Sunday, March 15, 2009

The wonders of Soviet electric wiring

Just before the second Friday the 13th of the year, I learned more about Soviet wiring than I thought was possible in one day. Most flats in Moscow were built during the Soviet era and obviously were not build with the idea that many, modern, high-voltage appliances would be ever be in use all at once. Live in moderation, right? While most people have washing machines, it's rare to see a dryer or dishwasher. Aside from the obvious reason for this (lack of space), I discovered another reason Thursday evening ... Soviet electric wiring, at least in my new apartment, would never function safely, efficiently, or well if flats had dryers and dishwashers in addition to microwaves and high-voltage refrigerators.

Thursday evening I was exploring the capabilities of my fancy Microwave "Grill" (imagine a microwave with an element ... it can easily function as an oven) by attempting to bake chicken in it. After I took the chicken out, I loaded the washing machine with clothes. I then began cutting up the chicken and discovered that it wasn't fully cooked. With the washing machine going, and without a second thought, I put the uncooked chicken back in the microwave and hit start. Not more than 3 seconds later, everything stopped. The washing machine no longer made noise, the microwave display had turned black, and I looked around the kitchen perplexed by the silence. The overhead lights remained on, so I thought maybe I just blew the power-strip that both the microwave and washer were plugged into. I later realized that everything plugged in had stopped -- the refrigerator, my laptop ... etc. All the outlets, in the entire flat, function on the same breaker circuit, and all the lights are on the other breaker. In total the flat has two breakers ... I'm surprised the system hadn't been overloaded before (my flatmate didn't know which breakers were ours). Luckily, I didn't blow an old fashioned fuse, and as soon as we figured out which breakers were ours, the problem was quickly solved. The wash started back up, and I finished cooking the chicken on the stove.

Lesson learned: never run two high-voltage electric appliances at once.


  1. Hey, Kim, that's not just in Russia! If I try to toast and microwave while the space heater is running in my kitchen, it blows the circuit. Out house was wired in the 50's and all the outlets in the kitchen, and some other stuff around the house I am sure, is on the same circuit.

  2. Way to go Kim!!! You are a sleuth!!!
    Glad you solved the problem!!!

  3. hi kim, my dad died march 10
    I have not read your blog in a while. If I run the microwave and the air conditioning I will blow a curcuit..then I go out and reset it and evrything works again. I dont know why this happens..Ray has no problems with his electrcity. He is an electrician.