My grandmother receives a present every two months. And it’s always the same: money for a new kettle. Due to the tireless viewing of serials, she constantly forgets about the iron boiling on gas. Therefore, kettles burn out regularly.
I decided to break the established tradition and bought her an imported handsome man with automatic shutdown. To my great amazement, the problems did not end after that, but smoothly flowed into another plane..
At first, Granny tried for a long time to plug the plug of the new kettle into the outlet. But it didn’t work, the pins of the plug were thicker than the holes in the socket. Then granny went to the market and bought an adapter, of course, the cheapest one. It melted after 4 days. On the fifth adapter that failed, the granny’s patience ran out, and she made a more expensive purchase – an adapter to which you can connect as many as 5 plugs! It is easy to imagine that electrical appliances were immediately found, without the simultaneous operation of which it was impossible to do. Then, under the weight of the adapter with plugs, the socket itself fell out of the wall. In short, I had to call an electrician. He fixed the poor thing dangling on the wires and suggested installing an additional so-called “euro socket” to solve the problem of connecting the kettle.
After work, the electrician happily stayed to drink tea with grandma’s cheesecakes. I poisoned bikes, made fun of our “electrical” illiteracy, but nevertheless, from a conversation with him, I learned a lot of interesting things about sockets.
First of all, our conventional sockets have smaller holes than Euro sockets. Because the pin of the domestic plug has a diameter of 4 mm, and the foreign plug is 4.8 mm, and the distance between the pins is slightly larger.
Secondly, the domestic outlet is designed for a current of 6.3 or 10 A, and a foreign one for 10 or 16 A. These figures are needed in order to calculate how many devices I can simultaneously connect to this outlet. Here, as you yourself understand, we interrupted the tea-drinking and got down to calculations. We have the following: you can connect devices with a total power of 1386 W (1386 W = 6.3 A x 220 V) to our outlet, and 3520 W (3520 W = 16 A x 220 V) to the imported one.
I immediately thought: “How great! It turns out that more electrical appliances can be connected to a foreign outlet ”. But it was not there.
Each apartment (or staircase) has a switchboard with safety plugs. They protect the electrical network from overloads. For example, my granny has two plugs. One for the kitchen, toilet and bathroom, the other for the rooms. Each plug contains the current and voltage values (6.3 A and 250 V). Therefore, as soon as the total power of the simultaneously switched on devices is greater than the maximum power of the plug – 1575 W (1575 W = 6.3 A x 250 V), the granny’s electricity will be cut off. This is done so that the wiring does not heat up, the insulation does not catch fire and there is no fire. To make it finally scary, the “electric master” added that 50% of fires occur precisely because of faults in the electrical wiring.
From all this, I concluded that with such traffic jams, my granny does not care which sockets to put – 6.3 or 16 A. Although you can, of course, give her a 10 A plug, but then the next question immediately arises: will it withstand wiring? And then our narrator, after making a meaningful pause, said that the most important thing in the sockets (as I understood, literally vital) is the presence of a grounding contact in them. All imported sockets have it. Unlike our electrical network (of two wires), the foreign one also has a third wire – grounding. Because the “damned imperialists” are trying to protect their precious health as much as possible. After all, there are a lot of devices in the house, the grounding of which is vital. These are, firstly, all heating devices (they have a high power output). Secondly, all devices related to water (since water is an excellent conductor of current). And thirdly, all complex electrical devices with microcircuits, for example, a computer (because they are terribly afraid of static electricity). It is the grounding contact that conducts static electricity to the ground, not allowing it to hit us or disable our equipment.
With sadness and, as it seemed to me, with some envy of foreign colleagues, our guest told that in our country household sockets for a long time were produced only for two contacts. The mass production of sockets with a grounding contact began after the import into the country of a huge amount of imported equipment with plugs different from ours.
But, as I understand it, such an outlet, of course, will allow you to turn on devices without an adapter, but it will not give grounding. And if I have an old house, but I want to have high-quality and safe wiring, then I will have to pull the third ground wire on my own (or with the help of a wizard).
These are the difficulties. And I had one more question for the electrician: is there any guarantee that I will buy a high-quality outlet that will not melt and ignite like cheap old-fashioned adapters. And in general, what to look for when choosing? To this I received the following answer: when buying outlets, first of all, you need to pay attention to the marking! On the back of the socket must be indicated: the current and voltage values for which the socket is designed, the manufacturer’s trademark or the name of the company.
