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Power Technology

Plug vs. Plug — Which Nation's Socket Is Best? 1174

Posted by timothy
from the one-vote-for-three-prong-american dept.
CNETNate writes "Is the American mains socket really so much worse than the Italian design? And does the Italian socket fail at rivaling the sockets in British homes? This feature explores, in a not-at-all-parodic-and-anecdotal fashion, the designs, strengths and weaknesses of Earth's mains adapters. There is only one conclusion, and you're likely not to agree if you live in France. Or Italy. Or in fact most places." (For more plug pics and details, check out Wikipedia's list of the ones in current use.)
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Plug vs. Plug — Which Nation's Socket Is Best?

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  • No. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:06PM (#29983160)

    I did not agree with the tiny 10-page article that barely had enough substance for 1 physical paper.

  • Poll (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:12PM (#29983264)

    We already know what Slashdot readers think. [slashdot.org]

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:13PM (#29983286) Journal

    I did not agree with the tiny 10-page article that barely had enough substance for 1 physical paper.

    It's worse than that. I hate to spoil the ending for you but he comes to the conclusion that the British outlet is the greatest with a 10 out of 10 score. Why? Safety features. Features like shuttering and built in fuses. Both of which are optional on American outlets [amazon.com] as well -- I'm sure -- as they are on outlets around the world. Maybe they're standard in the UK but they're optional in the US. I'd rather have the option than even more regulation. Also, the picture for the US is ungrounded. I'm beginning to think this article was written by someone who's never really cared to understand the diversity of plugs in countries other than his own (which I would never use in the US and very rarely see). Nationalistic garbage is about all this amounts to. Yawn.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:14PM (#29983324) Journal
    They also completely failed to mention sheer size. British mains plugs are fucking enormous. That might be fine for AC blowers and electric kettles, which are big anyway and draw a fair bit of current; but it is annoying and ridiculous for the ever growing crop of little tiny switchmode adapters that power the gizmos and gadgets of modern life.
  • Article summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:16PM (#29983394) Journal

    Article summary (score out of 10):

    10- UK
    9 - Denmark
    8 - Italy
    2 - Australia
    1 - USA (no surprise)
    1 - Japan (surprise)
    0 - EU

    I suspect bias. I also suspect this article was meant to be humourous. BTW an American plug can handle 15 amps easily; it's how I run my spare heater.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:22PM (#29983496) Journal

    Sounds like the UK ones are massively overengineered, inconvenient, and introduce extra points of failure unnecessarily.

    Hm?

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@hacki s h . o rg> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:23PM (#29983542)

    I agree that plenty of devices in the U.S. don't use a ground pin, but I've rarely seen appliances with no ground. Have you really seen a refrigerator or a microwave or something with no ground pin?

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:28PM (#29983644) Homepage Journal
    And you know what? The number of times the average American has been shocked by his plugs: 0.
  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Darth Sdlavrot (1614139) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:30PM (#29983680)

    In my experience a lot of brits don't even realize we have single phase 220v to most homes.

    Thus they probably aren't aware that there are US 220v sockets and plugs to compare theirs with.

    But without a built-in fuse and shutters in the outlet they'll still rate theirs as superior.

    OTOH, considering how many times most people actually unplug their stove, water heater, or clothes dryer, I'd wager that statistically the US plug is the safer of the two.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sandbags (964742) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:38PM (#29983844) Journal

    Actually, the little security flap adds about $0.08 to the cost of a socket (about $1 retail given markup). The inline fuse is differnt from a GFI, and instead of allowing the device to die a horrible death and trigger the GFI, it protects the devices from surges in the first place. They use GFI in the breaker box (as the breakers in my new house here in the US also do and it's not the builkding standard in this state as opposed to the expensive GFI sokets I needed all over the place in the old house). Their inline fuse is cheap and simple.

    For the cost of a box, outlet, and cover plate, the UK socket might cost $2 more than a US one. Its safer and also protects devices with an additional surge protection barrier (so you don't need a surge stip for every fracking outlet you have more than a lamp plugged into).

