Power to the people
July 28, 2009 7:01 PM   Subscribe

Kropla's World Electric Guide - outlets / power plugs of the world (map), along with an index of international voltages and frequencies for travellers. Plugs in the future: modular, stylish, smart, eco-friendly, rotating, collapsible, or gone entirely.
posted by Paragon (12 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
See Also: Ironic Sans's Electric Outlet 2.0 (no really, it's a brilliant idea)
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:13 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's really kind of amazing how hard and confusing it can be to know if your electric stuff is going to work or not, or whether you need a converter or some such.

So thank you, Kropla.
posted by bardic at 7:48 PM on July 28, 2009


The supposedly eco-friendly plug thing is just about the stupidest idea I've come across in a while. The article about it, however, manages to raise the stupid stakes considerably with this line:

How It's Green: The Blink not only tackles the wasted-power issue by turning off unused electrical devices, it also uses solar technology — in this case a small, flexible solar cell — to read the time of day.

Yes, look, it's wonderfully green because it uses solar technology! That is an intrinsically good thing, even if it isn't being used in any meaningful way, much less producing power that would otherwise have been produced in an environmentally damaging way! Let's go buy a load of these, we'll save the fucking planet!
posted by Dysk at 8:08 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I was in southern China in the late 90's I was surprised to see the same flat prongs we see in the US. Of course they were 220 volts, so I wouldn't have been able to plug in American stuff even if I had any. Still, it seemed incongruous, like the Michael Jordan posters they had for sale at the market places.

What I'd like to see in my house would be adjustable DC outlets so I could get rid of the wall warts. Oh, and built-in meters so I can measure how much each appliance uses, please.
posted by Loudmax at 8:33 PM on July 28, 2009


When I was in southern China in the late 90's I was surprised to see the same flat prongs we see in the US...

posted by Loudmax at 8:33 PM on July 28 [+] [!]

When I was in China a couple years ago, I bought a power strip that could handle nearly every type of prong you could throw at it. (Not my picture, but exactly the same thing.) I thought it was the best thing ever.
posted by gc at 10:28 PM on July 28, 2009


"See Also: Ironic Sans's Electric Outlet 2.0 (no really, it's a brilliant idea)"

I see DC devices blowing up from getting AC power applied all over the place. There is no way you are going to make this reliable over the 50+ year life span of a typical outlet. When it goes wrong your first indication will be the magic smoke leaking out of whatever you've just plugged in. And that leaves aside the issue of a the little slots getting dirty resulting in the wrong voltage being signalled. Or the backwards compatibility pin getting broken off.

Finally I think the author grossly underestimates the free cubic inches available in your average electrical box (IE: there isn't any). You'd need to stuff a multi voltage wall wart plus all the sensing hardware, for two outlets, into a package at worst no bigger than a GFCI outlet. And GFCI outlets already require oversize boxes to comply with maximum box fill requirements in all but the simplest cases. These calculations are for the US; Canada is different because Canadian code has a different definition for what constitutes a conductor.
posted by Mitheral at 1:45 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


La Grou's TED talk is hilarious - he's throwing all this expensive tech at something that was solved in the UK in 1946. Switches and fuses at the socket.

I got really worried when he described the 10¢ sensor in the plug and the 'inexpensive' wireless unit in the electrical box (for which, as Mitheral says, there probably isn't space). Adding even a few cents to the cost of a socket will make suppliers look elsewhere.
posted by scruss at 5:03 AM on July 29, 2009


(no really, it's a brilliant idea)

It's a horrific idea that would require people to replace indestructible $2 standard outlets with $20 ones that will break a lot. Also, no one needs so many multiples of 1.5V DC power. 5V or 12V or GTFO.
posted by GuyZero at 2:15 PM on July 29, 2009


something that was solved in the UK in 1946
I had no idea the British Type G plug can't electrocute curious kids because of built-in shutters and had a fuse in the socket. Seems so obvious and sensible now.
posted by Paragon at 3:37 PM on July 29, 2009


scruss: "La Grou's TED talk is hilarious - he's throwing all this expensive tech at something that was solved in the UK in 1946. Switches and fuses at the socket."

