The Electrical Standards Wars - Don't Get Shocked



  • @sloosecannon said:

    in the US, "shutters" are not standard.

    I know. The US has many standard sockets for "mains" voltages.
    None of them have shutters as standard, several of them are really quite dangerous (stagepin is insane) and the types usually found in a home or office environment break if you look at them too hard, and the most common falls out if you go near them.

    Twistlock types are nicely secure, but weld easily and are even more fragile when disconnected.

    You have really shitty electrics that side of the pond.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @lightsoff said:

    You have really shitty electrics that side of the pond.

    Well, perhaps, but there's also an underlying assumption that people aren't drooling morons, eager for a chance to clean up the gene pool.

    Also, to be fair, while it's technically[1] true we do have "many" standard sockets, by far the vast majority of things most people use use just the one (or sometimes the 220V plug, but you might normally only have 2-5 things in a house that use it.)

    [1] yes, yes, the best kind, etc.


  • mod

    @lightsoff said:

    I know. The US has many standard sockets for "mains" voltages.

    If by "many" you mean 5, then sure (there are a couple more, but these are the most common). The standard outlets used in North America are[1]:

    • NEMA 1-15 ungrounded (Type A) Since NEMA 1 plugs can safely be used in NEMA 5 outlets and NEMA 5 outlets are required in new building construction in the US and Canada, these outlets are becoming a bit of a novelty.
    • NEMA 5-15 grounded (Type B) This type should be familiar to many people in North America. Rated for 15 A and 125 V.
    • NEMA 5-20 Rated for slightly higher currents. Some versions of the NEMA 5-20 are designed to be backwards compatible with 5-15 and 1-15 plugs, such as the 5-20RA(Canada)/5-20R(USA) shown below.
    • NEMA 14-30 Rated up to 30 A and 240 V in a split phase setup. This outlet type is generally used for things like an electric clothes driers.
    • NEMA 14-50 Rated up to 50 A and 240 V in a split phase setup. This outlet type is often used for things like electric ovens or ranges.

    Basically, we have multiple outlet types to make sure you don't accidentally overload a circuit by plugging something into the wrong outlet.

    Any of the first three outlets can be handled by the outlet covers you can purchase at basically any store. The other two are located somewhere a small child cannot reach and are generally in use anyway, so outlet covers for are not really necessary or in demand.

    @lightsoff said:

    You have really shitty electrics that side of the pond.

    And yet considering our "shitty" electrics, the danger is pretty low. 7 children per day, 2,555 children per year, are treated for electrical shock from tampering with wall outlets[2],[3]. This is probably because the outlets are much too small for anyone's fingers, and you basically have to use something like a paperclip to shock yourself. Between the low number of injuries and the ready availability of outlet covers, it seems like building shutters into the outlets here in North America is a solution looking for a problem.

    [3] To put that in perspective, there are about 62.3 million children age 0-14 in the United States[4].



  • note: US-related content

    Oddly, just the other day I skimmed through a handyman's magazine that claimed that a new shuttered design was required for all new work... plug compatible with the old.

    (Also claims that GFI was required basically everywhere, and if you fiddle with anything other than 1-to-1 replacement your adding a GFI somewhere in the circuit.)

    Please refute. (Please, please, this would be such a pain....)


  • mod

    From what I can find, the National Electric Code (NEC) began requiring tamper resistant outlets in new home construction since 2008. However, the NEC is not law and is not universally adopted across the United States. Even in states and municipalities that adopt the NEC, alterations are often made to local codes. Whether this applies in your area depends on the local codes.

    I know that my area did not require these outlets as recently as 2011.

    As for GFCI, as far as I can determine, the NEC only requires it in wet areas (e.g., kitchens, bathrooms, exterior)



  • Knew I could count on you! THX.

    I suspected some such since I couldn't recall even seeing shuttered outlets at the local Home Despot.


    They've got shutters... they've got outlets... but no shuttered outlets. :rimshot:



  • @abarker said:

    NEMA 14-30

    Not sure I've seen this one... But I'm very familiar with NEMA 10-30

    That's the connector on my RV.



  • Reminds me vaguely of NZ.



  • @lightsoff said:

    None of them have shutters as standard, several of them are really quite dangerous (stagepin is insane) and the types usually found in a home or office environment break if you look at them too hard, and the most common falls out if you go near them.

    What the hell? I've had really old sockets that were worn out where the plug would fall out. Nothing you describe sounds remotely familiar to me.