    Further, because they use round connectors, not flat, it's far less likely you'll bend up a plug, and it's also harder to find household objects you could stick in the hole in the first place. It;s not exactly often i bend up a connetor real bad, but when ui had a dog it more more frequent, and more than once I've had to solder on a new endpiece, which is really a bitch to do btw without the proper tools.

    I'm not condoning everyone rip out all their outlets, I'm simply suggesting all new outlets come with a cover and fuse starting now, and all appliances start coming with a newer, better connector (and an adapter to use an older outlet).

    People might compain, but they made the same complaint years ago when we added the 3rd prong and people started needing adapters for those. We got over it, and will again.

  • 110 vs 220 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:40PM (#29983890) Homepage

    OTOH, 110 is far less likely to whack you on your ass if you DO get shocked!

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:40PM (#29983894)

    I also notice that no appliance I own in the USA uses insulation on the live pins of the plug to prevent accidental shocks when the plug is slightly out of the socket,

    Which it turns out is not actually a problem in real life. In 36 years in this country neither I nor anyone I know of has ever been shocked in that manner. Yes it's conceivable and I'm sure someone has done it somewhere but it really just isn't a problem. We've got a pretty detailed electrical code and I'm quite sure if it was a serious problem it would have been addressed.

    none of the sockets contain safety shutters

    They are available if you want them. My car (a Honda Ridgeline) has a 110V outlet with safety shutters actually. You can get them from any Home Depot or Lowes hardware store for use in your home. You also can get plugs to prevent access to the sockets when not in use. Again though, not really a serious problem.

    and that 110V cords to high wattage appliances such as vacuum cleaners get warm

    I suggest you buy better quality equipment then. If you buy a wire that is too small for the application this might happen. Any wire that is too thin for the power demands on it will overheat. This is how fuses work. Doesn't happen on my vacuum cleaner though - at least not that I can tell without a very accurate thermometer.

    and the lights change brightness when I switch such appliances on and off.

    Unless you are overloading the circuit, that almost certainly has nothing to do with the appliance. That means the power you have going to the outlet is either insufficient or of poor quality. For instance I had a loose neutral wire on my house last year which made everything flicker because the voltages were bouncing between 98V and 135V. Once the power company secured the neutral connection it's been rock steady ever since.

    IMO the British home electrical system is much better than the USA system and I have tried to view it impartially over the year

    Clearly...

  • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:41PM (#29983904) Homepage Journal

    God forbid safety comes before savings.

    Why should safety vs savings be immune to a normal cost/benefit analysis?

    How many people are significantly (or even mildly) injured due to the design of the standard US plug? How many fewer are injured with the UK plug? Now, how much does it cost a society (taking everything into account, from the cost a table lamp to the cost of a meal at a restaurant which uses appliances with these plugs) to mandate the use the UK plug over the US plug?

    Safety over savings is a laudable goal, but taking it too far or removing personal responsibility (for example, by a totalitarian nanny state) can be just as detrimental as having no safety at all.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FrankSchwab (675585) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:43PM (#29983946) Journal

    Well, it seems that BS1363 allows non-earthed plugs also, quoting from wikipedia:
    "Moulded plugs for unearthed, double-insulated appliances may substitute this contact with a non-conductive plastic pin to open the shutter." So, should a fair assessment include non-grounded plugs British plugs also?

    As a native of the US, I find the items you point out incomprehensible, but acceptable just due to familiarity. I would absolutely love UL and the NFPA (the non-governmental bodies that, in reality, sets most of the standards for these things in the USA) banning 2-prong plugs and outlets. 2-prong outlets have been effectively banned in new construction since 1962; I'm sorry, but if you have an old house you'll have to rewire or buy lots of adapters.

    I'd love to have 220V coming out of the wall sockets as half the world does; it's unlikely to be more dangerous than the 120 we have now, and would allow for products with twice the power of currently available one (think vacuums, table saws, etc). Alternatively, products could have thinner cords - at half the amperage, the required wire diameter is smaller.

