In two and a half years of living here in our Ukrainian village, we've had more than enough of our fair share of electronics that have broken. I could go through the list, but that would just be too depressing--for me. To give you an idea of the kinds of things I'm talking about though, we've had vacuum cleaners and blenders break or stop working seemingly out of nowhere.
As I frequently admit on this blog, I am not a handyman, but my knowledge of all things home repair is growing. When we first arrived here I at least had some experience from wood and metal shop in junior high school. I am naturally interested in building things with my hands, and when I was younger I enjoyed sawing wood and creating things in my parents' basement.
Unfortunately, I didn't know the first thing about electronics from a practical standpoint. I went to a "Blue Ribbon School of Excellence" in the US of A and could fill out all sorts of worksheets about complicated circuitry in my high school physics class. However, when I arrived at our house I couldn't even hook up an outlet.
I first got the idea that I better learn about electricity when we moved in. A friend of ours--a local from Lviv--said that if the lights flicker, then that mean the electricity is not that good. I asked him what he meant, but he wasn't able to expound on that statement. It turned out that our lights did flicker, but I didn't know what to do about it.
Then, last December, there was an "electricity emergency" in Ukraine because a major power plant was having some problems (I wrote about it here and here). We read on the internet that there was a risk of power surges and to not use electronic appliances during peak hours in the morning and night. I think there were one or two weeks when we didn't have power for a period of time every day.
And this past September I was talking with my brother and sister-in-law, who just bought a small voltage stabilizer for their laptops and tablets. They explained that a stabilizer helps protect the batteries and the equipment itself. They let me know that Yulia and I could get a small one like that or a big one for the entire house. Thanks for the tip, guys! :)
Yulia and I talked about it and planned to get one before installing a washing machine sometime in the future--until our vacuum cleaner just stopped working out of nowhere last Saturday. We hadn't even owned the thing for a year, so we suspected a power surge messed up the motor. Yulia was vacuuming on a Saturday night, which is a peak usage time.
This twisted our arm, and we bought a voltage stabilizer for the whole house earlier than planned. My father-in-law helped us connect it a few days ago. Luckily it was very straightforward.
Bam! Problem solved!
Not so fast, Michael and Yulia!
It works the way it is supposed to. I don't think we'll have problems with power surges anymore. It cuts off all the electricity if there is a really dangerous power surge. This has already happened several times. It cuts the power for six seconds and then turns back on.
However, the new problem is that it hums and make a loud clicking sound. It mainly clicks during peak usage times (mostly in the evenings), but it also sporadically clicks in the middle of the night. We had to hang the stabilizer in our dining room, which is right next to the bedroom, and the clicking is loud enough to wake us up.
To get a good night's sleep we turn off the power to the whole house using the circuit breaker, though I'm not sure if that is a long term solution. I'd like to hide it in a wooden cabinet like the one I built for the circuit breaker. It will hide the stabilizer, breaker, and electric meter and hopefully muffle the humming and clicking sounds.
When I'll find the time to build a cabinet for the voltage stabilizer is another question. My father-in-law and I have been digging a trench for sewage pipes. Our septic tank was just delivered and it's been waiting in the city for me to take for several days now.
I managed to dig a descent sized pit this week--a particularly drizzly week and mostly by lamplight after dark. I just don't have any other time to get it done.
So here we are in our never ending cycle! Problems lead to solutions...which lead to problems again.
Unstable voltage? Get a voltage stabilizer!
Got a voltage stabilizer? It's gonna make some noise...build a cabinet to muffle the sound.
Want to build a cabinet? Try finding time between teaching English on Skype and digging trenches and holes in the November mud. And do it in the dark!