    @lightsoff said:

    You have really shitty electrics that side of the pond.

    :shrug: It all works well enough, but I wouldn't trust an evaluation from you based on the rest of your post.



  • @abarker said:

    As for GFCI, as far as I can determine, the NEC only requires it in wet areas (e.g., kitchens, bathrooms, exterior)

    Kitchens within 6' of a sink, bathrooms, laundry rooms (but only on the 120VAC-only outlets -- the dryer outlet for an electric dryer doesn't need one, and often can't be fitted with one in existing construction), outdoors, and in unfinished basements.

    @dcon said:

    Not sure I've seen this one... But I'm very familiar with NEMA 10-30

    The 10-30 is Hot/Hot/Neutral while the 14-30 is the grounded (4 pin) version.



  • You grew up with them, of course you think they're fine.
    People here who grew up with adapters to plug the iron into the light fitting thought they were fine too.

    Doesn't mean either of you are right.

    The NEMA 1-15/5-15 are the two most common in a domestic situation. They come out very easily with a light tug on the wire - encouraging people to unplug things that way, damaging the cable.

    In use, the 1-15 tends to sit at an angle, exposing live contacts to a small finger or teaspoon.
    They often arc while doing so which damages the socket contacts.

    Lots of real users smash off the earth/ground pin of the NEMA 5-15, defeating the only safety device you have.

    The reason for the relatively low electric shock death rate over there is the low voltage. Unfortunately you pay for this with a higher rate of deaths due to electrical fires.

    Some states require arc-fault detector trips in an attempt to reduce that. Personally, I think those are daft due to the false-positive rate. A trip in your electrical cabinet that often pops when you unplug something is pretty useless.

    Also, I can draw 3kW from my 13A plug, you only get 1.8kW.
    My kettle boils faster than yours, this is important for tea.



  • @lightsoff said:

    You grew up with them, of course you think they're fine.

    Yes, but also I haven't observed the things you said about them. Even after growing up with them and living with them for my entire life.

    @lightsoff said:

    They come out very easily with a light tug on the wire - encouraging people to unplug things that way, damaging the cable.

    It seems like a reasonable amount of force to need to use to me.

    @lightsoff said:

    Lots of real users smash off the earth/ground pin of the NEMA 5-15, defeating the only safety device you have.

    Huh. Do they strip the insulation off the cords, too? Sorry, I haven't witnessed this, either. I'm not saying you didn't, but this is all sounding like blakey ranting about newlines in Linux files. IOW, something someone could abuse but that I've never encountered.

    @lightsoff said:

    My kettle boils faster than yours, this is important for tea.

    Yes, if you're going to have wrong priorities, go all the way.



  • @lightsoff said:

    You have really shitty electrics that side of the pond.

    Just like everything else infrastructure-wise, our shit is worse because we were the early adopters. You slow-ass Euroweenies, when you were fighting 4573 wars every year, waited for us to figure out what worked and what didn't before you developed any standards.

    Oh and added bonus: since you have the 4573 wars every year, you got the opportunity to rebuild your infrastructure occasionally.



  • @boomzilla said:

    Do they strip the insulation off the cords, too? Sorry, I haven't witnessed this, either.

    Perhaps I pay too much attention to plugs, but I've seen the earth pin smashed off many plugs every time I've visited the USA.
    Even in hotel rooms and supermarkets.

    I can't say I've seen any idiots deliberately stripping off the insulation in the US, though some damage due to yanking the cable is common.

    Edit: WTF did you do to the photo, DISCOOOOOOURSE!!??



  • I think Discourse broke your image.





  • @lightsoff said:

    Perhaps I pay too much attention to plugs, but I've seen the earth pin smashed off many plugs every time I've visited the USA.

    I'll try to pay more attention, but I've never noticed that.



  • The best part about
    https://what.thedailywtf.com/uploads/default/original/3X/b/2/b2c5b8858eb11dff695e3f6a548f61161d59073d.png
    is that while the other two main forms are 'make all my friends invulnerable while i shout' and 'make all my enemies unable to move while i shout',
    https://what.thedailywtf.com/uploads/default/original/3X/b/2/b2c5b8858eb11dff695e3f6a548f61161d59073d.png
    causes your controls to randomize every time you press one while it shouts. Nothing is a more apt description of what Jeff has created.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Just like everything else infrastructure-wise, our shit is worse because we were the early adopters.

