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Demystifying electrical switching for homes

Every time I search for a socket to plug in, I can’t find one! So who is the culprit? The electrician? The interior designer? The manufacturer? The builder? As I struggle to find the answer, I am also struggling to find an adapter which allows me to connect to all my plugs to a single socket on the wall.

The issue of not having enough electrical switches and sockets is universal and we are living with it cause we don’t know how to solve it . Let me try to simplify this puzzle so that we are conscious of what we are buying for our homes. To start with let me tell you that it is simpler than your smart mobile phone and it costs the same !

First let us understand what do we use switches and sockets in our homes for ? We use switches to switch electrical products like lights, fans , geysers, kitchen appliances , Audio video equipment , washing appliances, etc. We use sockets to connect electrical equipment and draw power from them. We also use regulators for speed regulation of fan and dimmers for dimming lights.

Next let us understand how to choose switch sockets for our application. All switches and sockets are first chosen as per the equipment connected to it. All equipment have three ratings: Voltage (V) on which it runs, Current (in Ampere A) which it draws and Power (in watts W) which it consumes. We are all well aware of the power it consumes but the switch & sockets are rated as per the current it draws. Hence it is important to also know the current rating of the equipment. Like power consumed can be identified as (W) , eg : 9 W LED bulb or 600 W Iron . Current drawn is identified as (A) eg : 1 A or 4 A . If the current rating is not shown then it can be found out by just dividing Power (W) by 240 (V) voltage. Eg . 9 W bulb will draw 9/240 = 0.0375 A current.

Although my electrical engineering colleagues will differ from making things simple, let’s make it simple for ease of understanding. We will divide the electrical equipment into three categories and we will choose the switches and sockets accordingly:

1.Light power 2. Power and 3. High Power 4. High Power with safety

1. Light Power (switch): As the word implies it is mainly switching of lighting products which we are talking about. Majority of the lights can be switched using 6A or 10A switches . I say 6A /10A because market offers you both the options at the same price.

So I would recommend that you use higher rating 10A switches. You can also use the same for switching fans.

There are two types of light power switches : 1 way & 2 way . Use 2 way for controlling lights /fan from two locations at the same time however the wiring should be done in advance for this function. Eg, switch ON the bedroom light as you enter the room and switch OFF from your bedside.

2. Power (switch) : These are used for switching higher power consuming loads upto 1200 W. Equipment like Refrigerators, Microwave , Induction cook top, washing machine can be switched using 16A switches.

My recommendation is to use these switches with LED indicators as they will remind you visually that the device is ON.

3. High Power (switch) : Equipment like geyser, room heater, AC should use switches with higher ratings . Market offers switches with ratings 20A/25A/32A which are best suited for these applications.

4. High Power with safety : There are other options in this category which offers not just switching but also safety features with it. I would mention two products in this category with specific features :

  • Motor Starter : These are best suitable for window/ split AC and also for small HP water pumps as they offer overload protection along with higher rating for switching.
  • Mini MCB : These are best suitable for Geysers , Room heaters, AC as they offer short circuit and overload protection along with higher rating for switching. Choose 20A or 32A as per your need.

These small MCBs are great devices to protect the equipment however use these with higher trip rating > 3000A as they will fail to function as a safety device at lower ratings . I would recommend usage of ISI marked switches and mini MCB only.

We use sockets for connecting a lot of electrically powered products. There is a lot of confusion as there are various options in this category and we have to be wise to choose the right option.

I would divide this category into three :

1.Low power 2. Ultra low power 3. High power

1.Low Power (Sockets) : When we use sockets to connect lower rating equipment we must use 6A sockets in conjunction with the 6A switch. Eg. Mobile charger, LED TV, Audio video equipment, table lamp, laptop. These low power sockets are available in various types: 2 Pin socket, 2/3 pin socket, 5 pin socket and universal socket.

My recommendation is to use the universal socket as it will take care of all your different Indian and international plug tops and you will never face any connection issue. Always use sockets which have child safety shutters and place it at every possible location so that you don’t have to use additional adaptors.

2.Ultra low power : USB Charger (Socket) These new generation sockets are designed to give low voltage (5V) to devices such as Mobile phones, Tablets, Blue tooth devices , Wi Fi dongle using USB Ports. For regular charging at home use 1A rating and for fast charging or for charging Phablets/Tablets use 2.1A rating chargers.

My recommendation is to have one 1A USB charger near the bed in each room and have 2.1A USB charger in the Living & Dining rooms. Always use chargers which are BIS certified for safety against short circuit and overload.

3.High Power (Socket) :These sockets are available in 16A. 6/16A and 25A ratings. They are used for connecting geysers, AC, Room heaters , Kitchen appliances and water pumps. Use them with suitable rating switches , motor starters or mini MCB.

My recommendation is to use 6/16 A sockets with ISI marking for safety only .

The last choice that you will have to make is of a good fan regulator. There are several types of regulators used in the market : 1 module, 2 module , 4 step, 5 step and full rotation. My recommendation is to use 5 step full rotation to get best results as it gives you 5 choices of fan speed and it is also convenient to use and you can rotate the knob 360 degrees.

Always use fan regulators which have safety cap capacitors for safety against bursting of capacitor. Note that since these fan regulators are regulating fans of different makes it is impossible to get the perfect combination and match for speed regulation. Always have the fan regulator near your bedside for ease of control.

You are now good to go and to choose your colors and design of the modular switches as per your decor and budget !

Author: Shankar Dey

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