IEC 60906-1

IEC 60906-1 is an international standard designed "to provide a standard for a safe, compact and practical 16 A 250 V AC system of plugs and socket-outlets that could be accepted by many countries as their national standard, even if not in the near future."[1] The standard was originally published by the International Electrotechnical Commission in 1986; the current edition is ed2.0 published in 2009. Although it looks similar to the Swiss SEV 1011 plug, its dimensions are different. As of July 2014, only South Africa has introduced a standard (SANS 164-2)[2] based closely on IEC 60906-1. Brazil used it as the basis for its NBR 14136 standard, but this is not compatible with IEC 60906-1. In 2017 the European Union (EU) published recommendations advising against the harmonisation of domestic plug and socket systems in the EU.[3]

IEC 60906-1-plug


IEC 60906-1 plugs and socket-outlets are rated 16 A, 250 V AC and are intended for use on distribution systems having nominal voltages between 200 V and 250 V AC. IEC 60906-1 defines both 3-pin connectors for Class I appliances and 2-pin versions for Class II appliances. (Additional oval-shaped 2-pin connectors for Class 0 appliances defined in the first edition of the standard were never implemented and no longer appear in the current second edition.)

The IEC 60906-1 plugs are smaller than any other European plug with 16 A rating, being only slightly larger than the 2.5 A Europlug and providing much more reliable contact. The sockets are small enough that two can be installed in the space taken by a single Schuko or BS 1363 socket.

The socket has either a 10 mm deep recess or a 12 mm high rim, to exclude incompatible plugs. It ensures that the protective-earth pin establishes contact before the line and neutral pins. Sockets are required to have shutters for the line and neutral apertures.

As it uses the same 19 mm pin spacing as most existing European systems (Schuko, etc.), it would be possible to design sockets that can accept both the traditional plug as well as the IEC 60906-1 Class I and II plugs, thereby enabling a smooth transition to the new system. However, the IEC 60906-1 standard explicitly discourages the use of multi-standard sockets, claiming that such sockets are likely to create safety problems when used with plugs from other countries.


IEC 60906-1 plugs are similar in size and shape to the Europlug, with the front profile being a flat hexagon. They are nominally 35.5 mm wide. The 3-pin Class I plug is 17 mm high, whereas the 2-pin Class II plug is 14 mm high (similar to the Europlug). The parallel side faces are 26 mm apart, and the two pairs of side faces are orthogonal to each other. Like Schuko and Europlug, the line and neutral pin are 19 mm long and on centres spaced at 19 mm. The pins have a diameter of 4.5 mm, intermediate between Schuko (⌀4.8 mm) and Europlug (⌀4.0 mm). In common with the Europlug there is an insulating sleeve around the base of the line and neutral pins. The 3-pin version has a round protective-earth pin of the same length and diameter as the line and neutral pins, but with no insulating sleeve. The protective-earth pin's center is offset 3 mm from the center point between the line and neutral pin.

South African SANS 164-2 standard

South Africa is the only country to have incorporated IEC 60906-1 plugs and sockets into its own national standards as SANS 164-2. SANS 164-2 was made the preferred standard in 2013, replacing the older SANS 164-1 (based on BS 546) but according to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) electrotechnical standards development manager, the new plugs and sockets would have "a long, long phase-in period, more than 20 years".[4]

SANS 164-2 sockets

South African SANS 164-2, quadruple socket

SANS 164-1 & 164-2 sockets

South African SANS 164-1 (old) & SANS 164-2 (new) sockets in a single plate

Old, old and new za plug, and new za plug

Left: Old outlet and plug, Middle: Old and new (multi-standard socket), Right: Socket for new plugs only

Brazilian NBR 14136 standard

According to the National Institute of Metrology Standardization and Industrial Quality in Brazil, the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards "began discussing the creation of a standard for plugs and sockets ... in the 1980s, based on the draft international standard based on IEC 60906-01. It was concluded with wide participation of the manufacturers of plugs and sockets and of electrical and electronic equipment, in July of 1998, with the publication of the norm ABNT NBR 14136."[5]