    You're not wrong. At least, not completely.
    Being the early adopters always sucks, just look at the London Tube.

    However, the real reason for our much better system is that the UK decided to nationalise the electrical generation and distribution after private companies had been making multiple incompatible ones, and replaced them all with a new country-wide one designed from the ground up for safety and utility.

    I really doubt any modern politician of any colour would do that kind of thing today.



  • @lightsoff said:

    However, the real reason for our much better system is that the UK decided to nationalise the electrical generation and distribution after private companies had been making multiple incompatible ones, and replaced them all with a new country-wide one designed from the ground up for safety and utility.

    Then why the fuck does it serve-up baby-killing 220v in awful ring circuits?

    I mean, sure, maybe your plugs are better but they kind of HAVE to be since your shit serves up fatal amounts of electro-juice.

    And why? Oh: so electric tea-kettles will come to a boil slightly faster. THAT IS THE REASON. Jesus. "Designed from the ground up for safety" my ass.

    Oh and this from the country that puts the water heater for the shower WITHIN SLASH RANGE OF THE SHOWER!



  • Our plugs and sockets are designed such that it's impossible to get a shock unless it's either badly damaged or you're really trying to kill yourself (eg by using a thin metal rod and a socket "protector")

    The real reason for the higher voltage is to greatly reduce the risk of fire.

    PS: Shower water heaters are waterproof, and normally fitted inside the shower itself as the shower pipe comes out of them.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @lightsoff said:

    They often[citation needed] arc

    <post can't be empty


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @boomzilla said:

    Do they strip the insulation off the cords, too?

    I actually know someone who does this. But he's close to 60, and the houses he spent most of the last 40 years in were so old they had only a handful of outlets, none of which had the ground plug, so it was--sort of--reasonable to do that. (Break the ground contact, that is, not strip the insulation).

    Old houses like that, you can't really find an electrician who'll upgrade the outlets, because as soon as he starts he'll discover that the wiring, which was retrofitted into the house in 1930, is horrifyingly not up to code and will probably burn the house down someday, but which the landlord will not pay to bring it up to code, so snipping those leads is the only realistic option.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @lightsoff said:

    earth pin

    @lightsoff said:

    USA.

    If you're going to come to the USA and complain about our plugs, at least call it the ground pin, not the earth pin. I promise I'll (try to remember to) reciprocate if I ever go over there and pay attention to such things.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    What's that even from?



  • Megaman Battle Network. The third one is one of my favorite games of all time, partly because it has the most expansive post-game I've ever seen.


  • mod

    @tarunik said:

    Kitchens within 6' of a sink, bathrooms, laundry rooms (but only on the 120VAC-only outlets -- the dryer outlet for an electric dryer doesn't need one, and often can't be fitted with one in existing construction), outdoors, and in unfinished basements.

    So I wasn't specific on the kitchen part, but you notice that "e.g." part I used? It means "examples given". As in "Here are some examples. This is not an exhaustive list." Expanding on such a list just makes you look like an ass, as opposed to actually earning you any "pedant pointzzzz".

    :fa_flag: DENIED.



  • Actually, "e.g." does not stand for "examples given" but rather the Latin phrase "exempli gratia".

    Pendant awarded - abarker


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Enjoy your :fa_flag_checkered:



  • And from me.


  • mod

    @lightsoff said:

    The NEMA 1-15/5-15 are the two most common in a domestic situation. They come out very easily with a light tug on the wire - encouraging people to unplug things that way, damaging the cable.

    Not in any the places I've lived. That's generally a sign of a worn outlet that should probably be replaced.

    @lightsoff said:

    In use, the 1-15 tends to sit at an angle, exposing live contacts to a small finger or teaspoon.They often arc while doing so which damages the socket contacts.

    Really? I've never noticed them sitting at an angle. Of course, I only see them on ungrounded extension cords now, but still. And arcing? What kind of current are you pumping through‽

    @lightsoff said:

    Lots of real users smash off the earth/ground pin of the NEMA 5-15, defeating the only safety device you have.

    Define "lots". Not even sure where you are going with this, but basing some unknown action on the idiotic choices of a few is not a good way to develop policy.

    @lightsoff said:

    The reason for the relatively low electric shock death rate over there is the low voltage.

    This is a good thing. Also, why wire for a higher voltage than you need?

    @lightsoff said:

    Unfortunately you pay for this with a higher rate of deaths due to electrical fires.

