusive,  whenever called upon,  makes life a whole lot easier.  

Now you might say,  “But,  that’s a lot of voltage!  Isn’t it dangerous?”   Well,  let me tell you,  you can do a good number on yourself with 12 volts if you’re really,  really dumb.   Ever take a spark plug wire off and crank over the engine?  See that spark?   That’s about 40,000 volts going over to the block there.   Come in contact with it,  and you will land on your ass.  The hope is that your heart is still beating.   It’s not the voltage kids,  it’s the amperage that’ll do you in.   (OK,  I know it’s heaps more complicated than that,  but let’s not get too flippin’ carried away here,  shall we?)

So to make things “work”,  with 220,  we don’t need as much amperage as with 110.   The wires for household wiring and extension cords and such seem desperately thin,  since they don’t need to be all that thick in the first place.  

If you go to that link,  and I suggest you do,  and plug in 1500 watts in the first spot, then 220 in the second and hit the “equal” button,  you’ll get roughly 6.8 amps.  If you drop it to 110?  You’ll probably trip a 15 amp circuit breaker.   Too much amperage.   Let’s not forget the 80% rule.


Do you have an electric hot water heater?  How does it work?  Why,  we need 220!    What about any half ways decent power tool?  Needs to be wired for 220!  See where I’m going with this?   A lot of extra messing around with wires.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just “plug in” your 220 volt table saw? 


And don’t even get me started on how I’m going to “plug in” if I ever had the bright idea of going anywhere other than Europe or North America.  


You can click on that one for study purposes.  Try not to get a headache.




OK,  enough of that.  Now for some different “fluff”.


I had mentioned previously that we went out on Saturday and picked up a (fake) Christmas tree.   We haven’t opened the box yet,  and I might do that today,  just to have a look at the pitiful thing.   They didn’t even have the kind that already comes with lights,  and we weren’t about to either spend that much money,  or go on an extended search.

Typically when I find myself in some sort of home supply type of store such as Bauhaus, Baumax or OBI,  it’s with a specific purpose in mind, and I rarely wander off course,  unless it’s just to browse and see what’s available.   I have enough “stuff”  back home,  and it’s not too often that I buy something that I already have.   Just the same,  and as a rare example,  I had to buy a second hand-cart not long after we moved to Vienna,  since retrieving heavy items from the car in the parking garage around the corner and bringing them up seven flights wasn’t something I was willing to struggle with, without some two-wheeled help.    The other one (the only hand cart I thought I’d ever need) is hanging quietly in my shop back home.  Had no idea we’d be moving to an apartment.  Drat!

So most of the time when I’m in one of these places,  the voices in my head are repeating,  “Already got one”.  “Don’t need it”.  “Maybe,  but not at that price”.   That kind of thing.

Don’t we all have those “voices”?   OK, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.


HOWEVER,  when I saw these particular Christmas tree stands,  I was quite intrigued.   I haven’t been “intrigued” when shopping in Europe for a while now,  believe me.  There’s a lot of crap in the stores.

First of all,  the fake tree already has it’s own stand.  I don’t need another.  We do have a stand back home that I’ve been using for quite a few years now for our “real” trees.  It’s pretty reliable,   but not entirely user friendly.   It’s probably something like the third generation of Christmas tree stand that we have up to this point,  and I had no intent of ever replacing it.  


It became obsolete just as soon as I saw this one:

This is the way it came out of the box.



But then it opens up to receive the base of the tree.


The lever on the side is a foot pedal.   By pumping it down,  the cable tightens the supports around the base of the tree.   I have this suspicion that I’m going to be putting up a Christmas tree for many years to come.  Crawling around on my hands and knees (and getting poked and prodded by the low hanging branches)  has never been one of my all time favourite things.

That time has now passed.

Made in Germany!   My kind of souvenir.


And it doesn’t run on 220.


Thanks for stopping by.




