Brics and mortar
Brics and mortar

One of the big mysteries of traveling in Brazil is wondering whether you’ll be able to use your computer, hairdryer or shaver when you arrive.

Depending on where you go, the voltage can be 100V or 127V or 220V and there are at least 12 different kind of plugs and sockets. (And that’s not including the baffling reluctance of airports, restaurants and hotel rooms to put sockets in their walls.)

Now, however, that infuriating game or ‘Will I or won’t I?’ seems set to end thanks to the introduction of a standard three-pronged plug and socket.

From July 1 this year, all appliances sold to consumers must have a three-pronged, round-pinned plug and all sockets fitted must be indented and accept the new model.

The move is designed not just to set a universal standard but also cut energy loss and reduce the number of electric shocks and short circuits. An unpredictable electricity supply, combined with old wiring and unearthed two-pronged sockets were responsible for 35,000 fires in São Paulo over the last 10 years.

Between 1996 and 2007, more than 15,000 people died from electric shocks in Brazil and close to 3bn reais were spent on treating victims of electric shocks in 2009 alone, according to Brazil’s Health Ministry.

Manufacturers of electrical appliances and the architects of new buildings have had more than a decade to prepare and phase in the change but a public education campaign was not enough to prevent some people from being caught unaware.

The government is advising consumers to change their sockets and plugs to the new model but in the short term at least the big winners are the makers of adaptors.

They sell for around a quarter the price of a new socket, and you don’t need an electrician to install them.

They are doing a roaring trade.

Related reading:
Brics and mortar series
[1] Brazil’s slums recycle
[2] China: watch that kitchen counter, it could kill you
[3] Why Czechs love swimming pools
[4] Rio de Janeiro: sun, sea, and exploding manholes
[5] A tall order for Dubai’s Muslims
[6] Cuba: let a hundred golf courses bloom
[7] Brazil: the high cost of parking
[8] Russia’s dreams of Olympic glory get more expensive
[9] Indian hotels: the Wall St effect
[10] Croatia’s spat with the Vatican
[11] Russia: to brick or not to brick

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

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