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Mains supply in GDR

Posted By: annemarie1

Mains supply in GDR - 05/18/16 07:53 PM

Does anyone know what the mains voltage was in the GDR I'm asking because someone I know has some bulbs from there and they are rated at 125 volts I assumed that east Germany would of been on 220 volts can anyone shed any light on this(sorry no pun intended)
Posted By: geoff in UK

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/19/16 10:10 AM

230, as is all Europe. 125 volt lamps could be (very) old, or more likely for industrial use.
The following link is informative.
Posted By: annemarie1

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/19/16 10:12 PM

Thanks I agree that it looks like they have 220 now but I mean when it was a separate country
Posted By: uksparx

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/19/16 11:29 PM

I think you will find that they used a three phase 220volt system,not sure if that was everywhere. That would make it 220volt phase to phase and 127 volts phase to earth. A lot of the earlier Philips cassette recorders etc. had a 127 volt setting too.
Posted By: andey

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/20/16 12:31 PM

The official main voltage was 220V in the GDR.
However, there were some areas out of the standard.
220V 3-phase was around (220 between phases, 125 to ground) and also split-phase.

Those lamps should be older than 50 years.
What base do they have? E27?
Posted By: annemarie1

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/20/16 08:39 PM

Thanks that's what I wanted to know it makes sense if the lamps were 125 volts they would work nicely on a 127 volt supply. The bulbs have an ES base of normal size same as US have now
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/23/16 02:25 PM

127/220 V systems were mainly retrofits of 220/440V Edison DC systems because the existing cables could be used. Generally no neutral was supplied but there were some exceptions to this rule. The main difference between the "two Germanys" was that the western part phased out those non-standard systems much earlier. In the eastern part some have survived until today and are gradually being replaced.

Vienna (where I live) also replaced the last of its 19th-century DC supplies with 127/220 V AC in the 1950s but moved over to 220/380 V later. I think the last old supplies were converted in 1978. Fused neutrals are partly a legacy of those systems but were also used in 220/380 V supplies, probably out of habit. I know a 1960 block of flats where they seriously wired half the flat I worked in for 220/380 and half as if it were 127/220! There were two circuits,one had the standard black phase and grey neutral for 220/380 and the other just had two greens plus red earth. The incoming mains was 4 wire (no earth, that came from the water mains in the kitchen), grey neutral and three yellow phases but each circuit had two fuses, except for the cooker (a 3-phase 16 A connection).
Posted By: RODALCO

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/24/16 03:42 AM

127 Volts systems were also used in The Netherlands.
These were from the old 127/220 Volts 3 Phase networks in the older cities e.g. Leiden, parts of Amsterdam ( off memory ).
Now these systems are more or less phased out.
The 127 Volts was taken off the Phase to Earth
Between 2 Phases or 3 Phases the voltage was 2 x 220 Volts.

Italy used to have an unusual voltage too of 150/265 Volts in remote area's.
Posted By: annemarie1

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/24/16 10:33 PM

Thanks for all the information guys it's much appreciated. I'm glad I wasn't an electrician in Vienna those flats sound a nitemare. Presumably they had 2 supply transformers for the 2 different systems
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/25/16 04:38 PM

Originally Posted by annemarie1
Thanks for all the information guys it's much appreciated. I'm glad I wasn't an electrician in Vienna those flats sound a nitemare. Presumably they had 2 supply transformers for the 2 different systems

Nope, I'm sure that was just messy wiring and people not thinking straight. Basically wrong wire colours in parts of the place, not much else. And fused neutrals but that was common anyway because no one bothered to remove one of the fuses when supplies were converted from 127/220 to 220/380.

As I said, the meter tails were clearly original and intended for 220/380 3ph + neutral so the circuit wired with same-colour wires must have been a mistake or ignorance. There were other fun details too - apparently PVC conduit was still expensive back then so they tried not to use too much of it. When they ran out of space (2 circuits plus 2-way switch travellers in one 13.5 mm ID pipe) they switched to 0.5 mm2 doorbell wire for travellers, switched live for the bathroom fan, etc.!