    As far as light dimming, that's going to occur in Britain also if you plug in a 13 amp device. It's unavoidable, and driven by the current being drawn; the cords will get warm also. Of course, there won't be as many 13 amp devices - my 120 volt, 13 amp vacuum cleaner would become a 240 volt, 6.5 amp vacuum cleaner; the 6.5 amps is unlikely to dim the lights and unlikely to make a noticeable temperature difference to the wire.

    But I just can't get over the size of that British plug. It's got to be bigger than the cellphone that my AC Adapter would be trying to charge. How about practicality - how often do the shutters on British outlets fail, jam, or break? /frank

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1s44c (552956) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:44PM (#29983952)

    The British people are strangely proud of the ungainly BS 1363 plug [wikipedia.org]. No surprise at all that it won the comparison.

    What is it with the Americans on here? The British people are not proud of their plugs, the British people take plugs for granted. It's not like there was a national vote on what plugs to use or anything.

    To warp this into a issue of national pride is just wrong.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jaypifer (64463) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:44PM (#29983958)
    Ever been shocked by 110? No big deal. 220? You need protection.
  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:44PM (#29983960)

    Appliances don't have to use the earth ground pin if they're double-insulated.

    Yes, you can buy adaptors to eliminate the earth pin, but they have a loop that needs to be connected to the outlet plate screw, which needs to be grounded. If you don't use that, and there's a problem, it's your own fault. However, many older houses don't have 3-prong outlets and the system has no earth ground connection, so there's not much you can do. What would you suggest, every 50+ year old house being rewired? We're already bankrupt.

    As for accidental shocks, remember, this is only 110 (really 120) V here. It doesn't hurt much to get shocked if you're clumsy, as long as you're not wet (which is why kitchens and bathrooms are required to have GFCI for new construction). I imagine getting zapped with 220V is a much worse experience.

    As for lights changing brightness, maybe you're living in an older house or something, because I don't see that. And for vacuum cleaners, yes it kinda sucks the cord gets warm, but not many things are like that. In the typical house, very few things use that much current (the things which use lots of power, like ovens, are already 220V and have their own circuits with huge aluminum cables). 220V is massive overkill for things like alarm clocks, small lamps, TVs, or even computers.

  • Non-optimal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:45PM (#29983966)
    None of these plugs are optimal. What properties would an optimal plug have? At the least:
    • Symmetrical. (i.e. you should be able to plug it in upside-down)
    • Spring should be on the cheap part. IEC cords on the computer side are like this. If the spring wears out, you just toss the cord, and get a new one
    • The side that supplies the voltage should be the best shielded. (Most are like this) If you are connecting a battery to a charger, you have to have a really fancy plug that is doubly sheilded.

    I don't see the advantage to fusing the plug versus a device with a replaceable fuse.
    B.t.w. Christmas tree lights in the US have fused plugs with fuses on the hot and ground so that it can be plugged in upside down. Since there's no separate "device", just wires with bulbs, having the fuses in the plug makes sense.

  • Re:No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:45PM (#29983980)

    "I'd rather have the option than even more regulation": how stereotypically American.

    Then how is it that Americans created Mac OS X while a Finn created Linux?

    I think what you're looking for there is VMS, Unix, OS/2, etc etc etc vs 'a derivative work based on Minux, which is a workalike student version of ATT Unix'

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rilister (316428) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:53PM (#29984134)

    Well, OK, maybe we Brits are a little over-proud of our plugs. A Polish engineer I know called them "an insult to electrical engineers".

    But seriously, where is someone explaining why some other plug is superior? In my experience US plugs get bent pins, can be woefully insecure in their sockets (literally dropping out) and the ground-nonground mixing that goes on on powerstrips seems clearly dangerous.

    So (excluding British plugs) which plug would you choose to champion? Any?

    I know it's not comfortable to admit that the US version of X is not the best in the world, but if you had another option that you preferred, I'd be more convinced.

