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Power Technology

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

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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  • um no (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:11PM (#29983232)

    8 fucking pages with two small paragraphs on each page? fuck. off.

  • by cabjf ( 710106 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:11PM (#29983250)
    There already is an international standard. The problem is that no one is going to invest a ton of money to scrap their current system (pun?) and switch over to it. []
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:14PM (#29983326)

    Seriously, why don't you just post "Nothing happened today" in big letters on the front page?

  • Swiss (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:14PM (#29983338)

    Of the various plugs and sockets I've spent time living with (Australian, US, European, British), my personal favourite is the Swiss one. Small, secure, strong and aesthetically pleasing. The habit the Swiss have of also integrating a socket with most light switches is also quite useful.

  • Better idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:15PM (#29983362) Journal

    If there was some move to rewire the entire world with a single residential standard I'd vote for NEMA L15.

    Single-phase power is a hack.

  • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kell Bengal ( 711123 )
      I find the low score for Aussie plugs surprising. I wonder if they're examining the new (shielded conductor) plugs, or the old unshielded ones.
    • 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 pastafazou ( 648001 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:30PM (#29983686)
    America [] gave birth to the ultimate socket.
  • by adamwright ( 536224 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:39PM (#29983872) Homepage

    Min-Kyu Choi's Folding UK style plug. All the goodness of the UK plug, none of the bulky crap. []

  • Oh yeah? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @03:43PM (#29983934) Homepage Journal

    Well, the Canada plug is better than the U.S.A. plug!

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

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


      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 Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:30PM (#29984830) Homepage

    Technically, the IEC power connector, as found on the back of most computers, is one of the best. You usually see a chassis-mount IEC male connector and a cord-mount female connector, but the reverse forms are available. [] IEC "wall sockets" [] are sometimes found in rackmount server outlet strips. The plug is shrouded, and the socket has an enclosing slot for the shroud, so at no time are energized pins exposed. The shroud engages the enclosing slot before the pins make contact. That's a key safety feature. It allows a smaller plug; if exposed pins are energized while the plug is being plugged in, the plug has to be made larger to keep fingers away from the pins.

    IEC is a flat-pin design, which is good. Getting a large contact area on round pins is hard, so round-pin connectors of a given size usually carry less current. Flat-pin contacts just slide between two flat spring-loaded blades, which can accommodate wear on both surfaces. The split-cylinder contacts of round-pin female connectors have to match closely, so as they wear, the inside radius of the cylinder increases and no longer properly matches the pin. Round pins vs. flat contact blades are sometimes used; they wear better, but the the contact area is small.

    The older round-pin European connectors are only rated for 10A, sometimes only 7.5A. At 240V, this is adequate. IEC connectors are rated for 15A, and there's a 20A form.

    Today we expect connectors to just work, but it took considerable engineering to get to that point. As late as 1980, computers had serious problems with connector unreliability.

  • objective my ass... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MoFoQ ( 584566 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:37PM (#29984936)

    there's no "objectivity" in that article.
    Shoot...just look at the Dutch plug (no pun intended): Two paragraphs, one sentence each. The UK one, it's like reading a biography.

    That and there were some facts missing.
    Japan uses 100V [] not 110V
    GFCI sockets exist in the US
    The British mains (aka 230V mains) are much more potent so they needed shutters 'cuz it was killing kids (oh will someone think of the children!)
    Besides, the shutters are in the socket not the plug and guess what, shutters exist for other types OTHER than the British type (aka Type G).

    Here's another kicker: just because there's a fuse in the plug [], doesn't make it safer. A 13A fuse (the max) can fit in a 3A cord. In order for the fuse to cut the power, it has to melt but in this case, the cord will melt and catch on fire before the fuse does. FAIL
    A GFCI socket (which is fair to claim as the article brings in shutters on the Type G socket) will detect current even small amounts leaking to ground (a fault) and shut the power off immediately. There are even sockets that have other kinds of resettable circuit breakers as well.
    And some appliances have a fuse box on the back that's connected directly to the cord.

    Now as far as shuttering goes, guess what...they have 'em for Type B too, known as tamper resistant [] meant to protect children from shock!

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:11PM (#29985678)
    I confess. I took the 12-step plan to recovery and although I will always be a connectoholic, I'm all right so long as you don't get me started on the subject.

    The best system in the world, for real, is a combination of the Europlug and the Schuko plug. Proper Europlugs and Schuko plugs have bodies which fit partly into the wall so the load is not taken by the pins. The Europlug pins are partly insulated so if you can see metal, it's safe. You can fit lots of them onto a power strip, so a strip for electronics can have many connectors in a small space while a power extender can give you 16A in a small footprint.

    The reason the UK still has the BS1363 plug is because it has square pins, and the manufacturers thought the Chinese would not want to invest in special tooling to make them when they had the world of round pins or cheap strip pins (as in US) to go after. Then Mrs. Thatcher came along and they decided to let the Chinese make them anyway.

    Every time you buy a computer in the UK you get a BS 1363 to IEC lead and a Schuko to IEC lead. That's how cheap they are: manufacturers throw them away rather than be bothered to have two different SKUs.

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission