Hardware and Utilities

Information about your electricity, washers & dryers, transformers, water, AC, appliances, etc.


OK, this will be "What's different from the US", for the moment, as that's what Terry King knows...
Hopefully others will lend their perspective...

At KAUST, the "Euro Standard" sockets and plugs are used. They look like this:
external image 180px-Schuko_plug_and_socket.pn
The "safety ground" connection is the two metal strips at top and bottom of the plug. Most plugs we see are made to fit BOTH the sockets here, and another standard used in France, Tunisia etc. They look like this:
external image 180px-CEE_7-7.jpg

Many low-power, ungrounded devices such as table lamps, small appliances etc, use a two-prong plug that looks like this:
external image 180px-C_plug.jpg
AND, there are many small appliances, especially the "wall wart" type power supplies for various chargers, that have the "USA Standard" "Type A" plugs that look like this:
external image 180px-A_plug.jpg
SO: How can we plug the "USA Type" plugs in??? You will need a physical Adapter. There are individual units that plug into a single socket, like the one on the left, here: (The adapter on the right is for "Great Britain" type plugs (see below)..)


and there are multiple outlet strips that can take almost any plug, like this:

AND there is one more plug variation we need to deal with: The huge 3-prong "Great Britain" plug that is often seen on high-power appliances such as tea pots, microwave ovens, etc. It looks like this: It can be plugged into the multiple outlets strips and adapters.

OK, almost there! Being able to PHYSICALLY plug something in does not mean the VOLTAGE is right!

The local KAUST system is 220 volts 60 cycles. Most devices you get in Saudi Arabia are 220V. However many of the older areas near Jeddah also have 125 volts in houses and apartments, and you will find some 120V lamps etc. for sale.

Incandescent light holders are mostly Edison screw base (i.e. same as USA). Local 220V bulbs fit these sockets, so typical 'simple' lamps (without dimmers or touch-switches) will work here with a new bulb. Be careful buying bulbs: Many 125V bulbs are for sale right alongside the 220V bulbs! A 125V bulb in a 220V socket will be VERY bright for a VERY short time!


North American appliances (120 volts) will need converters (transformers) to accommodate 220 volts. They are available at larger hardware stores like "SACO".(http://www.saco-ksa.com/) (Small capacity (100 watt) transformers are (sometimes) now at Tamimi, and are OK for small 120V units like camera/phone/Laptop chargers, radios, etc. )

However, many recent appliances, chargers etc. are made to be used worldwide, and are labeled "100 - 250Volts" or the like. These can be simply plugged in to any 120 or 220 volt systems and work fine. (Read the fine print on them).. Computers often have a small switch on the back, on their power supply, that can be set for 120 or 220 volts: Get it right! Many newer monitors and printers are "worldwide" and work on any voltage. (Again, the fine print..)

Note: should a 120V only device be plugged into a 220V outlet, the penalty may be that only the AC adapter gets ruined. The device itself may be ok. For example, many battery chargers and lower power electronic devices like routers take AC as input and convert to low voltage DC output. So when plugged into 220V, the adapter keeps supplying DC to the device at the requested output voltage but the adapter's coils get fried internally because they are designed for 120V input only. This simply means you need to buy an appropriate replacement AC adapter to get the device to work again.

Just in case you haven't had enough, click here For MORE information on power and plugs, WorldWide: (A WikiPedia entry)

Frequent travelers from 120 volt countries should consider investing in dual-voltage appliances for curling irons, curlers, traveling irons, hair dryers, etc.

And, you may have noticed that a few high-powered units like air conditioners are marked 380 Volts. What's that all about? The incoming building power is "3-phase" "Wye Connected" and 380 Volts is, of course, 220V times the Square Root of Three. Living at KAUST you will have to endure some of us talking like this :-)

Light Bulbs and Fixtures:

Incandescent light holders are mostly Edison screw base (i.e. same as USA). Local 220V bulbs fit these sockets, so typical 'simple' lamps (without dimmers or touch-switches) will work here with a new bulb. Be careful buying bulbs: Many 125V bulbs are for sale right alongside the 220V bulbs! A 125V bulb in a 220V socket will be VERY bright for a VERY short time!

Air Conditioning Units:

Most of the air conditioning units in KAUST housing are made by Zamil (http://www.zamil.com/our_companies.php?lang=en) . And also, apparently, by Carrier (In larger houses? ## If you can elaborate, please edit here!)
These units have controls with many features. The ones in 2-bedroom Townhouses look like this:

Unfortunately, no one knows how to use them or set them :-) Requests from KAUST housing has not found a manual or anyone who knows how to set "Time/ day of week" etc. And what does "Sleep" do?? ZAMIL website doesn't work. No answer from their email address.. Anyone figured this out???

Alex has been able to get the manual for some Carrier units. The PDF file is
This unit's panel looks like this:


The local water supply is all from a huge desalinization plant, so we are drinking the Red Sea :-) The water is of very good quality, both biologically safe to drink, and chemically low in dissolved solids or impurities. You will have noticed that the water is "soft" when you take a shower. If you're sensitive, A filter ("PUR" or other brands) attached to the kitchen faucet gives even better tasting water for coffee/tea, cooking etc. with no chlorine smell at all.

Waste water / sewage is processed in a water treatment plant and used to irrigate the Golf Course. However the irrigation of other areas and home gardens is with regular potable water that supplies our housing.
  • Washing Dishes:

    NOTE: Most of the dishwasher machines delivered to KAUST have a built-in "water-softener". You can tell by (A) Reading the manual or (B) noting the "ADD SALT" light. You do NOT need to use the water softener, no matter how much dishwasher salt you may see on the supermarket shelves.. An effective Phosphate detergent will go through the waste water system and then to fertilizing the greens with the Golf Course Irrigation, not into the Red Sea. Maybe they should GIVE us free old-fashioned phosphate detergents and cancel the fertilizer order at the Golf Course.

  • Washing Clothes:

    Most or all? washers use both hot and cold water and do not heat it themselves. Local detergents work pretty well, and only a small amount is needed, as the water is so "soft". High-Phosphate detergents work well in cold water, and eventually make their way to fertilizing the Golf Course.Many units have electric clothes dryers, which use a lot of electrical energy. Drying racks or clotheslines work amazingly well in this climate!>> Washing Machine Manual

    For the manual of the Asko's w6022 model: go to http://www.askousa.com/customer-care/technical_documentation/ and select "Laundry Saudi Arabia" option.

  • Heat and Hot Water:

    Units have an electrically-powered water heater.. These seem to have their temperature set to a quite low "very safe" value. This may not provide enough total hot water for 2 or 3 adults to take a typical morning shower.
    But if you're careful adults, you might want to reset the temperature controls a little higher. This means you mix more cold water with the hot water during a shower, resulting in more total hot-enough water. If you've done this before, you probably know you need two things:
    1. A Philips screwdriver to temporarily remove the covers of the top and bottom element temperature dials.
    2. A careful reading of the caution placard on the heater which tells how fast a human can be burned with different temperature water. If you have young kids, be careful!!

Microwave, Refrigerator, and Kitchen Stove

Andrew Winfer recently shared the manuals for the microwaves, refrigerators, and kitchen stoves with me to share here.
  • Microwaves - Did you know your microwave has a clock? There are instructions for how to set it on page 8.
  • Refrigerator - Is your fridge making a weird noise? Instructions to deal with noises on page 18.
  • Kitchen Stove - Want to switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius? There are instructions for temperature conversion on page 9.
  • Washing Machine

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