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#138834 09/29/03 03:51 AM
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 1,253
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djk Offline OP
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Had a weird incident yesterday. A cable reel which was plugged in fell off a countertop giving a sharp jerk to the plug in the wall socket (outlet).

The plug remained in place but the double socket plate split in half and pieces of plastic feel off the front leaving the two plugs fully engaged but with the live innards of the socket exposed.

This was a 15-20 year old MK double switched socket (flush fitted)

Isn't it about time that UK sockets moved over to using fire retardant ABS plastics rather than that brittle white stuff? The plugtops are no longer made of that material. I remember if you dropped an old British plug (even a 1970s/80s version) it would crack and break. I remember seeing plugs with the earth pin loose at the top etc etc.

I know that metal clad versions are a lot tougher but I've seen plenty of instances where a white socket has been hit with a vacuum cleaner or a peice of furnature and cracked and where the householder hasn't bothered to replace it or has just used electric tape to hold it together.

On another point. Why can't BSI specify where the cable should enter socket and switch plates? I've come across plenty of situations where when you remove an old plate that the cables are ridiculously short and will only reach the terminals on one type of plate. E.g. MK's plates all seem to have terminals at the top where as others are in the centre at the back. Surely this should be standardised? If only to make life easier!

#138835 09/29/03 04:29 AM
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,432
Likes: 3
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djk,
What a question you ask!.
I had a sort of similar thing happen to me in a house over here, where the socket-outlet had been ripped off the wall and exposed live conductors.
Are plugs still made out of hard materials over in the UK and Ireland, we went out of this in the late 70's and all of our plugs are made of really cheap ABS plastics now. [Linked Image]

#138836 09/29/03 09:19 AM
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,691
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The white brittle stuff is either urea or melamine (Melmac). Both are thermoset plastics (meaning that once they're molded, you can't melt them down and reshape).

They are almost similar in composition to the more ubiquitous brown phenolic (Bakelite).

However, brown Bakelite is even MUCH more heat resistant and has the benefit that it won't discolor and crack from exessive heat (such as a high wattage lightbulb). This is the reason why, when I buy "plug clusters" for screwing into a lampholder, I always go for the brown ones.

All three plastics are fire-resistant. I have also have eating plates made of melamine, but do NOT put them in a microwave oven. These types of plastics will not hold up to microwaves. The handle of my 30-watt Taiwanese soldering pencil is made out of Bakelite.

I have an MK plugtop that I bought last year (brand new) from TLC Direct. It does seem like it's made out of Melamine. Heavy, solid, chunky stuff.

I also bought a cheaper thing to compare it with -- the no-name TLC's own version. That one is made out of a softer plastic.

I've noticed that on the flexible plastic ones, the designation is BS-1363-A whilst the designation on the thermoset plastic ones is just BS-1363.

What's up with that?

#138837 09/29/03 05:47 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
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Yes, MK and some other manufacturers still make the urea-based plugs, although the softer ABS types are becoming much more common than they used to be, thanks to molded-on plugs now being standard on new appliances.

Sockets used to take a lot more bashing with vacuum cleaners when it was common for them to be surface-mounted on the baseboard (or "skirting board" as it's called here).

This arrangement was very common in old Victorian houses, as wiring could be carried out by just drilling downward at an angle through the board and running the cables under the floorboards (or in many cases, just running the cable straight down from the socket on the surface of the baseboard).

British manufacturers stopped making most brown fittings years ago. The only place the darker plastic is used now is for the toggle and socket inserts on some fancy brass fittings.

P.S. Should have said rockers instead of toggles. You can't get plastic toggle switches anymore.

[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 09-29-2003).]

#138838 09/29/03 06:33 PM
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 47
G
Member
I lived in an apartment complex that was built in 1987 (Vacaville, California).

One day I was lifting a heavy mirror when it slipped and fell right on top of an outlet faceplate ripping it out from the wall and exposing the terminals. The outlet box was made of plastic and had broke. The faceplate and outlet were fine.

An old "Murphey's Law" goes "A $500 stereo will blow to protect a 5 cent fuse."

Oh well, the nice part about paying rent is that the landlord hires the contractor [Linked Image]

Gene--



[This message has been edited by GeneSF (edited 09-29-2003).]

#138839 09/30/03 06:30 AM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,498
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Member
Quote
but I've seen plenty of instances where a white socket has been hit with a vacuum cleaner or a piece of furnature and cracked and where the householder hasn't bothered to replace it or has just used electric tape to hold it together.
So true! I've seen a lot of cracked Schuko outlets, sometimes they weren't fixed at all, in some instances people even tried to glue them back together and they broke again. High-quality receptacles and switches are still made of hard plastic (Berker, Legrand,...), cheaper HD-like stuff is made of a softer plastic. Available in various colors, like white, brown, red, green, blue, yellow,... Price difference: Berker switch at the electrician's: 15 Euro. Kopp switch at Baumax: 3 Euro. Quality difference: probably not much. The Berker switch feels pretty awful when operated. I've never had a Kopp switch fail, whereas an expensive Legrand one did after only a few months of very light use.

#138840 09/30/03 02:49 PM
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 1,253
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djk Offline OP
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Industrial plugs and sockets are all high grade fire retardant plastics that can take quite a lot of abuse.
I don't see why the same can't be used in domestic situations. There is no real reason to continue with these old fashioned hard plastics.

I've seen cracked schuko sockets in use in Holland too. You can still buy hard plastic rewirable schuko plugs here in Ireland although the CEE 7/7 style ones seem to be softer plastic.

#138841 09/30/03 03:22 PM
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,691
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Really? Who from? I'm stuck with getting crimp-on Europlugs.

Soft thermo-plastic....they don't shatter, though.

The ABL-brand Schuko plugs I have here are all a rubbery, flexible material for the husk with a stiff black plastic (almost like nylon) for the dead front. Very good quality things. EXXX-PENNN-SIVE though!!!

#138842 10/01/03 06:20 AM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,498
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Sven, what you get is the tough-grade, splashproof version. Typical rewireable Schuko plugs are made of a rather weak plastic that stands higher falling but is easily smashed by heavier weights. I've seen one at a site, it was patched with paper masking tape! More expensive plugs are made of the same stuff but thicker, so they last longer.

#138843 10/03/03 08:18 AM
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 1,253
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djk Offline OP
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Rewirable schuko plugs here have a fairly normal plastic outer layer and a black harder middle bit.

Looks a bit tougher than BS1363 equivilants

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