Safe Mains Power distribution on Holiday – Sandals Case Study

We have stayed at Sandals resorts several times in recent years and the first point to note is that the mains power outlets do differ between resorts. Montego Bay has the wall sockets which work with the US style flat pin plug whilst if memory serves – St Lucia has the round pin plugs, so it will be prudent to do sufficient research to ensure that there are no surprises. Once the type of mains power outlets has been established we can confirm our power distribution strategy. As a first step make a list of the equipment you will be aiming to connect to the resort mains power supply. Here is mine:

  • 15″ MacBook Charger
  • 13″ MacBook Charger
  • 2 x IPhone USB Chargers
  • 2 X IPad USB Chargers
  • 2 x Apple Watch Chargers
  • Hair Dryer
  • Hair Curling Tongs
  • Hair Straighteners
  • 2 x ORAL B – Electric Toothbrush Chargers
  • Vape Battery Charging Unit
  • No less than 14 appliances/devices for which connection to the mains power at your holiday destination needs to be at least considered.

    Of course you may not have an identical list, but then you may need to consider other equipment such as camera or camcorder battery charging, SCUBA Diving appliance charging or something even more diverse.

    If we don’t have a mains power distribution strategy… and we didn’t in previous years – you will simply end up purchasing a few adapters at much higher cost from the shop at the resort and then spend the holiday nipping back to the room swapping the devices – this can become challenging as you will undoubtedly have better things to focus your attention on and hence will not be effective.

    Or even worse – you could make some uninformed decisions regarding which devices to connect to the mains power and end up with an unsafe situation.

    Effective Mains Power Distribution

    Distributing the mains power effectively will involve doing a quick tour of the room and noting where the mains power outlets are located. Then start to have a think about where your devices and appliances would ideally need to be located for straight forward use.

    Safety First

    Not all resorts are at in countries where Electrical Safety Standards are as high as the UK, so with this in mind there are some immediate considerations.

    Power Outlets near Water

    Many resorts provide power outlets in the bathroom. The implementation of Isolation Transformers and Appliance Enclosure IP ratings are beyond the scope of this article, but as a rule I generally do not use them and cover them if possible.

    Electricity and Water or damp/humid environments do not mix – keep them well apart.

    Earth Fault and Overload Protection

    With the best will in the world you cannot be sure what safety measures are in place for the mains power supply to your dwelling so the common sense approach to mitigating this risk is to implement protective measures as part of our mains power distribution strategy. Overload and RCD protection significantly reduces electric shock and fire risks.

    Pay attention to Earthing

    We will include RCD protection in our strategy, but Earthing is still very important and when selecting adapters and sockets at the resort to plug things into, attention to detail on Earthing is critical as some of the US style flat 2 pin and EU style round 2 pin wall sockets are not fitted with earth pins. The reason for this is that they are designed to be used with appliances that do not require an earth connection – perhaps being double insulated or not having any exposed conducting surfaces. So in our power distribution strategy – we will use mains power outlets and plugs/sockets in our power distribution setup which have earth pins/sockets which effectively maintain the earth connection.

    Electrical Goods Purchased Abroad

    If you are planning to purchase electrical goods whist at your holiday destination – you need to ensure they display a CE Mark. This will go some way to providing assurance that the products are designed to comply with relevant safety standards.

    Mains Power – Distribution Strategy

    Embracing all of the above – here is the strategy we adopted for our dwelling at Sandals – Montego Bay:

  • Chose a 3 flat pin type (with earth pin) mains outlet for the dressing area
  • Chose a central location near the TV and again a 3 flat pin type (with earth pin) mains outlet for charging and AppleTV
  • Commissioned 3 flat pin type (with earth pin) US adapter to UK 13amp socket for each location
  • Commissioned plugin 13amp RCD installing to each adapter
  • Plugged in 13amp 2 gang extension block with overload/surge protection in dressing area for hair dressing appliances
  • Plugged in 13amp 6 gang extension block with overload/surge protection including 5 USB charging sockets in central charging area
  • For this scenario – here is the shopping list:

  • 2 x UK – US Travel Plug Adaptors
  • 2 x Plugin Active RCDs
  • 1 x 2 Gang Extension Block
  • 1 x 6 Gang Extension Block with 5 additional USB Ports
  • Last update was on: 26/11/2019 20:34

    Strategic Thinking

  • The electrical setup for each chosen location provides overload and earth fault protection for all connected appliances/devices via the RCDs, the overload protection and fuses in the extension blocks. These features are key to reducing electric shock and fire risks.
  • Providing only 2 x 13amp sockets in the dressing area restricts Hair Care activity to 2 appliances at any one time, effectively reducing the load.
  • The additional USB charging sockets provided by the chosen 6 gang + USB extension block enables connection of all USB type devices to chargers at the same time. This is all low current appliances and split from the higher power appliances effectively balances the load.
  • Most of the purchased hardware can be used in a variety of resort destinations, simply by changing the 2 x adapters to suit any configuration
  • Good Practice

    For any electrical appliance/device – it is good practice to check plugs, leads and the appliances for signs of damage and wear before plugging into a mains power supply. Any exposed conductors may be carefully taped until replacement. Also double check the ratings of the fuses in the 13amp plugs to ensure they are correct.

    It is also advisable to check the leads, devices, plugs, adapters and sockets for signs of over-heating. Also keep checking that water and electricity are kept as far apart as possible.

    If you or any members of your party believe they have received an electric shock – first disconnect the power and remove the suspect device, restoring power only once you are sure the faulty device has been safely isolated/removed. Any faulty electrical devices should be serviced by a competent person before further use!

    The specified RCDs are of the active type meaning they will also trip if the mains voltage dips dramatically and both extension blocks feature surge in addition to overload protection.

    I hope you enjoyed reading my article and that it serves to help you purchase and setup a simple, safe power distribution system in your dwelling at your holiday destination.

    Disclaimer – I am a Competent Practicing Engineer in the UK and have previously received training and was employed as an electrician in the UK. However, I have not received any training in relation to power distribution systems outside the UK – hence the above should only be considered as logical common sense opinions, rather than expert knowledge. If in any doubt whatsoever, please consult a qualified electrician who has received suitable and sufficient training in relation to the electrical systems employed at the resort you are staying at.

    We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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