The Dreaded "Calefón" – El Temido "Calefón"

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Most Paraguayan bathrooms (those that have running water) have electrical showerheads called a “calefón.” Cold water passing through the showerhead is heated by an electrical element. Once the water is past the heating element and through the showerhead it disperses into the small droplets that make up your nice, warm shower. The temperature is regulated by the water flow – more water flow descreases the temperature of your shower and vice-versa. You can only make your shower so hot, though. Once the water flow diminishes too much the calefón will automatically turn off, at which point the bathroom lights may get brighter. Increasing the flow will turn it back on. To cut power off completely look for the switch (many times it is a black and red flip-switch) in or directly outside the bathroom. Most calefóns have winter and summer settings with varying degrees of water-heating capabilities.

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La mayoría de los baños paraguayos (los que tienen agua corriente) usan calefones para calentar el agua. Agua fría pasa por un elemento eléctrico ubicado en el cabezal de la ducha. El agua se calienta al pasar por el elemento eléctrico. De allí sale del cabezal de la ducha dispersándose en las gotitas que conforman tu ducha calentita. La temperatura se regula con el flujo de agua – al aumentarse el flujo la temperatura de la ducha baja, y vice-versa. Pero sólo se puede lograr cierto aumento de temperatura al bajar el flujo ya que si fluye poco agua el calefón se apagará automáticamente. En ese momento las luces del baño probablemente aumenten su intensidad. Aumentar el flujo del agua lo encenderá de vuelta. Para apagar por complete al calefón busca el interruptor ubicado en, o directamente afuera del baño (muchas veces es de color negro y rojo). La mayoría de los calefones tienen varios niveles de intensidad para uso en invierno y en verano.

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[end_columns] The dreaded Calefon - El temido Calefon

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From the point of view of certain foreigners a contraption that involves water and electricity and a naked user is alarming. This is especially so because the electrical wiring is clearly visible in most calefón installations. Many times the wires are barely insulated with electrical tape. It is worth noting calefons are nicknamed “widow-makers” in English. Calefóns are in widespread use throughout Latin America. They are cheaper than regular water heaters (“termotanques” in Spanish), simpler to install and use less electricity because they do not have to keep water hot all day long. As a foreigner you will quickly (hopefully) learn the calefón tricks locals learn from an early age. If you touch the water just under the showerhead, before it has dispersed enough, electricity will travel through you to the floor. It is not a pleasant experience. It is best to avoid reaching above your head and, if you´re tall, engage in extra careful hair-washing. Also avoid fiddling with the showerhead settings while showering unless you are certain the calefón has been switched off. Despite the fear-factor calefons do have one main benefit: you can take as long a shower as you´d like without fear of running out of hot water (as long as your electricity doesn´t go out).

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Desde el punto de vista de ciertos extranjeros un artilugio que involucra agua, electricidad y un usuario desnudo es alarmante. En especial porque al instalarse la mayoría de los calefones quedan con cables al aire. En varios casos los cables apenas están cubiertas con cinta aisladora. Cabe destacar que en inglés se les dió el apodo de “crea-viudas” a calefones. No obstante, calefones son usados en todo latinoamérica. Son más baratos que termotanques, con una instalación más simple, y usan menos electricidad al no tener que mantener el agua caliente todo el día. Como extranjero aprenderás rápidamente (ojalá) los trucos del calefón que lugareños aprenden a temprana edad. Si tocas el agua justo debajo de cabezal de la ducha, antes de que se disperse lo suficiente, la corriente correrá através de tí hasta el piso. No es una experiencia agradable. Es mejor evitar alzar los brazos por si acaso y, si sos alto, tener mucho cuidado al lavarte el pelo. También debes evitar hacer los ajustes al calefón mientras te duchas a menos de que estes seguro que el calefón está apagado. A pesar del riesgo calefones tienen un beneficio muy importante: puedes pasar el tiempo que se te de la gana en la ducha sin miedo de que se acabe el agua caliente (a menos que se te corte la luz).

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Posted in Daily life - vida diaria Tagged with: , ,
9 comments on “The Dreaded "Calefón" – El Temido "Calefón"
  1. Anonymous says:

    When I read "if you´re tall, engage in extra careful hair-washing" I couldn't help but wonder whether Alex was the one who discovered this?????

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is hilarious! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Marty says:

    Thank you! I always wondered about these.

  4. keith5159 says:

    You know I was worried when I got shocked the first time i touched my shower head. Glad to know its normal….

  5. mike.montchalin says:

    These calefóns appear to be the cheapest most energy efficient way to get cold water hot.

    I can't imagine them ever being legal in the US.

  6. David says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard them nicknamed a widow-maker. I’d always heard them referred to as “suicide showers” in English…

  7. Tom says:

    When we lived in Ita Angu’a, whenever we showered at night everyone knew because all the lights in the community would dim while our calefón took over the power grid. Comments from neighbors, like “Oh so you got to bed late last night” were not uncommon.

  8. Kat says:

    I’ve also found that they seem to make the water knob a little shocking too…avoid touching them with just the tip of a finger!

  9. paraguay says:

    Good point.. same thing with elecrtonic devices that are charging like phones or ipods. You can pick them up and usually it is fine but if you lightly touch them with your fingertips… ouch!

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