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European Continental Electrics Are Bad compared to British

This is
Indexed by Julian Stacey

Britain by 1970 or earlier had started to get rid of their old electrics, & bring in new & better eg 13 Amp sockets & better wiring practices. Continental Europe in 2013 still has rubbish by comparison. Most public there still don't realise it. Maybe when /if continental public realise, they might demand improvement.

After I wrote this page (perhaps around 2013 ?), later in Dec 2015 I found a graphic illustration of yet another reason the continental system is unsafe "Schuko plug partially inserted in CEE 7/1 non-earthed socket, exposed pins and no connection for the earthing contact."

Notes from a mail that I wrote. May be tidied later.
British square pin are 13 Amp. German continental etc are not. This (Polish?) socket ( posted by Adam Nowacki nowakpl at ) looks similar to French. French are (marginally better than German & Austrian & North Italian/South Tyrol)

Continental wiring standards I've seen are shamefully dangerous compared to British (which are to better standard, cost more per equipment & more work to install)

In a typical rental flat in Munich, Germany, built & first rented in 1986, one of several hundred in a big, not cheap city centre complex , there are just 16 A & 10 A fuses. (Trip fuses, though older German buildings have screw in clunky things a little smaller than golf balls.

  • I suspect a lot is spur wired, not ring main. Certainly it's combined lighting & floor power on 1 fuse per several rooms.
  • No Earth trip, though I'm told it should have one (but I wont commit myself if it Should by law as built in '85, as I've not myself researched German law/ standards on that, & people who tell me what they believe should be, are not authoritative).
  • Naked socket with unscreened holes & no switch, between the 2 hand basins in the bathroom, inches apart from the basins. No not a low current transformer isolated razor socket like in UK, but full power ready to kill, courtesy of a splash or hair dryer falling in bath.
  • a 2nd socket for clothes washing machine in bathroom.
  • Wall light & fan switches, not ceiling pull cord.
Normal by German & continental standards, appalling to a British electrician.

What is shown in I suppose is Polish, looks just like a French style socket (same material used as German & Austrian & very North Italian (=Sued Tyrol), But the French (& I see Poles) at least achieve the possibility of differentiating neutral from live, by virtue of the offset earth pin.

These (type of) sockets are rubbish compared with British 13A sockets. Reasons:

  • No chance of a switch (cheap British one don't, but decent ones do).
  • Big reason: see the tiny claws (more visible on left) ? Leftmost screw pushes them sideways into the wall. That's all that holds socket in wall, 2 claws; after a while they work loose. If you've got a vacuum cleaner or kettle plugged in (that needs firm contact for all the current, to avoid getting hot), there's a heavy outward force out of wall when unplugging. (I always use one hand on plastic to help it stay in wall, with other hand on plug to pull out.

  • Another reason: all that naked metal when the cover is off (a British socket is a lot more covered, much lower chance of electrocution at 230V in Europe)

  • Another reason: UK plugs also have variable 2/ 3/ 5/ 13 amp fuses in plugs. Continental sockets supply up to room circuit fuse rating, a lot more than many appliance cables can take.

  • Another reason: Polarised Live & Neutral (French & Poles achieve that, Germans Austrians & North Tyrol fail. They like bad sockets on the continent, as seen in picture 'cos you just a use combi circular saw with drill in the middle, to quickly pilot a hole, then sink bigger circular hole in wall. & then bung in a cheap circular plastic cylinder (that the metal claws eat into & scratch out of over the years)

    In Britain, you hack out a square hole (a lot more work, then put in a more expensive galvanised steel square cavity box, then bang in several masonry nails sideways to hold the steel box in place, then screw in the more expensive better socket, with proper metal thread screws into screwed holes that make a good grip.

  • The plastic cover on British sockets is much thicker & stronger

In Munich, a shop in Schiller Str (the main computer/ PC street) sold British polarised square plugs & sockets as high quality luxury equipment at several times UK prices.

Much continental wiring is Sub Standard & would be condemned under British (ex IEE as was) wiring regulations.

British plugs are admittedly more painful if you walk on them accidentally bare foot, pins upward, & clunkier in slim laptop cases, but the plugs & sockets are _Much_ better. What cost a life or a burnt building. ?

Continental plastic covers are bad, thin, less strength, single tightening screw right next to Live. British tightening screws are well away & safe.

I've seen many loose continental sockets, relatively few UK 13A ones

When mean or shops closed, I remove socket & file the contacts of the holes (after fuse off :-) Fine emery (black sand) paper is good to polish plug contacts. I've know many public in Britain & Germany use plugs for many decades, till pins are really dirty, & they never think to polish plug pins (or screws are tight or check cable gland/retainer). So easy to do, even if it takes an electrician to remove & replace or clean (or tighten springs in) a socket. Admittedly British plugs with brass or similar tarnish quicker than continental's made out of steel, (but maybe the steel may rust faster if exposed to damp).

PS 2 pin multi way continental adapters are also bad: Insert 2 pin plug fully in a 2or 3 to 1 adapter, & you can feel the metal contact is sometimes off, or often almost off, ready to be high resistance or fail, 'cos its gone in too deep, 'cos too much of the shaft is plastic, & not enough metal along the tip, or more likely not enough contact metal in socket. (Can occasionally be cause of eg laptops, electric toothbrushes, & razors etc not charging.

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