One of the big problems in the Congo is power. It is unreliable, coming and going at will (Lubumbashi is not too bad [every day for at least 4 hours], but the outlying areas, like Kananga and Mbuji Mayi, only receive a few hours of power a day). And when the power is on, it fluctuates wildly at times. As a result, it is necessary to provide back-up power and power regulators to all equipment in offices.
The battery set-up
The power from the wall goes into the white regulator, then into the power converter (the black box next to it). From the converter, lines go down to the two large 12 volt batteries, and to a plug strip where we plug in our electronics. This is the theory:
1. The regulator tries to ‘regulate’ the power fluctuations we have all the time (the lights dim, then go very bright– sometimes very quickly! Its like a light show at a disco or something!).
2. The converter changes the 220 power into 12 volt to charge the batteries.
3. When the power is completely out, it reverses and changes the 12 volt battery power into 220 so we have some back-up power. It can last 4-8 hours, depending upon what power you are using.
In the office, there are quite a few of these set-up for computers, the internet, printers, copiers, etc. When the power fluctuates, or goes out, each piece of equipment whirs, clicks on and off, beeps, etc., X ten… The noise could drive you crazy!
just another day in the Congo!