Anyone familiar with Poland/EU electrical systems?

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Old 01-24-21, 02:21 AM
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Anyone familiar with Poland/EU electrical systems?

I was born in Poland but left the country as a kid and have lived in the US ever since - just visiting my parents for a few weeks every year or so....
This time however, I came to Poland and I plan to help my parents upgrade their place.
I am NOT planning on doing most of the work but would like to understand what I am talking about since back home, in NJ, I have always try to understand every project I would do myself or even if outsourced.
they live in an apartment in a city....I have always lived in my own houses... never in an apartment bld.
Want to start with Power; the place has a small main with 5 breakers; 2 are 10Amp and 3 are 15Amp, the panel says AC400V max 125Amp......of course I know the local AC is 220V.....
I assume I could upgrade / replace the breakers to 20 Amp each.... this will be the first step as I want to buy some new equipment, household gadgets etc.....

I have some general questions (not necessarily limited to Poland or even EU):
1. How is power distributed in large apartment buildings ? How would I know that wiring is correct for a given amperage ? In the US - I know I need to use right gauge....How would you do it in high-rises in NYC or London for that matter?
2. When shopping for equipment ppl mostly refer to kW.... not Ampers....so for example; they would say in a store, "this piece uses 6kW at 230V" ..... how do I recalculate to Amps to make sure I can connect such equipment to a particular circuit ?

I may have to just pick up a book here for DIY'ers but looking for now for some basic info....

thanks!
 
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Old 01-24-21, 08:05 AM
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I am no expert in electrical systems/installations in other countries, other than the very basics, but I will give you my opinions.

I assume I could upgrade / replace the breakers to 20 Amp each
I would not go with that assumption. I would suspect there is a reason they are fused at 10 or 15 amps. The rules in the US are not necessarily the same in other countries. You will need to find out what amps is allowable on what size and type of wire/cable.

1. How is power distributed in large apartment buildings ? How would I know that wiring is correct for a given amperage ? In the US - I know I need to use right gauge....How would you do it in high-rises in NYC or London for that matter?
In larger buildings it is basically the same as a house except it will likely be three-phase coming in and the equipment will be quite larger. The main service will go into a room called the switchgear and from there it will be distributed to each individual tenant. All the wiring methods are similar, with the possible exception of more "commercial" wiring methods (steel conduit, MC cable, etc.) but the wire sizes are dictated by the ampacity required, (or vice versa) the same as in a house.

When shopping for equipment ppl mostly refer to kW.... not Ampers....so for example; they would say in a store, "this piece uses 6kW at 230V" ..... how do I recalculate to Amps to make sure I can connect such equipment to a particular circuit ?
To get amps, you just use Ohms law. In your example, you divide watts (6000w) by nominal voltage (230v in EU, 240 or 208 in US) which is 26 amps (EU)
 
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Old 01-24-21, 08:30 AM
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You should definitely look for specific information in books and codes and on-line.

Some general information I know from designing electrical systems for European and Middle Eastern countries many years ago:

There are several different types of systems in different countries and sometimes in the same country.

Branch circuits (fed from the panel) are sometimes "ring" circuits that then have outlets or "points" fed from them. A ring circuit is like a loop that feeds from the breaker and then back to it. (L1-N as well as L1- L2 systems both do this.) Typically in older systems the ring wiring was run around a room near the ceiling and drops to points below were spliced in.

Distribution to multiple panels in a building could be ring or "star" wiring. Star wiring is wiring from location A to location B as in U.S with no return wiring to the source.

Some 230 V systems may use L1 and N with L1-L2 being a higher voltage (similar to U.S. household 120/240 single phase and commercial 120/208 and 277/480 three-phase circuits.)

Outlets or "points" usually have fuses in them for further protection. I do not recall if that is because the ring wiring is rated for more amps than the point. In the UK plugs on appliances also have internal fuses.

For single phase circuits: Watts = Amps X Volts, therefore Amps = Watts/Volts. KW = 1000 Watts.

U.S. and other systems are 60Hz (cycles/second). European systems are usually 50 Hz. This may not make a difference for some appliances (they will be rated 50-60Hz) but things with synchronous motors and not dual rated (like clocks) will run differently.
 
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Old 01-24-21, 08:34 AM
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Exclamation

There seems to be a dearth of information on the web about Polish residential wiring.

Depending on the age of the building, wiring color could be "harmonized" (think EU standard) or pre-"harmonized". And, from what I was able to find, could follow French or German standards. I also read that it is/was common practice to connect the neutral to the ground at sockets.

Present EU "Harmonized" color codes are:
Line - Brown
Neutral - Blue
Ground - Green with yellow stripe

All in all, I'd say you have quite a job ahead of you. I know one should never assume, but I think an assumption is order here:
Assume nothing has been done correctly.
((My starting point was polishforums.com))


From a electrician forum archive:
"Elsewhere in the world and also in Europe in previous times, these colour codings vary widely. The following combinations can be encountered. Again the order is L, N, E and the list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Belgium: Red, yellow or blue, Grey, Black.
Germany: (L, N, Gnd): Black, Gray, Red.
Great Britain: Red, Black, Green.
Netherlands: Any colour but Gray or Red.
Russia: Red, Grey, Black.
Switzerland: Red, Grey, Yellow or yellow/red.