  1. I have that tree stand. Let me give you a piece of advice and drill a hole in the center of the tree stump the width of the small spike inside the stand. You need to have the tree centered for the braces to hold properly and the spike doesn't go in unless you drop the tree on it (which then is hard to get it centered perfectly). While the tree is still wrapped up, just lie it on its side and drill a pilot.

  2. a man after my own heart! iron?..whoohooo!!..I hate ironing!!
    now as for the tree stand?..that is pretty skookum!!..Germany is smart!!

  3. So why do we have 110 instead of 220? And ironing - NOOOOOOO!!

  4. Interesting explanation on the 220 vs 110. I guess we have 110 here simply because it costs less to install the wire and breakers? Who cares about the consumer?

    Great looking Christmas tree holder.

  5. @Luvbeers. I noticed that spike. Figured I'd need to drill, or I'd end up splitting the stump.
    @Sue. What? Doesn't everybody know how to iron? I took over that kind of stuff 20 years ago.
    @Sandie. I read somewhere (and I'll be darned if I can find the article again) that 220 was considered "too dangerous" for inside the house. Horse-feathers. That decision wasn't made until after WW1.
    @Rick. The cost of the breakers is probably quite similar (don't ask me how I know this, has something to do with where my wife works) but my guess would be that the wiring for 220 would be cheaper, since it need only be 16 or 18 gauge. I'm guessing here since they use some crazy millimetre sizes and I can only go by what I've seen in the supply stores, and then compare it with what I know from back home. One of the notable side benefits is that you can run a great long extention cord and the plug will never get warm, since the amperage is so low, and the voltage doesn't drop that much, since you're starting out with 220. Just seems to all work better somehow.

  6. so I have to ask what the heck is an 'iron'

  7. Bob I found this explanation on the Ask forum....

    You have to be aware of the engineering history behind these things. One factor at play is the "Not invented here" syndrome. Power generation and transmission were first developed and installed in the US. 60 Hz and 110V outlet voltage were standardized. When Europe adopted the technology they had the benefit of being able to study the actual experience in the US. Engineers there decided to go with the higher house voltage possibly to reduce the amount of copper house wiring would need; the tradeoff is the higher voltage is more dangerous. I don't know all the considerations for the frequency; it would have been better for all if they'd gone with 60 Hz -- there is little difference between the two in most applications -- some slight improvements in overall transmission efficiency at the cost of a bit more iron in the transformers for 50 Hz.

    Psychologically, I suspect there was some pressure to do something different from the Americans, to try and make something better, and not just copy them.

    Note: Our 110/60 system was designed by Westinghouse, not Edison. Edison was a big proponent of DC; fortunately, he did not prevail on that point.


  8. @Elaine: yer funny.

    @Rod: Point taken about George. When I went back and did some further reading I realised I had been a bit too harsh with that remark. One of the pitfalls of doing a morning post. Hard to avoid the accompanying befuddlement.
    I do see the argument that that particular wheel was reinvented over an over again, especially if you look at what happened world wide in terms of the different plugs that are being used.
    I'm not quite sure though that I'd go so far as to agree with the "not invented here" idea however.
    A lot of it had to do with the invention and production of the light bulb, since voltages over 110 would burn them out. So power plants prior to 1900 (in the US) were producing 110.
    So by the time the Europeans came around to investing in some sort of electrical infrastructure, somebody (I think it was in Germany, but I'm not 100% on that one) had figured out how to manufacture a light bulb that could use 220.
    Bottom line, you need less copper with 220.

    We could debate the dangers of one over the other until the cows come home, or the Joules come home, as the case may be, since there are so many factors involved. (current, resistance etc.)

    Suffice to say, keep fingers away.


Well, I've been getting too many spam comments showing up. Just a drag, so we'll go another route and hope that helps. So, we won't be hearing anything more from Mr. Nony Moose.
I guess I'll just have to do without that Gucci purse.