New rules for wall sockets in South Africa

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has clarified the role of switches on electrical wall sockets in a recent amendment to the South African standard for plugs and sockets.

It explained that either all of the sockets need to be switched, or they must all be unswitched. You are not allowed to have a mix where some sockets have switches while others do not.

This clarification was published in an amendment to the South African National Standard 164 Part 0 (SANS 164-0).

SANS 164 is the family of standards that governs all household plugs and sockets in South Africa. Part 0 deals with general requirements and applies to all permitted variants of plugs and sockets in the country.

“The South African standard does not mandate switched socket outlets. You can have a socket installed without a switch,” said Gianfranco Campetti, the chair of the technical committee for the SANS 164 family of standards.

Campetti was speaking during a recent online media briefing held by the SABS.

“SANS 164-0 has not been clear about what the purpose of a switch really should be. We came out with a chart that shows you which configurations are acceptable, and which are not,” Campetti stated.

He explained that in essence, if your wall socket installation has a switch on it, it has to work for all the outlets that are under it.

It is also not allowed to have a fixed socket-outlet installation where some sockets can be turned off with a switch, while others can’t.

SANS 164-0 new diagram for switches: Fixed electrical installation socket-outlet with and without switches
Fixed electrical installation socket-outlet with and without switches

Switches on USB ports

Last year, an amendment to SANS 164-0 specified that electrical outlets with integrated USB ports must include a switch that allows the USB socket to be turned off.

Campetti previously explained that there are a few ways that products may be designed to comply with this requirement:

  • The USB port can have a dedicated switch to disconnect the AC power.
  • The socket-outlet installation can have a shared switch, so long as it complies with the requirements of these most recent amendments to the standard.
  • It can have an automatic switch that disconnects the power to the USB outlet when a USB plug is not inserted into it.

For socket-outlet installations that opt for a dedicated physical switch for its USB ports, Campetti explained that it can be a smaller slide switch.

Campetti said that the addition of switches for USB sockets will help any electrician who is looking for a fault in a house.

“They don’t have to disconnect the socket outlet from the mains — take it off the wall and disconnect the wires — just to do a continuity test,” said Campetti.

Now read: New South African plug standard – What it means for your old plugs

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New rules for wall sockets in South Africa