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overview of types of plugs and sockets
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SANS1 164 "Plugs and socket-outlets systems for household and similar purposes for use in South Africa" deals with six standards, 164-1, -2, -3, -4, -5 and -6. Examples are shown below. Dimensions of plug pins are given in a table at the bottom of the page.

1 South African National Standard. SANS 164 was first published in 1994. Source (source).
Related galleries:
classic types 1 (1900-1920)
classic types 2 (1920-1990)


SANS 164-1
SANS 164-1 socket
SANS 164-1 plug
SANS 164-1 plugs with handle

SANS 164-1 plug release
SANS 164-1 plug release
SANS 164-1 plug release
SANS 164-1 plug release
SANS 164-1 plug release

SANS 164-1 covers a 16A - 250V system, based on, and compatible with, 15A BS 546. British BS 546 (15A) standard was introduced in the 1920s in South Africa. It is likely that 15A was 'upgraded' to 16A when SANS 164 was introduced in 1994; the plug concept remained essentially unchanged. For the time being* SANS 164-1 is the dominant domestic system in South Africa.

* There are concerns about the safety of SANS 164-1. Although plugs are available that have line and neutral pins with insulating sleeves, by far most plug have not insulated pins. In combination with non-recessed sockets it is possible to touch pins under tension when a plug is not fully inserted or during removal from a socket outlet.
Older sockets don't have safety shutters. It is easy to insert metal objects in the large pin holes; dangerous if the sockets is not switched off beforehand.
Safety features were a prominent reason why South Africa has adopted a new standard: SANS 164-2, see below.
1, 2
Socket and plug. Shutters for current-carrying socket holes are mandatory. Shutters can be opened by the plug earth pin or by simultaneously insertion of both current-carrying pins (L and N). Although nearly all sockets are switched, older models without swith exists. Plugs may have a transparent base plate to facilitate inspection of wiring. The first plugs with transparent base were made by the South African company Lumex in the 1980s, an example is shown in the BS 546 page).
Brand names: Crabtree (socket) and Litemaster (plug).   {PC}
3, 4
Quite some traction power is needed to release a fully inserted plug. Two models are shown that are much more easy to release. The model at left has a simple but effective handle; brand name: Electrapac. The plug at right has an ejector plunger that has to be pushed down (see series of images no. 4). Brand name Pop-a-Plug (Pty) Ltd. The  plug has been designed by Willem C. Botbyl and Hans Zander. South African patent was granted in 2000 (no. 2000/02856).   {PC}

The Easy-Pull plug handle, another but very different solution to facilitate plug release is shown on a separate page.


SANS 164-2 SANS 164-2 socket
SANS 164-2 plug
SANS 164-2 pin orientation

SANS 164-2 covers the 16A - 250V IEC system, identical to IEC 60906-1 standard domestic plug. In 2014 the South African National Standard for the Wiring of Premises has declared SANS 164-2 to be the preferred standard for electrical plugs and sockets.
From 2018 any new buildings erected must have SANS 164-2 sockets, which means that each plug point must have at least one outlet that can accommodate a SANS 164-2 plug (also referred to as "new ZA plug"); see for example socket No. 5.
The aim is that finally SANS 164-2 will replace SANS 164-1 fully, a process that will take at least several decades.

SANS 164-2 is more safe than 164-1 because sockets are recessed and plug power pins have insulating sleeves. Additional advantages are (1) plugs are more compact than bulky 164-1 and (2) sockets accept 164-5 (Euro)plugs that are commonly used for phone, tablet etc. chargers.
5, 6
Dual socket with SANS 164-2 (top) and 164-1 (bottom) outlets. The combination of both 16A earthed outlets clearly shows the difference in size. Similar sized sockets with three or four 164-2 socket outlet exists also.
The 164-2 socket has a 10 mm deep recess. L and N slots have shutters. L and N pins have insulated sleeves.
Offset of the earth pin is 3 mm. When a plug is inserted, earth connection is made before L and N pins become line, because socket earth contact is positioned slightly in front of L and N contacts. All specifications comply with IEC 60906-1.
Brand names: CBi electric (socket) and Crabtree (plug).
Plug no.6 consists of three parts. Pins and wire contacts are separate from the two halves of plug housing. This allows that the cable entry can be either on the right or left side of the plug.

SANS 164-2-1 and SANS 164-2-2

Special plugs and sockets have been designed for specific purposes, as clean earth, uninterrupted power supply and absence of a residual current device.

Characteristics of SANS 164-2 dedicated plugs and sockets are layed down in
SANS 164-2-1 and SANS 164-2-2.