The foregoing should make it clear why a unified colour coding of wires was necessary. Green is by no means the obvious colour for earth either before standard colours were adopted, earth was red in Austria, Finland, Germany, Norway, and Sweden; black in Belgium and Russia, Gray in the Netherlands and Poland, yellow in Switzerland and green in Britain and North America. Three cheers for standardization!"
 
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Old 01-24-21, 08:45 AM
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I believe Poland uses a 230v 50Hz standard service. At least that's what Google says, I honestly don't recall from a visit a while back.

5 breakers; 2 are 10Amp and 3 are 15Amp, the panel says AC400V max 125Amp
So you have a 125A 230v service. Remember, since everything is 220v, it's sort of 'double' what we're used to. My guess is that the 10A circuits are general purpose circuits. Also, in some locations in the EU, they also have circuit breakers and switches at the receptacle.

But you really do need to read up on local codes/requirements. I wouldn't just assume certain wire gauges and breaker sizes. Even as someone who has been working with the NEC for years, I'm still learning its quirks.
 
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Old 01-25-21, 05:48 AM
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RE: the importance of power company rules and local regulations.

with five breakers
Is there a main breaker? I would not be surprised if there might be no main breaker but household consuption is limited in that the sum of the "main panel" breaker ratings may not exceed so many amps. (Like the top part of a split bus panel in the U.S.)

Even in the U.S. one of the less obvious reasons for having a professional do all electrical work in multifamily buildings is not overloading the overall building service by having too many individual apartments having too many high draw appliances installed and in use at the same time.
 
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Old 01-25-21, 02:45 PM
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good feedback and info to start me off with..... I am not going to do anything here myself, but just curious.

Just a bit more details; ....this is a 3 bedroom apartment in a large building....probably 100+ units.
My question was actually a bit out of curiosity.... say I was in NYC in an apartment on the 18th floor.... and wanted to up a few circuits from original 10Amp to 20Amp....at home (my own house in NJ) I could have just run 12 AWG wire and install a new breaker (of course making sure I don't exceed the overall rating for total panel)...but in an apartment I don't think that would be legal.... Allanj rightly pointed out there must be some rule and procedure so that people don't overload the entire building.
thanks!
 
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Old 01-26-21, 11:03 AM
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In regard to your questions about work in houses vs. apartment, etc.

You own your own home and are responsible for complying with codes, etc. Some jurisdictions allow homeowners to do their own electrical work, but still subject to codes, permits, etc. Insurance companies may or may not agree.

Tenants in apartments (and in most rental houses, too) are usually not allowed to make any changes to the landlord's property. The landlord is responsible for adherences to codes, safety, etc. If you needed additional electrical capacity beyond that originally provided, you would have to come to an agreement with the landlord about scope, cost, who would install, and maintenance.

Owners of condominiums or co-op apartments in multi-unit buildings "own" certain aspects of their units and can make some changes within them. (Painting is one that comes to mind. Structural changes is probably not. Electrical is questionable.) The amount and nature of such changes are governed by law and by the organization's rules. Electrical systems inside a unit may be within the unit owner's scope, but changes (like increasing the size of the service to the unit or of the panel in the unit) would most likely require approval of the HOA or governing board, especially since it would have ramifications on the building electrical service and distribution system.

The above statements refer generally to the U.S. I am not familiar with local practices and laws in foreign countries and they will certainly govern what is possible.

 
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Old 01-26-21, 04:07 PM
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there must be some rule and procedure so that people don't overload the entire building.
Each individual tenant space is normally served by a sub panel. That panel is limited by a breaker located in the building switchgear/meter room. To overload a building's service every tenant would have to be drawing an incredible amount of power. IE: thousands of amps.
 
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Old 01-27-21, 12:40 PM
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It may be local rules, but usually you are not using more then 16 amps to normal receptacles. 10 is also pretty common. It may be local rules prohibiting to do such things unless certified. You may calculate the wire size depending on breaker size and length of cable. If we guess that you are not using more than 40 meters wire from the breaker 2.5 square millimeters (AWG 13) copper wire should be OK at 16 amps, 1.5 (AWG 14) at 10 amps. The color of ground wire should always be green/yellow Light blue at neutral. 400V will be between live phases, and 230 between neutral and live. The range may need more than 16 amps, but often not needed due to use of LPG cookers. Be aware of the possibility to get lo-cost receptacles and switches that looks CE marked but that may be fake. All outlets has to have separate ground and neutral, un-grounded outlets are not OK anymore. I do not believe Poland use ARC breakers, but GFCI may be specified in the local rules.

I suggest that you get the local rules before you start.

 
 

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