Plugs are electrical connectors used alongside sockets to connect appliances and devices to a power source, or the electrical grid. Depending on the required power output needed to run the appliances or connection, plugs can be classified as domestic or standard plugs, and industrial plugs. Both types are used in supplying power, but differ considerably in how they’re built, the materials used and the safety features that are incorporated to maintain a stable connection.
Types of Standard-Duty Plugs
With different varieties available worldwide, compatible adapters are used to connect appliances and devices in different regions. Plugs used in Australia and New Zealand are of the “I” type with two pins set in a V shape and an optional straight ground pin. Standard plugs are designed to work at 230 volts and 10 amperes. Recent regulations require pins to be partly or wholly insulated.
Depending on the amperage and voltage rating, the number of pins, and whether they’re monophase or polyphase plugs, there are several variations of the standard 10A plug:
●7.5 A plug – consists of two pins used for double insulated appliances where earthing isn’t required. No corresponding socket is sold.
●Standard 10 A plug- the one you’ll use connecting most appliances in homes and commercial premises. It consists of two active pins and a longer earth pin. It is a 10 amp configuration with matching sockets. A variation of the standard plug is with a round earth pin used in particular cases like EFTPOS tills and registers, heating, lighting, IT equipment and other uses.
● 15 and 20 A plugs are similar to the standard 10 A plug, but the earthing pin is thicker and needs a corresponding socket.
●25 and 32A plugs have corresponding L and U shaped earth pins to avoid them from being used in standard sockets.
●Extra Low Voltage plugs are rated at 15 amps and 32 volts and used in places where there is no mains supply, like remote farms.
● Polyphase plugs for domestic use come in different configurations in terms of pin design and placement, and different voltage ratings of 440 and 500V at 10 amps.
Plugs for domestic or commercial use are either rigid or flexible designs of moulded polymers that are resistant to heat, moisture and fire. The pins are brass with insulated coatings Popular producers, like clipsal plugs have an array of standard and speciality plugs, including side mounted and appliance plugs.
Heavy-duty electrical plugs used in industrial settings differ greatly from the ones found in homes and offices. They’re designed with better materials, able to withstand higher currents and loadings, and need to work uninterruptedly to ensure safe industrial processes. Environmental factors, like water and corrosion, along with industrial hazards like chemical spills, flames or explosions need to be contained by the outer housings. The internal design is also reinforced with better use of inner seals and gaskets, stabilised cable connectors in multiple points, and insulated pins of higher conductive metals. These factors contribute to particularly higher prices with some specific plugs reaching the thousand dollar mark.
Heavy-duty polyamide outer housing, typically in orange, sets them apart from the white or black coloured standard plugs. Pins are made of high-grade brass in insulated coatings and set In reinforced sleeves. Connecting cables are clamped in numerous points to avoid accidental disruption to the power supply. Similarly, some Clipsal plugs have rotating collars that interlock with corresponding industrial sockets. The connection is maintained at multiple points in the plug and socket unit, relevant if any interruption can lead to expensive repairs or costly delays.
Most common industrial plugs are sold in a polyphase system, consisting of 3, 4, or 5 round pins, with or without earth leads. The earth or neutral pin is set in different positions in each plug type, so as to avoid errors in socket connection. Mono phase heavy-duty plugs can carry 250 volts, whereas multi-pin or polyphase plugs are able to supply up to 500 volts. All industrial plugs sold on the Australian market, including clipsal plugs, are rated against IP waterproofing standards. To fit within industrial confines there are plugs set at an angle and plugs set a straight 90 degrees. This differentiates industrial plugs into angled and straight plugs.
The range of uses is not limited to industry. They are the preferred choice where unstable electricity loads can lead to appliance failure or damage. This includes most outdoor areas, with particular exposure to water and direct sunlight. UV and impact resistance is also important, meaning plugs won’t be affected by prolonged sunlight or forces that will damage physical integrity. Industrial plugs are used by campers, farmers and all tradespersons who work in exposed, remote areas with dubious power supply.
Buying Standard and Industrial Plugs
You’ll find most standard 10A plugs sold with appliances or appliance plugs that can also be used abroad via adapters. Extension cables are found at the end of both standard and industrial plugs, and comply in materials with the corresponding sockets. Most domestic plugs are cheap, whereas industrial plugs vary in pricing according to the amperage, the voltage rating, and the safety features that ensure uninterrupted power.