South Africa’s new plugs and sockets explained

The aim of the new plug and socket standards in South Africa is to reduce the number of adapters required in households and businesses.

This is according to South African Bureau of Standards’ (SABS) lead administrator Jodi Scholtz who was speaking to Radio 702 about the new standards.

The SABS has introduced several changes to South Africa’s plug and socket standards to make it safer for consumers.

According to the SABS, the increased use of devices and appliances has resulted in the increased use of adapters, as well as adapters being plugged into other adapters in South Africa.

This creates a risk of fires, short-circuiting, and damage or malfunction of appliances, the SABS stated.

Such risk was among the reasons for the changes introduced to South African National Standard 164 Part 0 (SANS 164-0).

Scholtz said an important enhancement is the addition of a USB socket, which makes it possible to charge a smartphone through the new sockets.

“As a consumer, the new standard is beneficial because you do not need many different adapters to power your devices,” she said.

Changing sockets and plugs in South Africa

While SANS 164-0 deals with general requirements, SANS 164-1 is the standard for South Africa’s big, triangular-shaped plugs and sockets.

South Africa has adopted a new standard which conforms to the hexagonal diamond-shaped profile of the widely used Europlug.

It is officially designated SANS 164-2, but is also referred to as the compact three-pin ZA Plug. It is closely based on the global standard developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission.

It is currently mandatory for new buildings in South Africa to install wall sockets that contain at least one compact three-pin socket.

Scholtz said there is a transition period for the new plug and socket standards in South Africa and that existing sockets do not have to be replaced.

However, from June 2021 all new offices and homes which are built will require the new SANS 164 sockets.

Gianfranco Campetti, chair of the technical committee responsible for the development of the SANS 164 series of standard, said South Africa has fallen behind in this regard.

“South Africa has been lagging with the implementation of these global changes and the continued use of adapters onto adapters will just lead to more dangerous electricity usage and malfunctioning of appliances,” Campetti warned.

The SABS noted that over the past few years, several versions of the new design have been available on the market, some of which are shown below.

New safety symbol required for South African plugs

A recent update to SANS 164-0 has introduced three major changes to South Africa’s electrical plug and socket standards.

  • Reducing the minimum clearance of the socket outlet surface to 8mm (from 12mm).
  • Introducing a symbol for adaptors not permitted to be plugged into one another to avoid straining the socket-outlet.
  • Examples provided to show how multiple socket outlets for fixed installations should be switched. Since 2018, the wiring code (SANS 10142-1) requires socket outlets to integrate ZA Plug (SANS 164-2).

The introduction of a symbol for adaptors not permitted to be plugged into one another is due to the 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,” said Sadhvir Bissoon, the executive of standards at the SABS.

SANS 164-0 symbol of adaptors not permitted to be plugged in one another
Symbol of adaptors not permitted to be plugged in one another

Jodi Scholtz interview

Now read: South Africa’s new plug standard — USB power sockets must have switches

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South Africa’s new plugs and sockets explained