Misc Musings

Why are British Electrical Plugs the Best in the World?

plug annotated

There are many different plug designs throughout the world, the British plug might appear to be quite bulky compared to its European and American sleek, twin pronged brothers. However there are many reasons why the British plug is one of the best inventions in the world.

First of all its important to understand what each of the 3 prongs on the plug do, the large one at the top is the earth pin which is used to ground electricity should anything go wrong, it sends electricity back away from you instead of through you and through your heart. The other two pins are live and neutral these two are the ones that must connect to the contacts in a socket to cause an electrical circuit.

You may have noticed that the ground pin is slightly longer than the other two pins, this is for a very important reason. If you look at a socket in your house and look where the live and neutral pins would have to be inserted you might notice something, there are plastic shutters covering the metal contacts that you won’t be able to open, no matter how hard you try. In order to open these shutters you must first insert the earth pin, this causes the shutters to open and the live and neutral pins to make contact with the metal inside to complete the circuit. This makes it extremely difficult for a child with a fork to electrocute themselves by accident as they have to simultaneously open the shutter and insert the fork at the same time.

If you look at the above image you will see that the pins are metal all the way down and have live electricity running through them, if the plug is not flush against the wall then the metal is exposed and has live electricity running through it. However on British plugs the lower portion of the live and neutral pins is covered in insulated electrical tape which means that if the pins are pushed in far enough to make a connection then only the tape is exposed  which doesn’t conduct electricity like the bare metal.

During World War 2 we had a shortage of copper wiring, as such it was cheaper to have the house on one giant circuit and put a fuse in each plug, it was actually a lot safer. If a sudden electrical surge occurs the fuse is connected between the live wire and the live pin and if it overloads, instead of catching fire, it just shorts out stopping the electricity from going anywhere.  Inside the plug the earth also has extra cable compared to the other two wires, so if they get tugged or pulled then the ones carrying electricity will be pulled out but the one keeping the electricity away from you will remain intact.

Further Reading:

  • http://www.fastcodesign.com/3032807/why-england-has-the-best-wall-sockets-on-earth

1 thought on “Why are British Electrical Plugs the Best in the World?”

  1. UK plugs might be better than the inferior American plugs, but nothing beats Schuko plug used in Europe. The wall outlets are recessed, so the coins never reach the pins. Ground pins on the side connect first. Most important, it’s the casing, not the prongs that keep the plug in place.

    I have lived in countries using all the major plug types and the European Schuko is the most reliable and far less bulky compared to the UK one.

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