These crazy Americans and their crazy electrical standards

Or that’s what I thought when I first moved here.

In Britain there is only one common type of electrical plug/socket which is used for everything. It is an earthed, polarised connector which provides single-phase 240V AC at a max 13A. Plugs have a fuse in for protection, and sockets usually have a switch to turn them off without unplugging. The only common equipment that can’t get enough power through this system is an electric cooker, and those are usually hard-wired into a wall-box with a fuse and switch.

In short, I’m used to there being one type of plug.

The Americans do things differently, but I am learning that it is not quite as crazy as I first thought. We just ordered an electric dryer for our new home, and I found I had to check what kind of socket and electrical circuit we had available. This seems to be because the American standards specify different connectors to go with different rated circuits, so that you can’t accidentally mix them up. The normal 120V AC home circuit doesn’t provide enough power for dryers and cookers so they have additional 240/250V AC two-phase circuits installed for them, with different kinds of plugs. Our dryer socket looks like it is a NEMA 10-30 which is out of date by the current code but still common.

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