There are a number of non-compliance issues with IEC 60906-1. Brazil uses both 127 V and 220 V mains supplies, but rather than using the IEC 60906-2 standard for the lower voltage it uses NBR 14136 for both. Whereas IEC 60906-1 specifies a single 16 A rating with 4.5 mm pins, NBR 14136 has both 10 A and 20 A ratings, the 10 A plug has a pin diameter of 4 mm, and the 20 A plug is 4.8 mm. NBR 14136 does not require shutters on the apertures, a further source of non-compliance with IEC 60906-1. The 10 A socket will accept only 10 A plugs, and Europlugs, while the 20 A socket will accept both 10 A and 20 A plugs, plus Europlugs.

NBR 14136 plugs and outlet

Two-pin charger, three-pin 10 A plug and 10 A socket-outlet conforming to Brazilian Standard NBR 14136.

Tomada Brasileira - NBR 14136, 20A, 250V

A 20 A Brazilian socket based on the IEC 60906-1 standard.

Brazilian plug

Diagram of the a Brazilian NBR 14136 plug with insulated pins.

Possibility of acceptance in European Union

Map of current European mains electricity plug types
Currently used AC mains plugs in Europe.
  • Schuko (Type F, CEE 7/4 plug, CEE 7/7 plug)
  • French (Type E, CEE 7/6 plug, CEE 7/7 plug)
  • British (Type G, BS 1363)
  • Swiss (Type J, SEV 1011)
  • Danish 107-2-D1 (Type K)
  • Italian CEI 23-50 (Type L)
  • In the 1990s the EU requested CENELEC to devise a harmonized plug and socket system for Europe.[6] In 1995 that attempt was abandoned as it was not possible for CENELEC delegates to agree an acceptable solution, CENELEC forecast that converting European households, offices and factories to a common standard would cost about $125 billion.[7]

    In response to a suggestion that the European Commission introduce a common system across the whole of the EU, the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme issued recommendations in 2017. REFIT found that "the harmonisation of plug and socket outlet systems in Europe, by introducing changes in national wiring legislations (would have) important transitional periods (above 75 years)", and that the cost to "replace the old socket-outlets (and the corresponding plugs of the appliances being used)" was estimated at 100 billion Euro, "generating a huge environmental impact, producing some 700 000 tons of electrical waste".[3] REFIT does not recommend harmonising the plugs and socket-outlet systems in Europe.

    Comparison with traditional systems

    Schuko & BS 1363 Longwell Plugs

    BS 1363 (upper) & Schuko (lower) plugs.

    Modern injection moulding technology enables robust and safe plugs to be smaller than the Schuko and BS 1363 systems, which were designed in the early and mid 20th century respectively.

    BS 1363

    The IEC 60906-1 and BS 1363 systems have some common safety features in that plugs and sockets are polarized, and that sockets are required to have shutters for the line and neutral pins. An advantage of the IEC 60906-1 plug types is smaller physical sizes. The IEC 60906-1 plugs are also rated for up to 16 amperes, while the BS 1363 plugs are rated for 13 amperes. The unfused IEC 60906-1 is incompatible with UK law which requires an appropriately rated fuse in the plug to protect the attached flexible cord.[8]


    The IEC 60906-1 system also avoids the problems of the Schuko and French systems currently used in most of Europe and large parts of Asia:

