Why are plugs in the US such a PITA?

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Forum topic by agallant posted 10-28-2011 02:56 PM 2380 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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551 posts in 2908 days

10-28-2011 02:56 PM

I am in Germany right now and am falling in love with the plugs over here. Everything is 220. The plugs have two long prongs and two grounding strips, the grounding strips always make contact first and there is no way that you can touch the two hot leads. Why can’t we have something like this in the US. I have been zapped a few times before by our plugs. as for 220 in the US the connectors are huge. We have these twist lock plugs at work for 220, you plug the thing in then twist it to lock it I like the locking part but the plug is huge, as for they type of plug my dryer uses that is too big too.
Check it out. I love these plugs, wish I could have them in my shop.

27 replies so far

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3766 days

#1 posted 10-28-2011 03:06 PM

? All of the 220 plugs in my shop are the same size as the 110 plugs, just have a different prong orientation. You have to have the large plugs for high amp items, like 5+ hp motors.

View steviep's profile


233 posts in 2669 days

#2 posted 10-28-2011 03:12 PM

This is what we use in the Lighting world

The only downside is they are pricey!

This one is fun too-

6 separate runs of 20AMP power (load, neutral and ground) in one handy (and heavy) cord!

-- StevieP ~ Micheal Tompkins - you were not here on earth long but left a giant mark on us. RIP Brother

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3096 days

#3 posted 10-28-2011 05:05 PM

All 220?

I’ve always understood that, while 110 volts can give you a good kick, it is very rare that it would kill you. By contrast, under the right circumstances, 220 can kill you.

Maybe I am wrong about this. Nonetheless, if I am right, it seems like 110 should be used where it is sufficient and 220 should be limited to applications that need it.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2857 days

#4 posted 10-28-2011 05:16 PM

It’s the difference of AC vs. DC and the US being conned by Edison into picking the wrong electrical type, 220 in Europe is much less dangerous at 220.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View dbhost's profile


5723 posts in 3254 days

#5 posted 10-28-2011 05:17 PM

It’s not the volts that kill, it’s the amps… Plenty of people have been killed, or at least needed CPR because they came in contact with a live hi tension lead (coil to distributor lead) on a car, 12V, but thousands of amps… I have been zapped by 110V before on the job site, don’t want to do that again…

No matter what the cause, you want to have your body avoid contact with live electrical circuits at all costs…

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View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2697 days

#6 posted 10-28-2011 08:43 PM

If the human body is shocked at the right time in relation the the heart beat then the heart cannot be restarted. I had a distant family member that has shocked by a bad drill motor and his wife was beating herself up for not being able to revive him. Someone told her this. Another cousin asked me if I had heard about this and I had not. I asked a young doctor friend and he told me that it WAS true. He said there was a term for it but he could not remember it. He said it was discussed in first year medical school. All I really learned here is an electrical shock is a dangerous thing whether 110V or 220V or whatever.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15366 posts in 2640 days

#7 posted 10-28-2011 08:56 PM

I thought Edison didn’t get his way, despite his con efforts.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Torr's profile


19 posts in 2668 days

#8 posted 10-29-2011 03:43 PM

@dbhost, Actually the ignition coil coil puts out 10,000+ volts and a few milliamps of current. It is basically a step-up transformer. The input to it is 12 volts and 10+ amps.

My understanding is that only a few milliamps across the heart will disrupt its rhythm and possibly cause cardiac arrest.

How voltage plays into it is a bit more complicated as the resistance / impedance of the body comes into play.

As a general rule, I believe most safety standards consider anything under 42 volts low voltage and generally safe. Above that there is risk of electrocution.

So the 110 vs. 220 debate is somewhat moot. Either can kill you. The one benefit of 220 volt systems is the lower amperage needed for a given device and thus less thermal issues. Fire safety concerns may have driven the selection of 220 more so than electrocution risk.

View glassyeyes's profile


137 posts in 3351 days

#9 posted 11-08-2011 12:19 AM

Another issue is 50 cycle (Europe) vs. 60 cycle (US). I was told by a German engineer that 50 cycle AC current is less dangerous to the human body than 60 cycle. AC can mess up the heart rhythm more easily than DC at some voltages.

Also, AC current came to the fore because DC current cannot be efficiently transmitted for any significant distance. Transformers work well on alternating current, but not on DC. Nikola Tesla invented some of the AC system, but was snookered out of the rights to it by others.

-- Now, where did I put those bandaids?

View EEngineer's profile


1103 posts in 3635 days

#10 posted 11-08-2011 02:46 AM

As an electrical engineer, I simply have to chime in on this one…

The difference in danger between 50 Hz and 60 Hz is minimal. However, the difference in danger between AC and DC is immense. Most of it is because of the body’s reaction to electric current. DC will actually cause the muscles to “clench” in contact with DC and it is sometimes impossible to let go. Because the AC is constantly reversing direction, it is easier to let go of an AC circuit. However, with enough voltage, even AC will cause enough contraction of the muscles to make it impossible to let go.

In terms of fibrillation (sp?) of the heart (the thing that causes death in electrocution), AC (50 or 60 Hz) is actually worse than DC. It takes about 10X as much DC current to cause fibrillation. This is through the skin which is a pretty good insulator. Since we are primarily bags of salty water (very conductive), contact directly through the skin to the fluids of our body can be much more lethal. If you were to drive a pin under a fingernail of each hand (ouch) and connect a common D-cell battery (1.5V) to the pins, the resultant current through your heart would be enough to kill you.

You need current directly through the heart to cause fibrillation, which is why many old electricians recommend “keeping one hand in your pocket”. Current flowing through one arm to the other is deadly because it goes through the heart; current flowing through either arm to your feet much less so.

As far as 110 versus 220; the skin doesn’t really break down until about 500V then things get really deadly. Below that, 110 or 220, the effect is strictly resistive. That doesn’t mean “not dangerous”; plenty of people have been killed by both 110 and 220. 220 will give about 2X the current of 110 for the same body resistance. Body resistance can be lowered by sweat, or direct contact with water.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View becikeja's profile


891 posts in 2835 days

#11 posted 11-11-2011 02:27 PM

Hey, I have an idea. Just make sure not to touch any of it. :)

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2983 days

#12 posted 11-11-2011 03:21 PM

What becikeja said- don’t touch the prongs on the plug. I learned that years ago.

EE, I had alway heard that one would freeze on 110 but 220 would throw you off the wire.

Germany? I have a lot of respect for German engineering and technology, in many instances. Read Albert Speer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” They had the capability of winning WWII if Hitler hadn’t been an idiot.

View StumpyNubs's profile


7598 posts in 2822 days

#13 posted 11-11-2011 03:23 PM

I lived in eastern Europe (old Soviet Union) for a while and let me tell you, I understand why every single building is made from poured cement, even the interior walls. The electrical system they use there (just two round prongs and a lot of old wire) will burn your biscuits in a hurry!

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2715 days

#14 posted 11-11-2011 04:03 PM

In the dead guy business, high voltage is considered 600V and above but you’re right, it’s the amps that’ll get you, at whatever voltage. Search for research on Tasers to learn about the amperage required to disrupt proper cardiac condution. Be careful talking about it, though, as a certain taser company (I’ll let you figure out which one) is well known to sue anyone and everyone in sight. I honestly shouldn’t say any more.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2983 days

#15 posted 11-11-2011 07:47 PM

Correction: Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer; got it mixed up with The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.

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