  • by name_already_taken (540581) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:53PM (#29984138)

    I was going to just copy and paste in my older post titled "The UK plug is the nanny state run wild", but I can't find the damned thing.

    The simple fact of the matter is that the pins on the US plug are so short that by the point it is far enough out of the socket to expose enough of the pins to touch them with your fingers, it's unplugged. No partially insulated pins or other wacky design contrivances are needed.

    The UK plug appears to have originally been designed by someone who was laboring under the misunderstanding that they were designing a connector for welding equipment, not domestic appliances. It can safely carry 100A of current, if you replace the fuse with a solid link. Why? The plug contains a maximum 13A fuse and the ring main circuit in a UK home is limited to about 40A if I remember correctly. Why a 100A connector when it can only ever be supplied with 40A?

    Shutters on the sockets are a very recent development in the US, and a probably just being copied from the UK for no other reason than shutter envy. There's no real demand for them, because Americans are somehow able to resist the temptation that apparently so often overcomes their British counterparts to stick things in the socket other than a plug.

    When my family moved from the UK to the USA back in 1982, I thought the US plug was flimsy compared to the UK plugs I was used to. But, really, a Honda Civic looks flimsy compared to a Caterpillar bulldozer, but I know which one I'd buy to drive every day. (Yes, I have to get a car analogy in.)

    A major advantage of the USA plug is that it's smaller - you can plug six appliances into a power strip and not have the power strip be the size of a house. If you have a laptop bag, the USA plug isn't some great big lump in the bag. The US plug is designed for its intended use, not designed to be safe even if being used by newborn babies to plug in their industrial welding equipment.

    You might say, well, the US plug can't carry as much current for heavy loads. It's true that you can't get as much power through a single US plug as you can through a UK 13A plug, but that's because the voltage is higher. The US plug can carry 15A at 125V all day long. My wire feed welder works just fine plugged into a normal US 15A outlet - the plug doesn't even get warm.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:54PM (#29984158) Homepage
    They sell 2-prong to 3-prong adapters because you typically attach the ground to the cover screw via a small prong or wire.

    You're supposed to, but typically people don't. In fact, they overwhelmingly don't.
  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rhys (96510) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:02PM (#29984282) Homepage

    They do have the convenient habit of only coming in "flat surface mount" variety though, so the cord is already against the wall. Or at least, the cord sticks no further from the wall than the plug itself does. Most US plus for some reason think it is a great idea to stick far further out from the wall than even the huge British plug due to plugging in perpendicular. You can get the smaller "flush mount" plugs for some things in the US (usually extension cords, sometimes computer power cables) but they're then next to impossible to remove because they become so flat (a bonus for the larger British plug).

    I also don't recall the British plugs having the "plug falls out of the wall due to the weight of the cord" problem that FAR TOO MANY US sockets do. It could just be the house we lived in when we were in England had new enough sockets that wasn't a problem -- I don't know for sure. I do know I've experienced the plug-falls-out problem in many, many houses and apartments in the US.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:03PM (#29984296)

    A shock from an American outlet will very rarely kill you (I supposed it COULD, but I've never seen it). When I was a teenager I worked with a construction (drywall) company doing random labor tasks. Several times during things like remodels I and my brother (who also worked with me) would get assigned things like tearing out a ceiling and removing the insulation. Both of us accidentally grabbed a hot wire at least once. It hurts like a sumuma-bitch, but actually inside the home that level of current is the type of shock you can just walk off. A 5-10 minute break and we were back to work.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rising Ape (1620461) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:03PM (#29984318)

    I'd rather have the option than even more regulation.

    How can you object to something that improves safety and comes with no inconvenience whatsoever?