    • Ambiguity between line and neutral on Schuko. Since the Schuko plug is non-polarized it can be inserted upside down, and therefore electronic equipment with Schuko plugs must be fitted with double pole switches and fuse links on both the line and neutral pins in order to be safe. Requiring these extra safety features can add to the manufacturing costs of electronic equipment.
    • Large size. The Schuko plug face going into the socket has approximately twice the area of the IEC 60906-1 plugs (ca. 10 cm2 for the Schuko vs. ca. 4.6 cm2 for the earthed IEC 60906-1 plug and 3.8 cm2 for the non-earthed IEC 60906-1 plug.[1] However, the Schuko's large surface area and guide grooves in the recessed socket also allows the combination of a Schuko plug and socket to achieve a very sturdy connection.
    • Shock hazard can occur due to mateability of the Class I (earthed) equipment with Schuko plugs being inserted into commonly used two pin (non-earthed) sockets that lack protective-earth contacts. This can for instance be the case with the CEE 7/1 unearthed socket, which either have been or are currently being phased out in most countries.
    Schuko plug inserted in CEE 7 1 ungrounded socket

    Schuko plug partially inserted into a CEE 7/1 unearthed socket. The live pins are in contact while exposed. There is no connection for the earthing contact.

    Swiss plug

    The grounded IEC 60906-1 plug (IEC designation "Type N")[9] looks similar to the Swiss SEV 1011 type 12 plug (IEC designation "Type J"). However, the latter has smaller diameter pins (4.0 mm), the ground pin is offset more (5 mm), and it is only rated for 10 A. Therefore, there is no compatibility between these grounded 3-pin plugs.

    The two types of plug systems also differ in that IEC 60906-1 plugs (both 2 pin ungrounded and 3 pin grounded) always have been defined to have partially sleeved line and neutral pins, while the Swiss type 11 (ungrounded) and type 12 (grounded) plugs formerly were allowed to be without partially sleeved pins. However, since 1 January 2013, only type 11 and 12 plugs with partially sleeved line and neutral pins are allowed to be imported and distributed in Switzerland to reduce the risk of electrical shocks.


    Old Swiss type 12 plug without partially sleeved line and neutral pins. Since 2013 only plugs with partially sleeved pins are allowed to be distributed in Switzerland in order to minimize the risk of electric shocks.

    Italian plug

    Side by side comparison of Italian CEI 23-50 10 A (left) and IEC 60906-1 (right) sockets.

    Italian socket P 11
    Brazilian 3-pins socket

    The IEC 60906-1 is similar to the Italian plug CEI 23-50 10 A ("Type L"), with the same front profile shaped as a flat hexagon and the same position of the line and neutral pins (the centres spaced 19 mm apart). However, the pins of the Type L 10 A are 4 mm in diameter (as in the Europlug) and the earth pin is aligned with the two others (no offset is present), making the Italian plug unpolarized. Moreover, the Italian plug is rated for up to 10 amperes (although a 16-ampere version exists with different and incompatible size), while the IEC 60906-1 plugs are rated for 16 amperes.

    See also


    1. ^ a b "IEC system of plugs and socket-outlets for household and similar purposes – Part 1: Plugs and socket-outlets 16 A 250 V a.c." (PDF). IEC. 2009. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
    2. ^ Botha, Mark (2014-02-14). "New plug and socket system for SA". Vector. Retrieved 2015-04-20.
    3. ^ a b "REFIT Platform Recommendations – Internal Market: XII.24.a - "Plugs and sockets"". European Commission. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
    4. ^ Blaine, Sue (2014-01-28). "SA to switch to new, safer plugs". Business Day Live. Archived from the original on 2014-01-28.
    5. ^ "Padrão Brasileiro de Plugues e Tomadas". Innmetro. 2011. Retrieved 2017-09-06.
    6. ^ "Brief history - International standardization of electrical plugs and sockets for domestic use". IEC. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
    7. ^ "A Single Plug? Discovering Electricity Was Easier". New York Times. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
    8. ^ "Guide to Low-Voltage Switch and Fusegear Devices, page 8". BEAMA. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
    9. ^ IEC - World Plugs: Plug Type N
    • IEC 60906-1 IEC system of plugs and socket-outlets for household and similar purposes - Part 1: Plugs and socket-outlets 16 A 250 V a.c.
    • Brazilian Standard NBR 14136, July 2001.
    • South African Standard SANS 164-2:2006.

