Electrical plug image courtesy of Signal and Power Delivery Systems.
Electrical plugs are among the most recognizable electronic components in existence. Everyone who has ever used an electronic device has at one time had to connect it to a power source, either for the purposes of directly supplying electrical current or in order to charge a battery operated device. Most people are at least somewhat aware of the purpose plugs serve and how they serve it; when inserted into an electrical receptacle, the prongs come into contact with something that is connected to a series of wires, which is in turn connected somehow to a power plant where the electrical current is generated. But people’s knowledge tends to end there, or at least around there.
There’s so much more to know about electrical plugs than these basics, and some of the extra knowledge could contribute to lower instances of electrical fires in homes and places of business. According to a bulletin released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 1996 electrical plugs and power cords were implicated in 120 deaths. These deaths were caused by electrical fires, of which there were reported to be 7,100 for that year. Improper use of electrical cords and plugs, or use of poorly designed or damaged electrical cords and plugs, is a major safety hazard. A recent influx of cheap extension cords from overseas with counterfeit UL certification labels has been particularly problematic. Higher levels of consumer awareness can contribute to lower instances of fires, injuries and deaths. For more information about these studies and about safety precautions, visit the CPSC’s website.
Another fact of which people in the United States may have limited awareness is the wide range of different plug configurations that are in use worldwide. In addition to the voltage difference between the United States and many other countries, many countries make use of their own unique plug and receptacle configurations. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but it is certain that international travelers should be aware of this reality. Despite their seeming simplicity, plugs are very important electric components.