And yet, taking into account our female ignorance, the electrician advised, when purchasing an electrical outlet, in the store and especially in the market, to require the presentation of a certificate of compliance with GOST. Only he can guarantee the normal operation of the sockets.
To test the words of an electrician in practice and find out why certificates guarantee the quality of the outlet, I visited the laboratory of the Scientific and Technical Center for Certification of Household Electrical Instruments (NTCS BETI).
Laboratory staff told me that before entering the market, all electrical outlets (both domestic and imported) are tested for compliance with GOST. What is not done with them and what is not checked! I’ll tell you about some of the trials that have sunk into my soul.
The plug of an electrical appliance should go in and out of the socket with a certain force, but quite easily. It is for this effort that the sockets are checked. The test is called very cleverly: the force of the plug with the socket. To determine the strength of the body of the outlets, several pieces are placed in a rotating drum, in which they spin like sports lotto balls. Then they look to see if the case is cracked or broken. Another test for strength is that the socket is placed in a vise and squeezed with a certain force. We all know that all materials age over time. In order to check whether the materials from which the socket is assembled will not change their properties over time, it is placed in a special chamber and kept at a temperature of 70-800C for seven days.
The outlet may be near a battery or other heat source. Over time, the body of the outlet should not warp from constant heating so that the wires are exposed. For this, a high temperature test is carried out (2000C, three hours).
Even after wintering in an unheated dacha house, the sockets must regularly carry out their service. Therefore, they are tested at low temperatures (-150C, 24 hours). Let’s say that something is constantly being cooked in your kitchen and at the same time it boils for a long time. This creates increased humidity in the room. If the outlets are made of porous, low-quality material, moisture will fill the voids. And since water is an excellent conductor of electricity, there is a danger of electric shock even from simply touching the outlets. To prevent this danger from becoming a reality, the following test is carried out: the sockets are placed in a hot steam chamber for 24 hours, and then they are tested for breakdown (by applying a voltage of 2000 V to the case).
The material that surrounds all metal parts of the socket may only burn in an open flame source, or should not burn at all. For this, the socket is “tortured” with a hot wire: whether it is on or off. Only after going through all this, the sockets are allowed to go out into the “light”, to the consumer – “handed” a certificate of conformity. Moreover, the certificate can be issued either for a specific batch of goods, the samples of which have successfully passed all the tests, or for a certain period (for enterprises that are dealers of a certain company and sell its products).
After receiving such a volume of new knowledge, my attention began to be attracted by all the sockets that I met on my way from friends, in offices, in stores and in markets. I could not imagine that there would be so many of them. I’ll tell you in order.
Sockets without grounding
Probably, there is no person who, in his earliest childhood, having barely learned to walk, would not try to get acquainted with this “amusing” device on his own by sticking a finger, pencil or other objects into it. And already in adulthood, we understand that all household and lighting devices are connected to the outlet. This device is so familiar that it is easy to describe it even to me, a person far from electrical wisdom. The simple socket has an insulating body with two holes. On the reverse side, two electrical wiring contacts are connected to it. This is what most outlets in our homes look like..
Sockets with grounding
As we already know, grounded sockets are designed by and large for three-pin wiring. All foreign sockets have a third grounding contact (although, given the peculiarities of our wiring, some foreign companies began to produce sockets for two contacts).
But historically, the sockets of different countries are somewhat different from each other. For example, in France, a socket has two holes and a pin. The American socket has holes with side slots. And what we call a “Euro socket” is a German standard. It looks like this: in the middle of the outlet there is a rather large cylindrical recess, at the bottom of which there are holes for the pins of the plug, and on the sides of them there are protruding glands. These are ground contacts. All of the above products are arranged in such a way that when the plug is plugged into the socket, the grounding contacts are the first to come into contact with each other, and only then those that conduct current.
Domestic manufacturers produce sockets with grounding according to the German model.
Sockets with and without screw terminal
The inner part of the socket with screwless cable clamp from Siemens
When installing a socket with a screw clamp, the contacts of the electrical wire are placed between two plates connected by a screw. By twisting it, we get a strong connection between the outlet and the wiring.