    External links

    AC power plugs and sockets

    AC power plugs and sockets connect electric equipment to the alternating current (AC) power supply in buildings and at other sites. Electrical plugs and sockets differ from one another in voltage and current rating, shape, size, and connector type. Different standard systems of plugs and sockets are used around the world.

    Plugs and sockets for portable appliances became available in the 1880s, to replace connections to light sockets with wall-mounted outlets. A proliferation of types developed for both convenience and protection from electrical injury. Today there are about 20 types in common use around the world, and many obsolete socket types are found in older buildings. Coordination of technical standards has allowed some types of plug to be used across large regions to facilitate trade in electrical appliances, and for the convenience of travellers and consumers of imported electrical goods.

    Some multi-standard sockets allow use of several types of plug; improvised or unapproved adaptors between incompatible sockets and plugs may not provide the full safety and performance of an approved socket–plug combination.

    AS/NZS 3112

    AS/NZS 3112 is the harmonised Australian and New Zealand standard for AC power plugs (male) and sockets (female). The plug and socket configuration, consisting of two flat pins at the plug forming an inverted V-shape plus a vertical earthing pin, is used in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and several other Pacific island countries. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) "world plugs" Web site calls this plug Type I.The two top pins are the “live” pins. The top right plug pin is the live or active pin while the top left plug pin is the neutral pin. The third pin, if provided, is the earth or ground pin. The live pins of every 10 amp and 15 amp flat pin plug sold after 3 April 2005 have been required to be insulated, in accordance with AS/NZS 3112:2000.The nominal voltage in most areas of Australia has since 2000 been 230 V, with the exception of Western Australia and Queensland, which chose to remain at 240 V, though Queensland is transitioning to 230 V. The voltage in New Zealand is also 230 V. In Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea it is 240 V, and 220 V in the Solomon Islands. The standard in China and Argentina also use the type I plug and socket, though the live current (line and neutral) is reversed in Argentina, and the plugs/sockets are upside-down in China. In both countries the voltage is 220 V. The differences in voltage may give raise to compatibility issues, especially for travelers and for those purchasing appliances overseas or online. Connecting a 230 volt appliance to a 110 volt outlet, for example, or vice versa, can damage or destroy the appliance. Voltage adapters may be used to overcome the problem. The mains frequency is 50 Hz in all these countries.


    The Europlug is a flat, two-pole, round-pin domestic AC power plug, rated for voltages up to 250 V and currents up to 2.5 A. It is a compromise design intended to connect low-power Class II appliances safely to the many different forms of round-pin domestic power socket used across Europe. However, it is not compatible with the rectangular-pin BS 1363 sockets found in Cyprus, Gibraltar, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom. Europlugs are non-rewirable and must be supplied attached to a power cord.

    History of AC power plugs and sockets

    This is a history of AC power plugs and sockets. Plugs and sockets for portable appliances started becoming available in the 1880s. A proliferation of types developed to address the issues of convenience and protection from electric shock. Today there are approximately 20 types in common use around the world (see AC power plugs and sockets), and many obsolete socket types are still found in older buildings.

    IEC 60320

    IEC 60320 Appliance couplers for household and similar general purposes is a set of standards from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) specifying non-locking appliance and interconnection couplers for connecting power supply cords to electrical appliances of voltage not exceeding 250 V (a.c.) and rated current not exceeding 16 A. Different types of connector (distinguished by shape and size) are specified for different combinations of current, temperature and earthing requirements. Unlike IEC 60309 connectors, they are not coded for voltage; users must ensure that the voltage rating of the equipment is compatible with the mains supply.

    The first edition of IEC 320 (later renumbered IEC 60320) was published in 1970.

    IEC connector (disambiguation)

    IEC connectors are electrical power connectors specified by IEC standards.