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_lesser_gatsby (449262) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:06PM (#29984390) Homepage
    I'm no electrician

    Thank goodness for that!
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:12PM (#29984486) Journal
    They are comparing American tech from nearly 50 years ago, to UK current tech. Amazing. The double bladed American that they looked IS around, BUT, none of the homes built after early 1960s are allowed to use. ALL have the double blade, with a single pin (ground or earth). Whats more, since the 70's, America does not use fuses. We use Circuit Breakers, and since the mid 80's have required GFCI on all our lines. Screw the SLOW BURNING FUSE that allows a heck of a charge before blowing. I have to say that I prefer the gfci/cb approach since it is much faster acting and always assured
  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:15PM (#29984546)

    Maybe it's just me, but at a certain point I WANT the plug to come out of the socket. I know I can't be the only person in the world who's tripped over a cord sometime over another, and the plug just yanking out of the socket is a lot better than the actual wire popping or the outlet coming out of the wall. It's the real-world equivalent of a fuse - when something is obviously wrong make the system break at the safest and most convenient point rather than somewhere random.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:15PM (#29984552) Journal
    The falling out of the wall problem isn't the most alarming issue with US plugs. The falling slightly out, just far enough that the connection is still (poorly) made and you get sparks flying when you turn the device on problem is. How anyone could defend this design is beyond me.
  • by Balial (39889) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:16PM (#29984560) Homepage

    I've used power plugs in a bunch of different countries. Most have their advantages and disadvantages. US is small, Australia it's clear which direction you plug it in, Europe has some good safety features... but the british plug has nothing going for it. It's big and ugly, and when you put two on the wall next to each other, you can't work out which way is up. The authors are retarded.

  • Re:No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tarsir (1175373) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:16PM (#29984572)
    You claim to have read the article, and yet, on the first page one finds this little gem

    So, let's take a 100 per cent objective* look at the plugs and plug sockets of the world"

    Where the attached footnote read

    *Objectivity in this sentence has a one-off, government-approved change in definition. Its meaning here, and only here, is the exact opposite of what it usually means.

    I'm pretty sure the article was not meant as a hard-headed, detailed comparison of different plug styles. Of course, after reading that, and seeing that it was a 10 page article with approximately 2 sentences per page, I declined to read the rest of the article.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1s44c (552956) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:20PM (#29984640)

    Fuse? Who needs that when the entire house is wired with circuit breakers [wikipedia.org]. Fast enough to save your life if you drop the hairdryer into the bathtub.

    Because the fuse trips at 2 to 13 amps and the circuit breaker will be way higher?

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:21PM (#29984656)

    They don't save lives. Sockets in other countries don't kill anyone, and therefore there are noone to save.

    UK plugs are just damn inconvenient and ugly. Carrying around chargers in the UK is a pain.

  • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:22PM (#29984676) Homepage

    Americans are somehow able to resist the temptation that apparently so often overcomes their British counterparts to stick things in the socket other than a plug.

    Children.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1s44c (552956) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:23PM (#29984684)

    Then how is it that Americans created Mac OS X while a Finn created Linux?

    A computer scientist created Mac OS X and a computer scientist created Linux. That fact that one is a Finnish and one is an American had nothing to do with it.

  • Re:Swiss (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:27PM (#29984748) Homepage

    The Swiss design is OK. it's compatible with European sockets which is nice. I still prefer the British design though.

    The main problem is that for some reason plugs often fail to easily go into sockets. I don't know why. This is a problem I had exactly never in the UK but I frequently have to wiggle the plug around to make it go in.

  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:30PM (#29984836)

    I like useless articles like this sometimes. This one gets the electrical nuts out of the woodwork and I start learning things that I'd normally have no reason to go out and look, but are interesting nonetheless.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:31PM (#29984840)

    How can you object to something that improves safety and comes with no inconvenience whatsoever?

    He's American.

  • Re:Can't Have Both (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ak_hepcat (468765) <leif@nOspam.denali.net> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:35PM (#29984900) Homepage Journal

    Symmetry and polarization aren't enemies.

    Look at a 1/4" stereo jack. Sleeve, ring, tip. -> ground, neutral, hot.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:43PM (#29985048)

    Having visited the US, and used both US and UK plugs, I say what you call overengineering, I call engineering. US plugs are a step above crimped wires.

    And don't get me started on US vs. UK road signs. Ours are works of art in comparison...

