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"Plug ugly" - Off in the distance
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The Bellinghman
Date: 2010-09-23 13:01
Subject: "Plug ugly"
Security: Public
Tags:travel
When it comes to mains plugs, the British Type G is probably the gold standard. Three pin so you can't insert it the wrong way, with socket shutters so kiddies can't poke into the live socket hole, part insulated shafts so you can't get a shock from the pins, fused so a short in the wire can't start a fire, it's been built with a safety-first attitude. It says "Yes, this electricity stuff is powerful and dangerous, and we need tiger bars to keep it contained".

You can also swing one on a cable as an effective anti-burglar weapon.

And that's its problem: it's bloody massive. On our recent trip, we had a bunch of universal plug adaptors with us, and for one item we took the Euro mains lead, because it was lighter than the UK plug lead and we'd be able to use it anyway.

So it was with some interest that we encountered the Australian socket for the first time. For our adaptors, using a .au socket meant bringing out the US two blade section, and gently twisting the blades so they were angled apart. And into the socket and hey - unlike the US case itself, where the weight of the adaptor would pull the whole thing down, these stayed where put.

The downside was that on a double socket, we couldn't get two in - the sockets are set much closer together. Happily, there were enough sockets around we could always make use of three adaptors.

(As for HK - they use the Type G - so we used the adaptors for that Euro lead).
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Jonathan Lewis-Jones
User: j_lj
Date: 2010-09-23 12:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You would think by now that there would be an international standard power socket and plug.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-09-23 12:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Here ....

Nice and neat. But since only Brazil has so far adopted that one, I think it may be years.
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Linz
User: k425
Date: 2010-09-23 12:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm waiting for these:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/mar/16/folding-plug-wins-design-prize
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nojay
User: nojay
Date: 2010-09-23 12:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You'll have a long wait. The folding plug is an intrinsically unsafe design with easily-broken parts that can expose live 240V metal contacts people can touch accidentally (or in the case of children, inquisitvely). I'm also not sure it can cope with a full 13A current feed given the rotating and wiping contacts inside it. Looks good though.

There are quite a few plug designs used internationally (the US is one of them) that can allow finger contact with live metal but they tend to be used in countries with a 110V supply and so they don't kill too many people each year.
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Linz
User: k425
Date: 2010-09-23 12:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
http://www.madeinmind.co.uk/plug.php Suggests it may be sooner rather than later!
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nojay
User: nojay
Date: 2010-09-23 12:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's nearly October, where are the sales announcements? The website claims they will be releasing plugs and associated hardware to the general public in 2010 but the last news update was back in February this year when the design won yet another award. The big news they should have had on the website by this time would be that the production design has received type approval and safety qualification from the British Standards Institute -- see BS 196 for details. That's where they brutalise the plug to ensure it fails safe, doesn't catch fire etc. even if it is abused, has water pored over it, gets prodded by idiots with screwdrivers etc. Without that type approval the plugs and other devices can't be legally sold here.

I suspect this folding plug is in fact vapourware; winning design awards and being a neat idea (and having a nice website) does not necessarily make it a certainty to reach the market.
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Linz
User: k425
Date: 2010-09-23 17:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm not saying it's going to be here on time - Apple aside, most new products don't hit their schedules. But I do think we're looking at a product that's probably going to appear in the next few years. Which in my world isn't too much of "a long wait".
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-09-23 12:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
US electrics scare me, especially the twist switches on bedside lamps.
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User: ramurphy
Date: 2010-09-23 13:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
:) And we Americans are totally bewildered at UK electrics.
Why, for instance, must the bathroom light switch be not in the bathroom? Why are houses not equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters instead of every small appliance having its own fuse?
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-09-23 13:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yep.

Much of the regulations go back to the days when 'ground fault circuit interrupters' weren't available (or 'earth leakage detectors'). Now that they are, well, having fuses as well is still nice.

As for the bathroom issue, when you have 240V (OK, now 230V), and wet hands, you want to make sure that people don't get killed. This means that you either keep the switch outside (in the hope that hands have been dried by then) or use the pull-cord that is pretty well endemic in domestic situations.