    IEC connector may also refer to:

    IEC 60309, connectors primarily used for industrial purposes

    IEC 60320, for use up to 250 V AC for electrical appliances

    IEC 60906-1, 230 V AC connectors for domestic use

    IEC 60906-2, 115 V AC connectors

    IEC 60906-3, safety extra-low voltage connectors for domestic use

    IEC 62196, connectors and charging modes for electric vehicles

    Mains electricity by country

    Mains electricity by country includes a list of countries and territories, with the plugs, voltages and frequencies they commonly use for providing electrical power to appliances, equipment, and lighting typically found in homes and offices. (For industrial machinery, see Industrial and multiphase power plugs and sockets.) Some countries have more than one voltage available. For example, in North America most sockets are attached to a 120 V supply, but there is a 240 V supply available for large appliances. Often different sockets are mandated for different voltage or current levels.

    Voltage, frequency, and plug type vary, but large regions may use common standards. Physical compatibility of receptacles may not ensure compatibility of voltage, frequency, or connection to earth (ground), including plugs and cords. In some areas, older standards may still exist. Foreign enclaves, extraterritorial government installations, or buildings frequented by tourists may support plugs not otherwise used in a country, for the convenience of travellers.

    SANS 164

    South African National Standard 164: Plugs and socket outlets for household and similar purposes for use in South Africa is the South African Bureau of Standards' standard for domestic AC power plugs and sockets. As a former British colony, South Africa's electricity standards are of British derivation, and it uses 220/230 V at 50 Hz AC.However, while the UK changed over to the rectangular-pin BS 1363 plug after World War II, South Africa has retained the older round-pin BS 546 style. This round-pin style was current in both the UK and South Africa when South Africa gained independence in 1931.Consequently, through much of the rest of the 20th century, both the smaller BS 546 5 ampere plug and socket, and the larger BS 546 15 ampere plug and socket, remained commonly in use in South Africa until the SANS 164-1 and SANS 164-2 standards were strictly defined in 1992. In 1994 these two new modern SANS 164 standards were implemented. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s the SANS 164-1/BS 546 15 ampere standard was largely in the process of replacing the smaller BS 546 5 ampere standard, and thus it became the most prominently utilised standard from 1994 on.

    South Africa has adopted the IEC 60906-1 plug and socket as SANS 164-2 in 1992. More recently however it has been selected by the South African Government as the "preferred standard" in 2013, and is being pushed to slowly replace the SANS 164-1/BS 546 15 ampere standard. Although the sockets are compatible with the Europlugs, which are already in common use as SANS 164-5, and Brazil has adopted a modified form of the same IEC 60906-1 standard, South Africa is the first country to adopt the IEC 60906-1 standard directly and implement it.The standard is divided into seven parts:

    SANS 164-0: General and Safety Requirements

    This incorporates IEC 60884 for definitions and general requirements. First implemented in 2006, it effectively replaces an earlier separate standard set by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS for short) for plug and socket safety (SABS 1664).

    SANS 164-1: Conventional System, 16 A 250 V

    This is identical to the BS 546 15 ampere plug and socket, although in South Africa it is rated for 16 A for compatibility with the IEC 60898 standard current ratings. By 1992 the BS 546 15 ampere system had been codified by the SABS as SANS 164-1. This standard remains in effect today and it is the most commonly used plug and socket system currently in use in South Africa. However, after a transition period of 10 to 20 years, it is planned that SANS 164-2 will replace SANS 164-1 as the dominant standard.

    This plug-and-socket system is equivalent to the IEC "Plug Type M" system.

    SANS 164-2: Conventional System, 16 A 250 V

    This specifies the IEC 60906-1 plug system, both 2-pin unearthed and 3-pin earthed. Codified by the SABS as a South African standard since 1992, it was designated the "preferred standard" in 2013. Since 2015, South Africa has been in a planned transition period lasting 10 to 20 years (till either 2025 or 2035) to replace SANS 164-1 with SANS 164-2 as the dominant plug and socket system. The sockets are compatible with the SANS 164-5 Europlug which is also currently in common use in South Africa.