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:47PM (#29985162)
    Its because Americans are reflexively proud of everything with a US flag stamped on it, yet at the same time are culturally unable to make a better, standardised design widespread.
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:49PM (#29985204) Journal

    >>>That'll be 15 amps at 110v: to get the same power out of a British socket would only require 7.5 amps which would be (relatively speaking) safer, surely?

    No actually 110 volt would be safer because that's typically not enough "push" to overcome skin resistance, and therefore little harm will be done.

    Also in the U.S. we do have 220 volt plugs for high-energy devices that need more energy - things like stoves or hot water tanks. They are bulky three-prong affairs.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:52PM (#29985260)

    Perhaps you should read it. But get yourself a sense of humour first.

  • Re:No. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:17PM (#29985784)
    Freedom over putting someone else at risk? Ill take regulations thanks. When you get so many fires because morons overload the circuits or put the wrong kind of extension cord on their outlet... yeah, I have a problem with that. Regulations protect those of us that dont know from doing something stupid. Relate it to the current banking/loan fiasco... if we had kept the restrictions we would have been better off. And dont bring "learning" into this, we have repeated so many mistakes in the US government its not even funny. Iraq/Vietnam comes to mind.
  • by astralbat (828541) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:41PM (#29986280)
    You suspect humour? I suspect that Americans do not understand it at all! I was laughing all the way! But maybe that's because I'm British and I understand that this is really just a complete piss take on the rest of the world. If I had wanted to read a serious comparison, I would have read Wikipedia
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:51PM (#29986416) Journal
    1) The European socket has a plastic outside cone for insulation. If the cable is partially unplugged, you cannot touch it with your fingers. The British version has nothing.

    Except Insulated pins [wikimedia.org]

    2) The European socket allows you to plug the cables upside down (which is extremely helpful in certain situations).

    I've never need to do this. I don't think I've ever seen a European plug inverted either. Can't be that useful.

    Honestly, the european plug is fine. So's the UK style. The article was stupid, but it's equally stupid getting upset over it.
  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pluther (647209) <pluther.usa@net> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @06:04PM (#29986638) Homepage

    Other way around, I believe.
    Building code requiring it came first.
    Bank started requiring it later to make sure the building is up to code.

  • by omb (759389) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @06:13PM (#29986776)
    This is a fairly simple EE design problem, to understand the issues you need just to understand four issues (a) center tapped 230V 3 phase, (b) Current density, (c) ground make first, (d) over-current prevention or fusing.

    The UK plug is the most idiotic, since it makes room for a local fuse, in the plug, and assume that 13A is a nominative current drain; this is idiotic since the need to make room for a consumer changeable fuse, 13A slow-blow, makes the plug HUGE. It also assumes that the consumer will down-rate the plug fuse to obtain fusing descrimination (never happens, and if it does it is invalidated by the first idiot to change fuse, (no 3A use 13A). Thus both plugs and receptacles are too big.

    [Beware] in the Arab World eg Saudi uk shape is used to indicate 130V 1/2 phase, half unknown !!! US 230 is 230V bi-phase, phase unknown !

    EU Round and Swiss, round triangular, allow far closer packing, and are much more sensible with lights, TV, radio, computer ... No Fuse, is good

    US 115/230 are also small, no fuse but 115 has no ground and 230 you dont know the polarity or phase without test gear.

    Three old EE comments, transistors protect fuses, not the other way round,

    Murphy is alive and well, UK fuses are are almost uniformly WRONGLY installed/replaced. The UK design is klunky and based in invalid prejudiced against round pin, which has been a solved problem for 50 years. With UK you do know polarity, but that is very easily tested with a multi-meter. The Swiss, but not the EU plug, which is reversible, enforce neutral continuity.

    Everything >10A should be hard-wired or special, its too risky to allow reverse L/N incase N (only) gets fused

    Local fusing never works for the normal average joe

    Modern over-current, current balance, distribution is better, safer and allows the use of unfused plugs, with L/N balance and overcurrent detection do soft shutdown or force fuse blow at the discretion of the designer.
  • by jo_ham (604554) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (999mahoj)> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @06:33PM (#29987032)

    That "current UK tech" *is* from 50 years ago - that's how our plugs have been for a very long time - since 1946 in fact. So 63 years.