As in the basin plug post, I'm intrigued by the way that different places come up with different solutions. The US one is of taming electricity to 120V before it's allowed into house wall circuits. To a Brit used to untamed 240V raging through the mains, the comparatively flimsy US fittings are scary, because they are inadequate for 240V.
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User: ramurphy
Date: 2010-09-23 13:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The part of that which bewilders me is why then is it perfectly all right to have the kitchen light switch in the kitchen? There's water in kitchens too.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-09-23 13:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That's a fair question, to which I guess the answer is that the difference between the bathroom and the kitchen is that in the kitchen, bare wet feet are less common.
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2010-09-25 21:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
IIRC regulations also require a minimum 1 metre distance between mains sockets and sources of running water. (My kitchen may currently be illegal :-( )
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2010-09-23 13:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Simples: because 240 volts at up to 13 amps is Not Your Friend -- especially in a damp climate or a room with running water!

The fuse thing is because the current standard for British mains current wiring pre-dates cheaply-available circuit interruptors. But if you look in the household mains distribution board you'll see a bunch of ring mains, each with a separate circuit breaker *as well* as the one-per-plug fuses. Result? We can haz electric kettles that can brew up a pot of tea in less time than has elapsed since the last ice age, without burning the house down.

Edited at 2010-09-23 01:28 pm (UTC)
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User: ramurphy
Date: 2010-09-23 13:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I do think electric kettles are brilliant. The US is sadly lacking in them, though I guess they can be bought at considerable price. And Canada has 'em.
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Tim Illingworth
User: timill
Date: 2010-09-23 13:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
They are now common in Walmart (in the last year or so) at around $20 and up.
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Sheep with a guitar
User: sbp
Date: 2010-09-23 15:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I can't remember the last time I used a "manual" one. Or indeed the first :-)
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Tony Finch
User: fanf
Date: 2010-09-23 12:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
They say they are planning to launch products this year.

http://madeinmind.co.uk/plug.php
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User: khrister
Date: 2010-09-23 13:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ah, yes, overengineer the plug instead of having reasonable mains wiring. :)
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-09-23 13:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
'instead'? What's with this 'instead'?

(And as yet another level of defence, these days house wiring must only be done by a qualified electrician.)
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Barry: 00 Bikkits
User: hobnobs
Date: 2010-09-23 14:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:00 Bikkits
Not strictly true. Like-for-like replacement is still able to be done, so I was able to replace the light fittings and do some socket work in my place without having to go through the rigamarole of Building Notifications and the like, and mains wiring can be done by unqualified electricians if they are Part P certified as a competent person. (So DIY/home improvement people can still work on their homes as long as they pay someone who is able to give them a certificate to say they are competent...)

Where more than one utility is in the same room such as kitchens/bathrooms/boiler room/etc is where it starts to get complicated. At this point a new set of rules kick in, and certification/qualification is mandatory. (And probably inspection and testing too.)
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-09-23 14:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
OK, 'certified' rather than 'qualified', and with loopholes. But it's certainly tighter than it used to be only a few years back. I believe bellinghwoman has in the past worked on a mains distribution board, which is almost certainly forbidden her these days. And I've done work on lighting circuits with no actual clue what I was doing when I started (Electrical Engineering being the least liked part of my degree course).
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Barry
User: hobnobs
Date: 2010-09-23 14:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
*nod* Certified is certainly a better word. :)

Hmmm, it occurs to me that I'm not sure how MDB work fits in with Part P for things like just changing a dead MCB. (or a fuse, if it's really old school.)
As much as I can't stand the work, I was "lucky" enough (Part P wise) to do an Electrician Apprenticeship when I left school so Part P certification doesn't apply to me for the most part. I know enough to understand exactly what it is I'm doing, more than enough to know I can't stand doing it, and so avoid it if I can possibly help it. :)
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nojay
User: nojay
Date: 2010-09-23 14:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That's about the size of it, in fact. After WWII Britain was effectively broke. We had given the US all our money to buy weapons, fuel, food etc. to fight the Germans and because of that we couldn't afford to buy enough copper to wire houses properly for electricity supply. The ring mains system we adopted was designed to use less copper wire for the same current capacity but that meant fusing each device separately rather than running a single length of three-core wire between the fusebox and each socket. If you want to blame anyone, blame Mean Mr. Moustache, it's his fault.

Since a lot of devices already in use didn't have fuses fitted it was decided to put a fuse in the plug -- that allowed for low-current devices like lamps to have a low-rated 1A or 2A fuse and things like 3kW heaters to have a max-rated fuse of 13A; the fuse rating matched the device rather than having a 30A fuse (nowadays a GFCI aka RCD) at the fusebox as the only safety backstop.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-09-23 14:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"rather than running a single length of three-core wire between the fusebox and each socket"

The upside is that it ends up being a lot easier to add extra sockets or light fittings with a bus format.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-09-23 14:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ah, I see the difference.
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