Rant Time

It has been a while, so maybe I am entitled to a rant. As I mentioned, Lilliam is up to her neck in a major remodeling project. Luckily, it is starting to wind down and yet there is still two and a half items on the list left to do.

I had my electrician out for the last three days installing a 30,000 BTU AC in the living/dining area. I will mention that I found my best deal at RefriCenter on the InterAmerican highway. It did take some special consulting with their staff to get it wired correctly. I must have bought the first 30,000 unit of this model that they had sold of their Viking brand. I thought a 30,000 BTU AC for close to $700 was a pretty good buy.

It is all installed and works great. We rarely use AC, but there are times if you have a lot of family in that you need a little cool down and with all the other construction going on, now was the time to do it.

Back to my rant. If there is one thing that I have disliked about Panama builders, it is the electrical wiring. They never plan for enough plugs on the walls, enough plugs in bathrooms for razors or other items, etc. Of course the person that built this house was tight as a tick and if he should have spent $10 to do something right, he figured out how to get by for $4. Between his cheapness and the sorry electrician he used, the entire wiring of the house needs to be redone in my opinion.

Some day if I have more money than sense, I may bring my electrician and rewire everything.

Okay, let me describe what started my rant. The problem hinges around product and installation. The house has fans in all bed rooms and three in the living/dining room area. That is a good thing and they get plenty of use. However, the tight builder decided to only run the line from the fan to the wall switch and it is on or off. You can’t even control the fan speed from the switch. A smart person would have wired the light and the fan to two switches as I did in a previous room addition we did.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Here is a photo of the original switches installed by the builder. In this photo you will see the ability to install 9 switches. Of the 9, he put 2 in a box capable of 3 and 1 in a box capable of holding 6. He also chose to use cheap switches from Electrica (a primary electricity parts store in David). The switches, while decorative, are made in Mexico and extremely poor quality in my opinion.

The house is a little over 3 years old and I have had two switches fail and a couple more on the way. Can you ever remember a wall switch failure in the US? I know houses on farms in Oklahoma whose switches are over 70 years old and still work.

I was happy to find the switches the builder used, in Electrica, and bought two. I can replace switches, so I thought it was no big deal. Then when I went to pop the switches into the support structure, I realized that the manufacture had changed and the new switches required an entire new fixture.

Ok, I bought the new fixture and an entire set of switches. I changed out the unit and then realize that the electrician had done a crappy job installing the electric box in the wall and the new device would not go into the wall. With concrete walls, this is not a simple problem. While my electrician was here installing the AC, I asks him to consult on the wall problem. He said to do it right would require a concrete saw to correctly install and recess the electric box.

IMG_1010No time or money to do that, so he improvised for the time being and this is the resulting installation. Looks crappy to me, but I can’t fault my electrician. He did all he could do with what he was given.




You can see that there is a difference in the new switch  of the original and the one now in Electrica.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Here is a photo of a typical wall plug receptacle in this house. The idiot builder, or electrician, installed all switches and wall plugs horizontal instead of vertical. Most appliance’s electrical plugs are now designed assuming that wall plates are vertical. The grounding hole should always be on the bottom.



IMG_1012Here is how the builder brought in the cables for TV and Internet. He did allow for the coax cable to be run for other rooms, for which I am grateful. I am going to build a box to cover this mess. It has been on my “to-do” list for some time and I intend to get it done mañana as they say here.

Deep breath. Rant over. I plan on enjoying the rest of the day.

12 thoughts on “Rant Time

  1. If it will make you feel better, Gelato Pacifico is open again in the Chiriqui Mall. You could probably use a “cold one” after the rant!