    We also have RCDs on our circuits in addition to fuses - Even the ancient house I live in has an RCD protecting the mains sockets and the light circuits.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @06:38PM (#29987104)

    The European socket allows you to plug the cables upside down (which is extremely helpful in certain situations).

    Agreed. I also think that designing a plug to avoid polarity reversal is counter-productive. A plug system which allows the live and neutral connectors to be reversed forces developers to design appliances such that they're safe regardless of polarity. If that is not the case, then a trivial household wiring mistake can cause lethal accidents.

    Contrary to how it's portrayed in the article, the European socket *does* have grounding. In fact, it has two grounding pins, top and bottom.

    They're referring to the flat "Euro-plug", which does indeed not provide grounding. That's the one you described as being "for small appliances and gadgets", which btw is not the distinction. The Euro-plug is used for devices where the current draw is low and risk of coming in contact with live voltage is avoided through the design of the device.

    I kind of like the Schuko plug, but if the IEC 60906-1 plug were non-polarized, that would be even better.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @06:49PM (#29987292) Journal

    So (excluding British plugs) which plug would you choose to champion? Any?

    Of those that I've used personally - Soviet, Euro, Australian/NZ, and North American - I liked the southern one [wikipedia.org] most, strictly on the basis of convenience. It has 3 asymmetric pins, so you can grab it and plug it in correctly in one try without even looking at it, a feat I couldn't repeat with any other design. Plus, having a power switch on every plug is both handy and a good safety feature (and the switches normally also glow when turned on, so if you keep one that way you can find it in the dark).

    Looking at pictures for British plug, it seems that its 3 pins are in a similar configuration, but there's no switch or glowing LED.

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NerveGas (168686) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @07:16PM (#29987754)

    Not only that, they lauded the Italian plugs for handling "up to 10 or even 16 amps". Any standard American plug will do 15, and for a couple of dimes more, you can get one that will do 20 amps.

    They deride the American plug because an ungrounded (2-prong) plug can make the cord easy to pull out, laud the 3-pronged European plugs for being harder to pull out... but ignore 3-pronged (grounded) American plugs.

    The shuttering that they say makes UK plugs better... is now mandatory in the USA.

    I agree on the "nationalistic garbage" stuff. Maybe there's a bit of ignorance mixed in, but still... he just wanted to gripe about the Americans.

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @07:40PM (#29988054)
    So if an adult doesn't replace the worn out receptacles (a problem which is amusingly alien to a UK reader, by the way) then their 4 year old child 'deserves' to be fatally electrocuted? Why don't you think before you bash your fists on the keyboard next time?
  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blackraven14250 (902843) * on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @08:10PM (#29988414)
    But kids will happily get their hands on pens, paper clips, random tools (screwdriver?), forks, tweezers, keys and coins. In fact, you would be amazed what kids get their hands on in the course of 30 seconds.
  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 05, 2009 @12:44AM (#29990946)

    "US plugs are safer because they only carry 110v. That, in and of itself, makes US wiring safer. 220v is much more deadly than 110v"

    It makes no difference, both voltages are high enough to kill.

    "I have grabbed live wires at a plug a few times in my life, and it just jolts your arm a little bit."

    You can do the same thing with 220-240v with no issues in the same circumstances as 110v.
    ie: keep one hand behind your back, and prevent even an accidental touch from creating a circuit across your chest. And make sure you touch things such that contracting muscles will pull you away from the current.

    I know of several people that have had a hand zapped by 240v, and you'll find a lot of tv repairman that have been zapped by far worse.

    It's the current that kills, the voltage just needs to be high enough to overcome the resistance of your skin, and even 110v is more than enough for this.

    "Bottom line, I am seriously not worried one bit about grabbing live outlet lines. It hurts a little, so I don't do it for fun, but I'm really not worried about dying or anything."

