US power sockets in the eyes of a European

I recently went on a trip to the U.S. For 10 days I stayed in different hotels, and in each of them I wondered about the state of the power outlets...

Armed with an adapter for my German/European plugs I tried to charge the camera's or phone's batteries. I don't know if it's just me, but I expect to just plug a device in and get a firm and secure connection to the power outlet. At least that's what I am used to at home.

However in all the hotel rooms the sockets seemed to have no "grip" on the plugs which then tended to either slip out completely or at least lose contact all the time. I first thought it might just be the adapter model I brought, but even the lamps and TVs in the rooms had flaky connections which would easily slip out even when just brushing the cable slightly. I believe this may have to do with the fact that in the US system the power outlets are just flat while in Europe they recess into the wall and provide a much firmer mechanical hold on the plugs. Schutzkontakte_steckdose.jpg The image is taken from German Wikipedia.

Maybe I am a little too "German" here, but I have to admit I felt really uncomfortable sleeping in a room with electrical connections like this. I have never seen such a thing here at home. If this is really normal, I wonder if there are more fires caused by problems with electricity in America than in Europe.


Anonymous said…
Funny you mention it! I had exactly the same thoughts, when i visited Austin and Chicago a while ago.

I think the business for personal/home-use UPS systems must be quite strong over there. ;-)
Anonymous said…
Actually, (and although im not german) the two litle steel hooks you circle out in your photo are the ground connectors, and have nothing to do with holding the plug.

The two metal sticks in the male plug enter the socket and are held in place by two metals that aply pressure on the sides of each stick.

Not only that but there are sockets without ground connectores. ;)
You are right, of course. However this was the best picture I found on Wikipedia, and it already contains the markers.
Sometimes however I have found that the grounding thingies highlighted in the image provide some additional grip, even though that is not their primary purpose.
The American style plugs are not usually a problem, but I have stayed in hotels that have the problem you describe.

I do not think it is really a fire hazard. Worse case scenerio, and this has happened to me, is that you wake up in the morning with a dead laptop battery!
Anonymous said…
with American plugs, all you have to do is push the two blades closer together to get a good tight connection. (think of the blades as gripping arms and you close the arms a little to get a better grip)
Anonymous said…
same thing with australian plugs. This is ridiculous!
Anonymous said…
there is scant data suggesting that electrical fires in the US are caused by the plugs and outlets.

There is sound logic for having plugs and outlets that come uncouples as those in the US do. When people over work the power cords or pull on them instead of things breaking they merely uncouple.

The Euro plugs are not better or worse than US standards, they are merely what you are accustomed to.

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