For sockets without screw terminals, the wire is inserted into a contact hole, which expands when you press a special key. You insert a wire into it, release the key – and the hole is compressed, tightly wrapping around the wire. Such devices have Siemens sockets, it is a pleasure to connect wires to them: simply and quickly. But it is believed that a screw clamp, although it requires some effort, is somewhat more reliable, gives a better contact. This is due to the fact that aluminum wires, of which domestic wiring mainly consists, are rather soft. The wire clamped between the plates flattens over time – the contact weakens. In the case of a screw clamp, you just need to tighten the screw harder. And in a socket without screws, you will have to pull out the wire, “bite off” the deformed ends and reinsert into the clamps (if, of course, the length of the wire is enough).
Sockets for outdoor and indoor wiring
Built-in sockets are designed for hidden wiring when the wires are hidden inside the wall and the electrical part of the outlet is also recessed into the wall. Built-in sockets are almost always installed in apartments. Overheads are most often used with open wiring, that is, when the wires are laid over walls. They are often placed in wooden country houses, fixed directly on the wall..
Outlets with protective shutters
An absolutely necessary thing for children’s rooms. Growing up, a small child begins to explore the world around him. If he wants to dig deeper into the socket with his finger or insert a carnation there, he cannot do this. The openings of these sockets are protected by special protective shutters that open only when a pair of metal contact pins of the plug is inserted into the socket at the same time. Provided, of course, that this is not a particularly gifted child who can insert two nails into the holes at the same time. Protective curtains are different, some open upwards, others with a circular movement of the plug, others only from a certain effort, etc. The price of these sockets ranges from 6 rubles. for domestic up to 260 for imported.
Sockets for rooms with high humidity
Water and electricity are incompatible things. Therefore, ideally, it is better not to use electrical appliances in rooms with high humidity. “But what about a washing machine, hairdryer, electric shaver or electric tongs?” – you ask. In this case, pay attention to the IP rating of electrical appliances (which includes the socket) from water and dust. These data must be indicated in the instructions (or on the packaging).
The IP rating for electrical appliances consists of two digits. The first shows protection against the penetration of solid particles into the socket structure:
0 – no protection;
1 – from 50 mm in size;
2 – from 12 mm in size;
3 – from 2.5 mm in size;
4 – from 1 mm in size;
5 – dust protection;
6 – complete protection against dust.
The second shows protection from moisture:
0 – no protection;
1 – from vertically falling drops;
2 – from water drops falling at an angle of 15 °;
3 – from obliquely falling splashes, tilt angle up to 60 °;
4 – from splashes;
5 – from water jets;
6 – from powerful water jets;
7 – from temporary immersion in water;
8 – from prolonged immersion in water.
Therefore, if the instructions indicate IP44, this means that the power socket is protected from dust particles larger than 1 mm and splash water. The IP44 rating is sufficient for installing an outlet in a bathroom or other places with high humidity. They have additional rubber pads inside. Therefore, by installing an outlet with increased protection in the bathroom, you can dry your hair with a hairdryer after taking a bath. But as for powerful electrical appliances, it is best to use sockets with an RCD (residual current device) to connect them.
Sockets with protective shutdown
A great deal of caution must be taken when installing such powerful electrical appliances as a washing machine in the bathroom. Of course, unlike our “Eurek” imported ones, which have a huge set of functions, make life much easier. But remember, they are generally not designed for bathroom installations. The bathroom (according to foreigners) is a place where people wash, put themselves in order and relax! And the washing machine is installed either in the kitchen or in a special room. But if there is nowhere to go, at least secure yourself as much as possible with a special outlet with an RCD (residual current device). I will explain with the simplest example.
Let’s say you blow dry your hair with damaged insulation, and suddenly it falls into a small puddle on the floor in which you are standing barefoot. You immediately become a conductor, and the current that chose you as a conductor is called the leakage current. It is he who is caught by a special sensor and turns on the residual current device. The hairdryer will turn off instantly, and you will not feel even a slight electric shock. This know-how from the German firm Siemens costs almost $ 120.
