South Africa’s new plug standard – soon a must for new installations

Workgroups at the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) are considering changing the country’s new plug and socket standard from “preferred” to semi-mandatory for new installations.

That’s the word from the Electrical Contractors’ Association of South Africa, or ECA(SA).

The association said that although it has seen an increase in the use of South Africa’s new plug standard, it has not been to the extent intended.

For this reason, the SABS is considering changing existing wording in the Wiring Code from being the “preferred standard for new installations” to something more definitive, like:

“For new installations, effective from March 2018, all socket outlets shall incorporate at least one socket complying to the dimensions of SANS 164–2”.

SANS 164–2 – or ZA Plug – has the same hexagonal profile as the Europlug commonly seen on cellphone chargers, but allows for an earth pin.

The change is under consideration at the SABS plug and socket workgroup, and the Wiring Code workgroup.

According to the ECA, a draft of the amendments is expected to be circulated for public comment “within the next month or so.”

South Africa's new plug standard

South Africa’s old, new plug standard

While the ZA Plug discussions are new, the standard itself 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 was in version 1.8 of the “SABS Standards for the Wiring of Premises Part 1”, which was published in 2012.

It said the ZA Plug will be safer and probably 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.

No rush… for now

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.

While the proposed amendment aims to make ZA Plug sockets semi-compulsory for new installations, it doesn’t say anything about existing socket outlets.

This means that even when the proposed changes become official regulation, they will not require you to change the sockets installed in your house.

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South Africa’s new plug standard – soon a must for new installations