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South Africa’s new plug standard

South Africa’s current triangular electrical plug/socket standard is set to be replaced over the next 10 to 50 years with a more effective and safer hexagonal plug, according to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

Called the SANS 164–2 or ZA Plug, the new standard looks similar to the commonly used two-point Europlug standard, used on most cell phone chargers and small appliances. The ZA Plug incorporates an additional third ‘earth’ pin in the design. The new design’s socket will be able to accommodate the two-point Europlug.

While the adoption of the ZA Plug is relatively new, the standard is more than a decade old, having been developed as a global plug and socket standard by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) since 1986. However, South Africa and Brazil are currently the only countries intent on adopting this new standard.

The new design has been adopted by the SABS as “preferred configuration for new installations” since 2013. As more commercial manufacturers begin to embrace the new design into their products, an awareness campaign to highlight the conversion to ZA Plug has now been intensified.

In 2014, following the first details of the new standard, South African consumers expressed concern that replacing existing power supply points and appliances plugs would happen immediately and would be costly.

However, according to a statement released by SABS recently, the roll-out of the new standard would be gradual and South Africans would be free to still use the old standard, stating that the implementation of a new standard could take “[up to] 50 years”.

The statement also reiterated that the ZA Plug will be safer and more cost- effective as it continues towards full integration.

The Electrical Contractors’ Association of South Africa (ECASA) say the conversion may eventually lead to the demise of multi-format plug adaptors and therefore make appliances more stable and safer. The organisation has stated that amendments to its Wiring Code will include that “all socket outlets (will) incorporate at least one socket complying to the dimensions of SANS 164–2, effective from March 2018”.

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