We ended up rewiring a good half of the place, leaving only what conformed to the regs. Also added a whole bunch of sockets, mostly by replacing singles with doubles.
Posted By: annemarie1

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/27/16 07:59 PM

I have come across double pole fusing here once or twice I was told by an old electrician that they were from an old DC supply but had just been used when it was changed to AC I suppose it's possible that a few places in the UK had ,127/220 volt supply's I know central London had a 110 0 110 volt system it was AC I don't know the frequency.
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 05/28/16 04:31 PM

I've heard the DC explanation too but since all our DC systems had an earthed centre conductor it doesn't make that much sense.
Posted By: geoff in UK

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 06/02/16 12:29 PM

I know we've drifter away from GDR, but there is an interesting discussion on some historic UK systems here:
Posted By: annemarie1

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 06/02/16 10:09 PM

Thanks for that it was a fascinating read
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 06/03/16 09:22 PM

I just found an old textbook from Austria that clearly states that in TT single-phase circuits it was still perfectly acceptable to fuse the neutral by 1972! The book also points out that fusing the neutral of a 3-phase supply or worse the PEN is a super-bad idea.

That explains the large number of fused neutrals in Vienna and the surrounding areas I'd say. Not sure when fused neutrals were eventually banned but my guess would be mid-80s or maybe even early 90s. In theory you're supposed to replace the neutral fuse with a solid link whenever you work on such an installation but nobody ever does - either nothing at all or the entire consumer unit is replaced. When we had our meter moved in 2003 the electrician connected the new supply to the old main fuses without as much as blinking so we still have a fused neutral ahead of the meter.

I do know people who got bit because they only unscrewed the neutral fuse, saw that the lights went out and thought the circuit was dead. Especially since very very few people bothered to label any fuses back in the day.
Posted By: dsk

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 06/15/17 08:02 PM

I wake this old thread. As far as I know Germany was pretty standardized to 220/380V Y 3-phase even before WWii.

An the other hand local standards has been surviving surprisingly many years.

Here in Norway we still have 230V 3-phase with no neutral. 3 wires with 230 V between and measured about 127 to ground until the first failure. Sometimes this results in a grounded phase and 230V between ground and the 2 others. On these systems we use 2 fuses, or more recent dual circuit breakers.
Where we have 230/400V (newer) with a grounded center of the Y we still use double breakers, but not fuses. You shall not be able to switch off neutral without switching off live wires. This mix of systems makes the color-code of neutral wire confusing, because we use the same rolls of cables. Where Neutral is, it shall be blue, but when you have no neutral blue might be live wire. Actually no problem, always treat a wire as live!

Some of the very first 230V systems with neutral had fuses, but not on neutral. They even tried to use common neutral and ground to the receptacle, this is not by code anymore.

Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 06/27/17 11:44 AM

Any new supplies were 220/380 V 50 Hz by 1920 or so but older DC supplies and 127/220 V 50 Hz (TN-C or TT) survived much longer. In fact, there are still some 133/230 V systems (Y secondary but if there's a neutral supplied it's not used except as a PEN since there are no 133 V loads anywhere). In this case you have the same situation as in Norway - within the same city blue can be neutral or live at 133 V to earth.

TN-C with a jumper from earth to neutral in each socket and at each light fixture was fairly common in many European countries. West of the Iron Curtain it was generally banned for new work in the 1970s, on the eastern side much later. Eastern Germany had it until Aug. 1990, i.e. up to the point where the German Democratic Republic ceased to exist. In Western Germany it was banned in 1973, in Austria in 1976. In theory you can't even rent out an apartment with TN-C in Austria these days because the tenant protection law clearly states that newly-rented apartments must have all socket circuits protected by at least one 30 mA RCD but few people care (the law has been in effect for almost ten years and now landlords are slowly getting their heads around it - three years ago I was told by an electrician just to skip the required testing, no one would ever ask for the report!).
Posted By: annemarie1

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 07/02/17 07:55 PM

I think if ever I do any work in Europe the golden rule is test every conductor to earth just in case! We have a similar problem in the UK where the blue wire in a 3 phase circuit can be a live wire in old installations or neutral in new work of course blue is always neutral in single phase work.
Posted By: uksparx

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 07/02/17 10:24 PM

Or of course, neutral could be black in all older installations - just to add to the confusion! Then again, black is now a phase conductor if 3 phase - confused, you will be!
Posted By: Texas_Ranger

Re: Mains supply in GDR - 07/03/17 10:30 AM

Same situation here - grey used to be neutral, now it's a phase. Of course the transition took more time than in the UK because for almost 40 years grey wasn't really used at all (first round of harmonisation with abolition of grey neutrals in 1965, second round with grey L3 in 2003) but you can still find plenty of pre-1965 wiring. Heck, cities still have plenty of pre-WWII wiring and some pre-WWI just for the fun of it!

Every time an OAP passes away or moves you can expect to find mostly un-earthed sockets in the place (banned for new work in 1958).
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