Click image for details >

See SANS 164-4 (below) for SANS 164-1 related dedicated plugs and sockets.
Characteristics od SANS 164-2-1 plugs


SANS 164-3 SANS 164-3 socket
SANS 164-3 plug

SANS 164-3 covers a 6A - 250V system, based on and compatible with 5A BS 546. Rewirable 6A plugs are quite rare nowadays. The process of phasing out started in the 1980s. Non-rewirable plugs are still used for the connection of luninaires. An adapter is needed to use them with a 16A socket. Non-earthed 164-3 plugs are abandoned in 2003.
8, 9
Socket and plug. The shown socket is not of South African origin, but British made. The plug has been made by Procast, South Africa.   Plug no. 9: {SE}


SANS 164-4 SANS 164-4 earth pin configurations
SANS 164-4 dedicated socket, red variant
SANS 164-4 dedicated plug, red variant
Crabtree logo

SANS 164-4 dedicated socket, blue variant
SANS 164-4 dedicated plug, blue variant
SANS 164-4 dedicated socket, black variant
SANS 164-4 dedicated plug, black variant

SANS 164-4 covers a 16A - 250V dedicated system, based on SANS 164-1. The plugs and matching socket are meant for special local networks. The first version of the standard, that is unique to South Africa, was published in 2006.
Socket and plug, characterized by an earth slot and pin that have a flat portion. Three variants exist. They differ with respect to the rotational position of the flat portion, i.e. 0 (red), +53 (blue) and -53 (black). Color coding is an integral requirement of the standard. Dedicated plugs and sockets are manufactured by Crabtree.
11, 12
The red variant is among others used for electronic equipment. Red sockets are connected to a safe, local network, independent of standard power supply. Red sockets can also be used when a clean earth wiring system is necessary.   {PC}
13, 14
The blue variant is usually connected to a local network that offers an uninterrupted power supply.   {BJ}
Note that also available are blue sockets with a fully round earth pin hole (accessible for SANS 164-1 plugs).
15, 16 Black sockets and plugs are connected to an isolated power supply with clean system earth, and/or circuit that is running through a 1:1 isolating transformer.   {BJ}

Blue and black dedicated plugs and sockets have been donated by Crabtree,
Wadeville, South Africa.


SANS 164-5 SANS 164-5 plug

SANS 164-6  SANS 164-6 plug

SANS 164-1 to 164-5 adapter SANS 164-1 to 164-6 adapter SANS 164-1 to 164-6 adapter SANS 164-1 to 164-5 and -6 adapter

17 SANS 164-5 deals with 2-pole 2.5A - 250V non-rewirable plugs for connection of class II equipment (see note). The plug, also known as Europlug, is often used with chargers for cell phones, tablets, laptop computers etc.
Because of the compatibility of plugs of a higher current rating, Europlug specific sockets are allowed in South Africa.
SANS 164-5 plugs fit in SANS 164-2 sockets. Adapters are necessary to plug into SANS 164-1 or -3 sockets. See nos. 19 and 22.
18 SANS 164-6 deals with unearthed 10A or 16A - 250V, non-rewirable plugs for connection of class II equipment. For plug details see CEE 7/17 page. Earthed CEE 7/4 (Schuko) and 7/6 (French type) plugs and matching sockets are illegal in South Africa.
For using (imported) equipment with a SANS 164-6 plug, adapters are always needed; see for example nos. 20 - 22.
19 Adapter that makes a SANS 164-1 socket available for a SANS 164-5 plug. Manufacturer: Ausma Trading, Kempton Park, South Africa.  
20, 21
Adapter for a SANS 164-6 plug. SANS 164-1 power pins are partially insulated. The earth in is an ISOD (Insulated Shutter Opening Device). Also adapters 19 and 22 have a substitute earth pin. Manufacturer: Ausma Trading.
22 Adapter for both SANS 164-5 and -6 plugs. Safely shutters (red) are clearly visible Manufacturer: Ausma Trading.
Transparent adapters exist in various colours. Non-transparent adapter - as no. 19 - are available too.
Class I:  electrical appliances that must have their chassis connected to electrical earth by a separate earth conductor.
Class II: double insulated electrical appliances that does not require a safety connection to electrical earth.


Dimensions of SANS 164 plugs (in millimeters)
164-3 164-4 164-5 164-6
L and N pin distance (centre to centre)
19.9 25.4 19.0 19.0
Earth pin to N or L pin distance (centre to centre)
22.9 28.6 n.a. n.a.
Diameter of L and N pin
5.1 7.0 4.0 4.8
Diameter of earth pin
7.0 8.7* n.a. n.a.
Length of L and N pin
16.1 21.1 19.2 18.9
Length of earth pin
21.2 29.0 n.a. n.a.
   * earth pins have a flat portion


CLANG 5A BS 546 plug
CLANG 5A BS 546 plug
23, 240
CLANG BS 546 plug (Britsh made), rated at 5A - 250V.
The plug is provided with an ejector plunger system to facilitate plug release. Press the top button (image no. 19) and the plunger (no. 20) pushes the plug away from a socket.

The CLANG plug, that dates back to the 1930s, and the Pop-a-Plug model (images 3 and 4
), patented in 2000, have a similar plunger mechanism. If Botbyl and Zander weren't aware of the CLANG plug, it is an example of "convergent evolution".

The CLANG pug is not in the museum collection; pictures are taken by Peter Coates.


The museum is grateful to Peter Coates {PC} for collecting and donating items 1 - 8, 11, 12 and 19 - 22.
Acquiring SANS 164-2 and 164-4 (red variant) material was only possible with his unrelenting efforts.


Logos and marks of South African plugs

South African manufacturers of shown plugs and sockets. Crabtree, Litemaster and CBi electric are parts of Powertech. Procast Manufacturing PTY and Ausma Trading PTY are independent companies.

Left: SABS marks of approval given by the South African Bureau of Standards commercial division for testing and certification.

Classic BS546 5A 2-pin socket and plug
Classic material from
South Africa is shown
on two separate pages.


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