    This plug-and-socket system is equivalent to the IEC "Plug Type N" system.

    SANS 164-3: Conventional System, 6 A 250 V

    This is identical to the BS 546 5 ampere plug and socket, although it is rated for 6 A in South Africa for compatibility with the IEC 60898 standard current ratings. This standard was first codified by the SABS in 2006. Although the SABS standard was only defined in 2006, plugs and sockets of this form are normally only found in older installations of South African households, as both the BS 546 5 ampere (equivalent to SANS 164-3) and the BS 546 15 ampere (equivalent to SANS 164-1) were common in South Africa until 1992, when SANS 164-1 became the dominant standard for most household applications. Thus, plugs and sockets of the SANS 164-3/BS 546 5 ampere type are not commonly seen in households in South Africa anymore, having largely been replaced by SANS 164-1 in the early 1990s.

    This plug-and-socket system is equivalent to the IEC "Plug Type D" system.

    SANS 164-4: Dedicated System, 16 A 250 V

    These plugs and sockets, unique to South Africa, are similar to the SANS 164-1 connectors, but have the earth pin flattened on one side to prevent conventional plugs from being inserted into dedicated sockets. Dedicated plugs are, however, compatible with conventional sockets. This standard was first codified by the SABS in 2006.

    These receptacles are commonly used for uninterruptible, isolated or otherwise filtered power. They come in three varieties, with corresponding colours. Although the standard does not define their use, some are common:Red, flat on top: Generic "special power", commonly used for computers and other electronics

    Blue, flat rotated 53° clockwise: commonly used for uninterruptible power

    Black, flat rotated 53° counterclockwise: commonly used for transformer-isolated power

    SANS 164-5: Two-pole, non-rewireable plugs, 2,5 A 250 V AC, with cord, for connection of class II equipment

    These plugs are identical to the CEE7/16 Alternative II Europlug. Only plugs are defined; they are to be used with SANS 164-2 or 164-6 sockets. This standard was first codified in South Africa by the SABS in 2006.

    This plug is equivalent to the plug defined by the IEC as "Plug Type C" (Europlug).

    SANS 164-6: Two-pole systems, 16 A 250 V AC, for connection of class II equipment

    These plugs are the CEE-7/17 unearthed type, compatible with CEE 7/1 (unearthed), CEE 7/3 (Schuko), and CEE 7/5 (French style) sockets. Corresponding unearthed sockets are also defined, which include features to prevent the insertion of earthed CEE 7/4, 7/6 and 7/7 plugs. South Africa resolves the problem with Schuko's unreliable earthing by forbidding its use on devices which require earthing. This standard was first codified in South Africa by the SABS in 2006.

    The last two categories allow many European electrical devices to be imported directly.


    "Schuko" is a registered trademark referring to a system of AC power plugs and sockets that is defined as "CEE 7/3" (sockets) and "CEE 7/4" (plugs). A Schuko plug features two round pins of 4.8 mm diameter (19 mm long, centers 19 mm apart) for the line and neutral contacts, plus two flat contact areas on the top and bottom side of the plug for protective earth (ground). The socket (which is often, in error, also referred to as CEE 7/4) has a predominantly circular recess which is 17.5 mm deep with two symmetrical round apertures and two earthing clips on the sides of the socket positioned to ensure that the earth is always engaged before live pin contact is made. Schuko plugs and sockets are symmetric AC connectors. They can be mated in two ways, therefore line can be connected to either pin of the appliance plug. As with most types of European sockets, Schuko sockets can accept Europlugs. Schuko plugs are considered a very safe design when used with Schuko sockets, but they can also mate with other sockets to give an unsafe result.

    "Schuko" is a short form of the German term Schutzkontakt (literally: protective contact), which indicates that plug and socket are equipped with protective-earth contacts (in the form of clips rather than pins). Schuko connectors are normally used on circuits with 230 V, 50 Hz, for currents up to 16 A.

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