    You are ignorant or stupid I'm not sure which. It is dangerous, the fact that you have not yet been killed doesn't mean you won't be.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 05, 2009 @01:04AM (#29991092)

    Yes, I said that in my post. It's not hiding:

    Other appliances, generally those with electric heating elements (such as a range, water heater, furnace, machines such as a tablesaw) run off dedicated 220V circuits.

    Every appliance you mention, with the exception of the washer (which receives hot water from the water heater) runs on 220V in the US.

    Still, surely it's more convenient to be able to plug in your heater/kettle/hoover into any plug and not need a dedicated circuit ?

  • Re:um no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_womble (580291) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @02:46AM (#29991714) Homepage Journal

    8 fast loading pages with an extremely funny and often quite lengthy paragraph or two on each, plus a picture of what each page is talking about. Not eprfect, but well worth the clicks.

    I live in a country in which sockets may either be the current British square pin type, or the old British round pin type. Appliances may come with almost any type of plug: things that do not need an earth usually come with a two pin round pin plug, but you may find almost anything: I have the French German hybrid type, Australian and others.

    You get the same variety on UPS sockets. Getting everything to plug in can be fun, if you are not careful what you buy.

    Obviously people use adaptors a lot, and routinely put pens (I find chopsticks better, though) into three pin sockets to get two pin plugs in. Unfortunately the brand of adaptor most commonly available, although very cheap, has a tendency to short out and melt.

  • Re:um no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_womble (580291) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @02:49AM (#29991734) Homepage Journal

    I forgot to say: we actually use two types of round pin plug, because the smaller type cannot carry enough current for many devices (oven, microwave ovens, air-conditioners...), so there is a bigger type for them.

    Having lived with all of the above I agree with the conclusion that the British square pin plugs are the best.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 05, 2009 @04:05AM (#29992062)

    Wait - so you've got two different, incompatible standards (110V and 220V) in the same country?

  • Re:US vs UK... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @06:23AM (#29992746)

    From the stats I can find, UK deaths by electrical outlets are .486 per 100,000 and US rates are .015 per 100,000, more than an order of magnitude safer, even without massive numbers of safety features.

    Does that include death by fires stared by electrical faults? I don't know the statistics, but anecdotally, household fires are alarmingly more common in the US than anywhere else I've lived.

  • Re:Non-optimal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xaxa (988988) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @07:23AM (#29993052)

    Symmetrical

    But the live is more dangerous than the neutral. UK plugs must have the fuse right after the live pin, and appliances must have the power switch in the live wire (nowadays probably both wires).

    if the spring wears out

    The only times I've seen broken UK sockets is when they've been abused, e.g. the ones in the back row of a school science lab. House sockets from the 1960s still work.

    I don't see the advantage to fusing the plug versus a device with a replaceable fuse.

    It protects the wire between the socket and the appliance. The maximum current from a UK circuit is 30A, but that requires a bulky cable (like the one in the wall). You don't want that bulky cable on a desk lamp, so you put a fuse in the plug. The desk lamp will typically have a 1 or 3A fuse in the plug.

    Unfortunately, the 3, 5 and 13A fuses are the same size, so it's possible to make the desk lamp unsafe by replacing the 3A fuse with a 13A one. People sometimes do this if the fuse keeps blowing (the lamp is probably faulty...) and end up with an unsafe appliance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 05, 2009 @09:36AM (#29993936)

    That's right. But for all intents and purposes, the average consumer will never see anything but a 110V outlet. 220V is only used for major appliances and the sockets are incompatible with everyday consumer products.

    UK: Buy large appliance, plug in to any socket, use (most houses have *loads* of double sockets these days).
    At worst, fit extra socket by breaking into ring main (no wiring to consumer unit/fuse box required, no spare fuseway/rcd required). Simple, can be done (legally) by any competent DIY person, no insepction etc. required.

    USA: Buy large appliance, no 220V connection spare, serious wiring job, probably contractor involved may double cost of appliance.

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