    Let's see, 84,760 electrical fires in 2011[1] (last year I could find comprehensive stats for). 3,005 total fire deaths in that same year. Seeing that 6.1% of fires in the US were due to electrical malfunctions that year, let's buttume that the 6.1% carries over to the fire deaths as well. So we buttume that 183 people died as a result of electrical fires in 2011.

    Now in Great Britain we'll look at the same year[2]. 9 electrical fires were responsible for deaths in Great Britain in 2011. At first glance, that seems like a huge difference, but you also need to take into account total population of each country: 311.7 million for the US [3] and 63.26 million for the UK (yes, I Know it's not the same as Great Britain, but it's the best I could find)[3]. That works out to 0.587 deaths in electrical fires per 1,000,000 people in the United States and about 0.14 deaths in electrical fires per 1,000,000 people in the United Kingdom. Keep in mind that these ratios are skewed because:

    • The electrical fire death count for the US is an estimate, and may be incorrect.
    • The fire stats for Great Britain and the population stats for the United Kingdom do not cover the exact same group, so this ratio is already wrong.

    With these things in mind, I feel safe in saying that these ratios are extremely close, and that your statement about the US having a higher rate of electrical fire deaths is wrong.

    @lightsoff said:

    Some states require arc-fault detector trips in an attempt to reduce that. Personally, I think those are daft due to the false-positive rate. A trip in your electrical cabinet that often pops when you unplug something is pretty useless.

    You've already shown you don't know what you are talking about. Just stop.

    @lightsoff said:

    Also, I can draw 3kW from my 13A plug, you only get 1.8kW.My kettle boils faster than yours, this is important for tea.

    Uh-huh. Tell that to my gas stove. Not that I drink tea. Or have a kettle.


  • mod

    @mott555 said:

    Actually, "e.g." does not stand for "examples given" but rather the Latin phrase "exempli gratia".

    My apologies. Still doesn't change the rest of my post. Anyway<!-- 87c69ccc-3c6f-47d3-8c66-4f3fdb9def26 -->:


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @abarker said:

    Not in any the places I've lived. That's generally a sign of a worn outlet that should probably be replaced.

    Right. Any outlet in good shape should offer moderate resistance.

    @abarker said:

    I've never noticed them sitting at an angle.

    If you have some old beater of an outlet in the wall and you've got stuff plugged into it, the plugs might sag a bit, yeah. The apartment I'm living in now is about 40 years old, and most of the outlets are a little loosey-goosey like that (in addition to having the screws stripped, so the whole plate moves when you plug or unplug things. I might get around to asking that to be fixed one of these days, but everyone in the apartment is an adult or nearly so, and not likely to stick fingers, tongues, or forks in them like an English person apparently can't resist doing.


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @lightsoff said:

    Perhaps I pay too much attention to plugs, but I've seen the earth pin smashed off many plugs every time I've visited the USA.Even in hotel rooms and supermarkets.

    I've... Never seen that happen. Except on like.... Maybe a really, really old plug. And I'd be willing to bet that 90% of people would get a new plug rather than risk that (how would you even plug it in!?)


  • SockDev

    @sloosecannon said:

    And I'd be willing to bet that 90% of people would get a new plug rather than risk that

    please. I've renovated enough houses. people do exactly that.

    People also cap the T&P release valve on their water heaters because it starts leaking. (leading to a mythbusters episode containing my favorite explosion to date for that show)


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    Eh... True. Still. I've never seen that thing break off (you're more likely to get one of the other two bent, rendering that plug unusable)


  • SockDev

    @sloosecannon said:

    I've never seen that thing break off

    without human intervention neither have I


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    And.... I don't see any reason someone would break them off nowadays either. With the proliferation of the 3-prong outlets, there's no reason people should consider doing that. A few years ago maybe, but not now...


  • SockDev

    @sloosecannon said:

    I don't see any reason someone would break them off nowadays either.

    If it was good enough for my papi then by gosh darn it's good enough for me!


  • mod

    @sloosecannon said:

    And.... I don't see any reason someone would break them off nowadays either. With the proliferation of the 3-prong outlets, there's no reason people should consider doing that.

    Really? Old homes that still have 1-15 outlets (renovations are expensive), extension cords that are only 1-15 compliant (you mean you want me to drive to the store and get a new extension cord?).


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    I only know of one home in my area with 2 prong outlets.... of course they all use the adapter-thingys anyways (which is almost as bad, but doesn't permanently damage the cord...).