The problem that he's talking about wouldn't be solved by fuses in the sockets. The fuses in UK sockets were necessitated by the British post-war practice of "ring mains" (which save copper by splitting the electrical load from one socket across two runs of wiring back to the panelbox). They don't buy you anything that you don't get in a typical US system. In a UK ring main, you have 30A fuse or breaker in the panelbox connected to both directions of the ring main, and then 12A fuses or breakers in each outlet. In a typical US system each outlet is wired in a straight-line chain back to the panelbox, with a 15A fuse or breaker. The fuse in the outlet isn't necessary because the panelbox fuse isn't doubled in order to account for both sides of the ring.

The US system limits the max current to the outlet at the panelbox — if you have 15A outlets, you have a 15A breaker in there. The British system limits the total current to the ring at the panelbox/fusebox, but limits the total current to the outlet at the outlet, because by design you want to be able to have more current than that in the ring; the fuse in the panelbox represents the highest load that the outlet is supposed to ever carry, equivalent to the outlet fuse in Britain. (Ring mains are not legal in the US, at least to my knowlege — I guess the price of copper just never got high enough here.)

Anyway, La Grou's idea is silly because there's already a solution to the biggest cause of house fires being implemented: Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters. Similar in appearance to GFCI breakers but different in operation, AFCIs sense an intermittent arc (like you'd get in a loose, sparking connection) in the circuit they protect, and cut the power off if detected. They are mandatory in new work for all circuits serving bedrooms as of the newest revision of the NEC in the US, and will hopefully cut down on fatal house fires tremendously. If I was building a new house right now, I would — without question — put them in for all circuits in the house, except for the ones where GFCIs make more sense (and then I'd put in GFCI/AFCI combo breakers). The best thing about AFCIs is that they're easy to retrofit: they're an easy, almost-drop-in replacement into the panelbox; no replacement of outlets is necessary.

I would question some of La Grou's patents as well, even without looking at them. Years ago I saw an early-20th-century idea that was similar to his, which used magnets in the plugs to control the amount of power (or maybe voltage supply) that the receptacle was supposed to deliver. It was a totally electromechanical system; the magnet pulled harder and it increased or decreased something. I don't recall now where I saw it, or what the application was, but apparently it never went anywhere since I can't find anything on it now. "Smart outlets" are not a new idea, and various proposals were put forward for plug and socket combinations with much finer granularity than now exists (where practically everything is 15 or 20A here in the States) back during the dawn of the electrical age. None of them really caught on, and the current system provides a good balance of safety, usability, and price. It can certainly stand improvement, but not through a needlessly complex technology that would require new electrical outlets and probably take centuries to implement.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:13 PM on July 29, 2009


scruss: Reading some more, I do see how lower-rated fuses in appliance cords (in the plug) would solve the issue. I was misunderstanding your post and BS1363; I thought that it meant that a 13A fuse was required in the outlet/receptacle, when it seems to actually require a 13A or smaller fuse in the cord itself. (To be fair, a lot of sources seem to misstate this as well, talking about outlet fuses.)

Provided appliance manufacturers use the proper-size fuse in the cord for their device, and don't just go for the 13A every time, that would solve most of La Grou's problem.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:23 PM on July 29, 2009


"If I was building a new house right now, I would — without question — put them in for all circuits in the house, except for the ones where GFCIs make more sense (and then I'd put in GFCI/AFCI combo breakers)."

This is essentially what the 2008 code requires. "The 2008 NEC requires installation of combination-type AFCIs in all 15 and 20 amp residential circuits with the exception of laundries, kitchens, bathrooms, garages, and unfinished basements." Combination here is a specific type of AFCI not a AFCI+GFCI.
posted by Mitheral at 7:42 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


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