  2. I can sympathize with you in your frustration dealing with electrical installations not up to the standard we expect.
    It is, however, part of what goes with the territory when choosing to live in another country.
    When it comes to installation of receptacles, opinion among electricians actually is divided on whether or not wall plug receptacles are best installed ground plug up or ground plug down.
    And many Latin countries, and some European countries, install them horizontally; I assume they feel they look better that way, while we’re used to seeing them vertically.
    Most of our North American outside plug receptacles are installed horizontally, because their weatherproof cover is hinged to open and close best when mounted horizontally (hinges along the top of the horizontal installation).
    On the ground plug up or ground plug down debate, the main reason for installing the ground plug up is that of safety; if the plug becomes slightly disengaged, a falling metal object (or a finger) would contact the ground wire.
    If the ground plug is down, and the plug becomes slightly removed, a metal object would strike a live contact.
    In North America we do seem to favor the ground plug down installation, possibly because it looks more like a ‘face’ and we therefore see it as more aesthetically pleasing.
    You can find endless debates about this both online and among electricians.
    Either way will meet any codes I have run across.
    You might be interested in checking more on this issue here:
    Looks like the builder of your house did cheap out in its construction, and I agree this is maddening. However, almost all contractors, in any country, cheap out, and build as cheaply as they can get away with, depending on how demanding they know their clientele will be.
    On the bright side, $700 for a 30,000-BTU AC is a great deal.

  3. I can sympathize, Don, but based on the electrical installations I have seen, yours looks pretty good. At least you have three hole outlets. Most of the ones that I have seen are just two. Even when you see a ground connection, there is no guarantee that it is hooked to anything. At best, it is connected to conduit but that may or may not be an earth ground.

    I have yet to find a code for wire color, either. The choice of colors seems to be so the “electrician” can trace the wires through the conduit to identify the circuit. Craziness squared. 🙂

  4. Hi Don, greetings from Costa Rica:

    Panama and Costa Rica are both relatively poor countries that I would categorize as Third World, others would use the PC term of Less Developed. Cheaper is not always better.

    You have become somewhat familiar with what that means for a house electrical system . Have you seen the junction boxes that are often inaccessible in the roof structure, twisted and taped splices, undersized wire, over spanned roof framing, leaky roofs and defective gutter design, cracked concrete and block walls, cracked tile, unlevel floors so that a toilet seat won’t stay up, plumbing problems such as low pressure, poor drainage, broken or leaky pipes , lack of traps, and septic system that fail in 5 years?

    We are used to codes that when followed, produce houses that last at least 50 years. In Costa Rica, a 30 year old house is old. Here in Costa Rica, the government has recently enacted presidential orders or laws on electrical systems, septic systems and propane systems. But it does not appear that there is education, culture, money, will, personnel or code to force the improvements yet.

    casasenescazu.com is interesting reading by a builder from Canada.

    the homeowner here has a lot of opportunity to learn here, good luck with your education .

  5. At first I wondered why the DoIt Center had hundreds of inexpensive extension cords for sale, until I realized that there is only one outlet per room in my house. Apparently that is quite common, thus the need for many extension cords. Thankfully though, we haven’t had to replace anything.

  6. Ifeel your pain. I had my house built but still had probelms. I had to have my dryer plug redone twice and half og the house rewired be for I moved in. I did have many plug outlets done as every room has 4 outlets and a few outside to so I can use my power tools outside the house.

  7. Hi: I can see what all is happening for construction/electrical as we had our house finished in ’07. One major problem now is that the input from Fenosa is not great in the afternoon, but cold at night…We are paying $80 to $l00/mo for service that they are regulating. Our air conditioner man that comes every 3 months for all maintenance, , and he can’t control the input for electrical. Our water sucks….One day we have it, another we are limited to what we can get. They better start taking care of who are living here (and built) and not those that are spending $$$$$$$ that are considering moving…Another huge PROBLEM is the mail. Supposed to get checks in from our reimbursement for what we paid out of pocket and checks sent 1/3 and 1/8/2014 and not here yet….GET ALL THIS STRAIGHTENED OUT IN PANAMA. THEY ARE DEALING WITH EVERYONE COMING IN for $$$$ BUT NOT TAKING CARE OF US THAT ARE HERE. …I guess I am just in a bad mood but this is what is taking place.

  8. I am going to add and add and add…One major problem is that when we built, no Spanish…Still a problem and interpreter for all but HE does not understand our problems and can’t communicate on our wave length.I thought I would go on google and translate and do it myself — if you are a gingo — they see $$$ and don’t respond and, for some reason, can’t read GOOGLE TRANSLATION?? WATCH YOUR BUTT ON WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING HERE AND IN THE US NOW. ..

  9. Good bargains on real estate can he had right now in Detroit. Foreign investors are scooping up real property like hot cakes. Hurry before it’s too late!!!

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