Often, to work in the garden, at their summer cottage or in the garage, you need to connect a lawn mower, drill or something else electric. For this, it is convenient to have an outlet fixed to the outside of the house or garage. It should work despite temperature changes, rain, snow. Therefore, you should not buy an ordinary outlet for this purpose. You need a socket with a high degree of protection (IP55) and a protective cap. Its price from the French company “Legrand” is about 250 rubles.
This is an amazing device, which I was told about in the representative office of the French company “Legrand”, which offers various electrical equipment. A programmable timer is installed next to the outlet. It can be used to set the time for turning on and off the device connected to this outlet. I thought that my grandmother would just be happy to have one at home. I would set the timer for the start time of the series, and the granny would sit down to watch television passions with her constant cup of hot tea.
Socket with ejector plug
Socket with an ejector plug from the PRODAX company
In my kitchen, above the cutting table, I have an outlet where I constantly plug in a food processor, mixer, mill, and coffee grinder. Due to the constant sticking and pulling of the plugs, the socket periodically falls out of the wall, which each time annoys and grumbles my husband about my remarkable strength. So, I came across a wonderful device for 103 rubles: a socket with a catapult from the Hungarian company “Prodax” (Prodax). In the corner of the socket there is a button, when pressed, the “catapult” is triggered, and the plug is pushed out of the socket without any effort on my part.
Socket with operating status indicator
This socket is equipped with a special indicator (light bulb) that shows whether there is voltage in the network or not..
Socket for any type of plug
Socket and switch of the German company “POPP”, series “Natura”
This outlet has all possible and impossible holes. You can plug a plug of any configuration into it. I can’t say how strong and reliable all this is, but if you have a lot of equipment from different countries with different plugs, then maybe this is the socket you need..
Socket + switch of the German company “POPP”, series “Arcada”
Having understood the functions and designs of sockets, I drew attention to the fact that manufacturers produce several “electrical series”, each of which includes sockets, switches, various sensors. Items of the same series have the same design, which allows you to maintain a single style of living space or office. In addition to the usual plastic, the visible part of the outlets can be made of metal, wood or all kinds of combinations of these materials..
For example, the “Modul” company offers seven series developed by the German company “POPP” (POPP).
The Natura series is for people who prefer classic style. The socket body is made of natural wood (dark oak, pine, white and black ash), impregnated with a special compound. You can choose sockets and switches so that they will perfectly match the furniture and once again emphasize the richness of the decor and the individuality of the interior.
Socket and switch of the German company “POPP”, series “Pallas”
In the series “Arcada” the socket frame is made of natural wood (beech, pear), and the recess is made of plastic. The wooden body has a slight bend for a very elegant look.
The Pallas series is especially popular with customers due to the unusual shape of sockets and switches, which are almost indistinguishable from each other. So, the switch body is rectangular, but the keys are made in the shape of a circle. Series colors: white, brown with a silvery shade, gray, blue.
Sockets and switches of the German company “POPP”, series “Forever” (left)
Sockets of the “Aqua up” series for hidden wiring can be used in the premises of pools and saunas. They are protected against splash water IP44. Nice and safe.
The “Aqua top” series surface wiring sockets can be installed in damp rooms, in basements and outdoors. The heat-resistant and splash-proof housing is made of impact-resistant plastic. Aqua top is an example of a successful combination of functionality and modern design.
The Amaryl series is a new development of designers who boldly experiment with asymmetric lines and various color combinations – white, blue, wine red, charcoal gray. In this series, you can combine frames, keys and rosette inserts in different colors. You can choose such a color combination so that “electrical fittings” are combined, for example, with wallpaper, curtains, furniture.
The Forever series is made in three colors: white, red, pearl. Strict and functional. Clean lines, nothing more.
In conclusion, I note that the electrical part for all outlets of the same company is usually the same and does not depend on the design. If you decide to redo the interior of your apartment, you do not need to buy new sockets and switches. It is enough to purchase only an external overhead part and a frame that will be in harmony with the new look of the rooms. And leave the electrical part unchanged.
I myself was tempted by pretty POPP rosettes. Moreover, having bought average prices, I heard a comment about my non-standard taste. It turned out that the preferences of the Russian buyer are very specific and differ from the choice of a European or Japanese. For example, according to data from Siemens and Legrand, Russians buy either the cheapest or the most expensive of the variety of their products. Apparently, the middle class in our market is not doing the weather yet.