Plug into the future

Plug into the future

As globalisation has increased the use of various devices and appliances, more and more adaptors (as well as adaptors-on-adaptors) are being used in South Africa.  This creates a risk of fires, short-circuiting and damage or malfunction of appliances. Enter South African National Standard (SANS) 164-0.

Jodi Scholtz, lead administrator of the South African Bureau of Standards, explains that with the array of appliances and devices that have become commonplace in today’s world, it is critical to ensure that the plugs and sockets are also changing to accommodate the more compact designs.

“New homes and offices should be fitted with the sockets according to the latest revision of SANS 164-0 and the different parts. We need to be aware of the improved switching arrangements of switched socket-outlets, the inclusion of the SANS 164-2, compact design for 16A plugs and most importantly the warnings that advise consumers not to use multiple adaptors plugged into one another,” she says.

Gianfranco Campetti, chairperson of the technical committee responsible for the development of the SANS 164 series of standards, adds that SANS 164-0 covers the general requirements for plugs and socket-outlets and is considered the base document for all the plugs and socket-outlets systems in South Africa.

“Every new building should have these new SANS 164-2 type of sockets and all appliances should be fitted with the new plugs. South Africa has been lagging with the implementation of these global changes and the continued use of adaptors onto adaptors will just lead to more dangerous electricity usage and malfunctioning of appliances.”

Campetti explains that since the 1900s British standards have guided South African installations and appliances. In the 1960s British standards for plugs and socket-outlets introduced a “flat pin” design, not adopted by South Africa, which continued to use the large round pin (SANS 164-1) design, still in use today.

Since then 21 different types of plugs have been introduced, of various configurations and ratings.

Summary of the amendments in SANS 164-0:

  • Reducing the minimum clearance of an adaptor body to the socket-outlet surface to 8 mm from 12 mm.
  • Introducing the symbol for adaptors not permitted to be plugged in one another in order to avoid straining the socket-outlet. This is due to a safety risk to the consumer as the straining of the socket-outlet can cause a short-circuit between the neutral and live pins. This symbol has to be embossed on the adaptor to warn consumers of the danger of plugging adaptors into one another.
  • Examples are provided to show how multiple switched socket-outlets for fixed installation should be switched.
  • Since 2018 the wiring code (SANS 10142-1) requires socket-outlets in electrical installations to adhere to the SANS 164-2, at every socket outlet point; however other configurations (such as SANS 164-1) may also be installed onto the same outlet.
  • The changes in SANS 164-0 are generic to all the SANS 164 series of standards, namely Part 1 to Part 6. This means that the SANS 164 series of plugs and socket-outlets have to comply with SANS 164-0.

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