Around the World with Power Plugs


#1

The world has never had a standard style of power plug and probably never will. The history of how types of plugs came to be is varied and colorful. We get calls about varying voltages and plug types when people are travelling or producing a product for other countries. We’ll be looking at the types of power cables Digi-Key carries with international plugs.

Plugs have a couple of ways of referencing.

  • By type – Type A, Type C etc.
  • By standard
    BS1363A (UK)
    AS3112 (Australia, New Zealand)
    SEV 1011 (Switzerland)

In this post, I have only included those plug types that we carry on a cord, or in the case of the Type C, have in an adapter kit.

  • The types that we do not have any product in are:
    • D, used in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
    • E, a variation of the F, used in Europe.
    • K, used in Denmark and Greenland.
    • M, used in S. Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

Type A or NEMA 1-15

  • North and Central America, Japan among others
  • Japanese plugs are not polarized
  • Ungrounded
    image

Type B or NEMA 5-15

  • Mainly N. and C. America, Japan
  • 15 amp, grounded
    image

Type C or CEE 7/16

  • Most of Europe except UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta
  • Popularly known as the “europlug”
  • Ungrounded
  • Type C sockets are not allowed any longer
  • A Type C plug will fit perfectly into type E, F, J, K, or L sockets
  • Probably the single most used international plug
    image

Type F or CEE 7/4 or “Schuko”

  • The grounded version of the “europlug”
  • “Schutzkontakt”, German word meaning “earthed/grounded contact”
  • Most of Europe except UK
    Example Cord : Qualtek Q134-ND
    image

Type G or BS 1363

  • Used in UK, Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong
  • BS 1363 requires a three-prong grounded and fused plug.
  • British outlets have shutters on the line and neutral contacts to prevent sticking things into the socket. When the longer ground pin makes contact first, the shutters open to allow the entry of the other two contacts.
  • The UK uses a “ring” system, so everything is on the same line. Then, everything plugged in has a fuse on its cord.
  • “British plugs are no doubt the safest in the world, but also the most hulking and cumbersome. That’s why people often make fun of them saying that British plugs are mostly bigger than the appliance they’re connected to…”
    Example Part : Qualtek Q137-ND
  • Type G adapter with CUI multi plug wall warts.
    image

Type H or SI 32

  • Used exclusively in Israel, W. Bank and Gaza.
  • The flat bladed are beginning to be phased out in favor of the round pins. The sockets since the late 80’s have had the round cutout in the middle to accommodate type C prongs.
    Example Part : Qualtek Q423-ND
    imageimage

Type I or AS3112 / IRAM 2073

  • Used in Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, New Guinea etc) and Argentina.
  • In Argentina, the line and neutral are reversed.
  • Type I adapter with CUI multi plug wall warts
    Example Part Numbers Q417-ND & Q407-ND
    imageimageimage

Type J or SEV 1011

  • Used almost exclusively in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
    Example Part : Qualtek Q409-ND
    image

Type L or CEI 23-50

  • Used in Italy
  • Center pin is ground
  • A Type C plug will fit perfectly into the Type L socket.
    Example : Qualtek Q414-ND
    image

Adapters

Many of the multi plug wall warts have A, C, G and I adapters.
image

Conclusion

I hope this helps as an overview of the differences in plugs. If you have any questions, please feel free to reply to this post.

A little related information on world-wide voltages

Most of the countries in the world use some variation of 220/230/240VAC, usually at 50Hz. North America uses mostly 110/115/120VAC, at 60Hz. Some countries, like Brazil, list the areas and cities and their different voltages! The most oddball I found were 127 (Aruba, Mexico, parts of Brazil) and 231 (Botswana). In Afghanistan, the listed voltage is 240, but be aware it can vary between 160 to 280!

Voltages worldwide varied greatly in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, due to the explosion of development of electrically driven products. Much of the difference resulted from the needs of differing components – motors ran best at x, while arc lights and transformers ran best at y. Much of Southern California was still running at 50Hz as recently as 1948.

In Japan, the western part of the country (Kyoto and west) uses 60 Hz and the eastern part (Tokyo and east) uses 50 Hz. This originates in the first purchases of generators from AEG in 1895, installed for Tokyo, and General Electric in 1896, installed in Osaka.

As the 20th century continued, interest in international trade in electric goods began to settle the frequencies out into the 50 Hz and 60 Hz.

World-wide Voltages