    Granted on the extension cords, although if you're using an extension cord that old..... You may have other issues



  • I work in the electrical industry. You don't.
    It's my fucking job to deal with these things.

    Here's the top hit on Google for arc fault detection:

    Note that as of 2014 the US now requires them throughout homes, used to be just bathrooms and kitchens. The explicit justification for that set of regulations was fire prevention.

    • Only new builds/rewires of course. Existing installs don't have to be changed unless rewiring.

    US electrical codes also vary quite a lot - even by district in some cases. There's a minimum national standard but many places have significant differences, even before you get into the fun and games of "permission to connect".

    EU electrical codes also have important differences between countries - but thankfully not by city.

    Eg, BS7671 (17th Ed.) and BS7909 are the current UK implementation of the EU electrical regs for permanent and temporary installs.

    Finally, your estimate gives an electrical fire death risk roughly five times higher in the USA, even after skewing the numbers to bring them closer (as one should when making buttumptions)

    Now if you were complaining about the UK's Part P then I'd agree completely. That was estimated to save less than one life annually and added a huge cost to a homeowner, as I'm now not allowed to sign off an install in my own kitchen - I can change sockets, but not rewire.


  • mod

    @sloosecannon said:

    Granted on the extension cords, although if you're using an extension cord that old..... You may have other issues

    Old?


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    sigh

    Fine, pendantry granted.


  • mod

    @lightsoff said:

    Note that as of 2014 the US now requires them throughout homes, used to be just bathrooms and kitchens. The explicit justification for that set of regulations was fire prevention.

    Are you basing that off the NEC? Cause that is not law, standards don't get applied universally across the US. Good luck back up this claim unless you do a lookup in each and every jurisdiction.


    @lightsoff said:

    Finally, your estimate gives an electrical fire death risk roughly five times higher in the USA, even after skewing the numbers to bring them closer (as one should when making buttumptions)

    You still forgot to take into account the conditions I noted about the rates I mentioned, didn't you? Let me point out the flaws in my statistics (again):

    @abarker said:

    - The electrical fire death count for the US is an estimate, and may be incorrect.

    • The fire stats for Great Britain and the population stats for the United Kingdom do not cover the exact same group, so this ratio is already wrong.

    In other words, the "5 times higher" rate is a high estimate. The real difference will be lower. How much lower? I do not know, as the information is incomplete.

    In any case, my initial estimates were wrong. In the report I reviewed from Great Britain, they separated deaths in fires caused by electrical distribution and deaths in fires caused by electrical appliances (missed that second one last time), both of which are electrical fires. So let's re-run the analysis: 26 deaths in electrical fires in Great Britain in 2011. That's 0.41 deaths in electrical fires per 1,000,000 people. Hmmm, that's not very different from the 0.587 in the US, is it?



  • @abarker said:

    NEMA 1-15

    I live in an old house that still has a few of these. Bit of a pain, as it limits what I can plug in where. And I'm not really sure whether any particular outlet that was upgraded to NEMA 5-15 was actually properly grounded, or just replaced with one that has a hole, but the hole doesn't actually connect to anything.

    @abarker said:

    becoming a bit of a noveltyantiquity.
    FTFY. "Novelty" means "new," which is exactly the opposite of the issue at hand.

    @abarker said:

    NEMA 14-30
    NEMA 14-50
    You rarely actually see those unless you're replacing appliances, as they tend to be hidden behind the dryer, stove or whatever.



  • @lightsoff said:

    I've seen the earth pin smashed off many plugs

    Stupid people do stupid things. This particular form of stupidity, however, is probably becoming less common as NEMA 1-15 outlets gradually go the way of the dodo.



  • @boomzilla said:

    I've never noticed that.

    You want to plug a 3-prong plug into a 2-prong outlet. What do you do? Go to Home Depot and buy an adapter with a pigtail that connects to a screw that probably isn't grounded, plug the cord into an outlet that isn't where you need to use the device, or cut/break the third pin off the plug. Some people choose option 3.



  • @abarker said:

    I've never noticed them sitting at an angle.

    Only the ones that are

    @abarker said:

    worn outlet[s] that should probably be replaced
    — the ones that the plugs fall out if you breathe on them. I have a couple like that in my bedroom.



  • @HardwareGeek said:

    — the ones that the plugs fall out if you breathe on them. I have a couple like that in my bedroom.

    My grandma's house is full of those. But her house was built probably in the 20's or 30's and doesn't have ANY 3-prong outlets that I know of.


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