South Africa’s new plug standard: what to expect

South Africa’s current triangular electrical plug and socket standard has a successor.

Dubbed SANS 164–2 by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), this “new” plug standard has been the “preferred configuration for new installations” since 2013.

It has the same hexagonal profile as the “Europlug” commonly seen on cellphone chargers, but allows for an earth pin that is slightly offset from the centre of the plug.

The adoption of SANS 164–2 – or ZA Plug – as South Africa’s recommended plug and socket standard caused a stir in 2014, as some thought they would have to replace the electrical sockets in their homes.

However, the SABS explained this was not necessary. Though the ZA Plug might be the preferred standard, South Africans are still free to install and use sockets and plugs based on the old standard.

South Africa's new plug standard
South Africa’s new plug standard

Playing the long game

While the recommended adoption of the ZA Plug is relatively new, the standard is more than a decade old.

The current South African standard is based on the even older IEC 60906–1 standard, which was published by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in 1986.

This international standard was originally developed in an effort to establish a global plug and socket standard, but according to the IEC many commercial and political interests caused the initiative to fail.

South Africa remains the only country in the world to have adopted the IEC standard as it was intended to be used. Brazil also uses the plug shape, but deviated from the standard by delivering either 127V or 220V mains using the same socket.

While talk of adopting the new standard began in South Africa as far back as 1993, and a version of SANS 164-2 that dates back to 2006 is readily available online, the ZA Plug only appeared in South Africa’s wiring code much later.

The SABS previously told MyBroadband that the first mention of SANS 164–2 is in version 1.8 of the “SABS standards for the wiring of premises, part 1: low-voltage installations (SANS 10142–1)”, which was published in 2012.

The SABS said the ZA Plug will be safer and will probably be cheaper than existing plugs when adopted.

Another benefit of the ZA Plug is that you will no longer need an adapter for devices that use a double insulated two-prong Europlug.

Energy expert Chris Yelland has welcomed this, as he said such adapters are costly and often sub-standard.

Despite the benefits of the new standard, South Africans will not be rushed to replace the sockets in their homes or the plugs on their devices.

The SABS said the implementation of the new standard could take “20, 30, or 50 years”.

No deadline has been set for the new standard’s implementation. “The status quo remains for now,” said the SABS.

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South Africa’s new plug standard: what to expect