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For about 50 years now, (U.K. 220v based), I've cut off cables from power tools, leaving a foot or so, and replacing the connector with a 'kettle' plug type (IEC C13 male). On larger equipment, there's room for a permanent male socket to be mounted on the chassis. Reason - don't have several cables trailing everywhere when using a few tools, just the one, which can be transferred from tool to tool, and when I've finished, there's only one long cable to wind away. There's also the safety factor, that I can quickly disconnect a tool if there's a problem (angle grinder, for example).

I now use several 110v hand tools, with even larger plugs on the end of their cables. Is there an alternative (smaller than the yellow) plug/socket that will work the same? Don't think there's a special code for them. The IP rating isn't important as they're for use in the workshop, rather than the obvious intended outside).

I certainly don't want to use the same kettle plug, as there would be a mix-up one day. I already use the kettle plug with a special keyway for those 220v tools which take more current than, say a drill. And use a heavier cable to supply them. So that option is covered (safely) with the present arrangement, which has never given me any problem over 50 years. And also get used on various amplifiers I use as a musician. They're with different mains plugs for different countries, obviating use of adaptors.

EDIT: in response to several comments, I've checked with some lengthy correspondence about changing plugs, and it appears it's permissible, as long as the replacement is proprietary. Splicing on another length of wire isn't. So I guess what I've done is o.k. Maybe the question could have been - is it o.k. to do that? But it's not what I'm looking for, today.

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3 Answers 3

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A few options spring to mind.

  1. Use American plugs and sockets, upside is they are specifically coded for voltage. Downside is they won't have been tested to European standards and they are also likely to be tricky to obtain. They also have no protection against accidentally touching the pins if a plug is pulled partially out of the socket.
  2. Use the 16A version of the IEC 60320 series. These are not specifically coded for voltage, so there is some risk that someone could connect 230V to your 110V tool, but they are uncommon enough that the risk is low.
  3. Use the powercon true 1 series from Neuterik. Again these are not specifically coded for 110V but are rare enough that it's unlikely to be a problem in practice. Upsides are they are IP rated and locking while still being small. Downsides are they are quite expensive, and there is apparently a design flaw where rough handling can destroy the polarisation features and render them susceptible to dangerous mis-mating.

Personally I would lean towards option 2.

If using a connector that is not specifically voltage coding, I would also suggest adding some yellow tape or sleeving to the cable as an extra reminder that these are 110V connections.

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  • Right. The 16A rating of the IEC60320 C19 connector also matches the rating of the common version of the yellow connector. (I'd be shocked if any of the tools were using the 32 Amp version, since any tool needing that much power would be better off using 220V). For the US market, UL will actually certify both the yellow IEC 60309 and the C19 for 20A, rather than the IEC's limit of 16 amps, but hopefully we can assume the existing tools are limiting themselves to the Europe legal 16A limit. Feb 14, 2023 at 14:48
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    The UK construction industry relies very heavilly on 110V center-tapped supplies, which were seen as much safer than normal 230V mains supplies. I think this started many years ago in the days before RCDs, but it still remains common safety policy on constrution sites to this day to only allow 110V tools. Feb 14, 2023 at 15:33
  • The 16A version is by far the most common, but you do run into larger tools with the 32A plug from time to time. Feb 14, 2023 at 15:34
  • TRUE CON 1 are discontinued, in favour of the TRUE CON 1 TOP. One would assume they have fixed the issues. I've used a heck of a lot of Neutriks over the years & never had a single issue.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 14, 2023 at 16:36
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    The true 1 TOP has improved weather resistance over the original True 1, but neutrik still seem to think it suffersfrom the wear and tear mismating issue. neutrik.com/media/13212/download/… I cant see how the issue can be truely solved without a serious redesign. Feb 14, 2023 at 20:17
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American NEMA 5-15 plug/socket isn't much larger than IEC C13/C14. Current rating is 15A.

I couldn't find anything about this connector being regulated in UK, so it should count as proprietary.

You can order plugs, sockets and extension cords from Aliexpress. They're not as cheap as 220V equipment but still affordable.

NEMA 5-15 15A extension cord

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    Personally if a connector is going to be carrying hazardous voltages, I would want to buy it from a reputable seller. Feb 14, 2023 at 15:30
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    That looks horribly unsafe. That definitely would not be allowed in the UK. You can reach the pins with a screwdriver, paper-clip etc whilst it's still connected.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 14, 2023 at 16:38
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    I couldn't agree more with the wisdom of simply using NEMA 5 for British 110V. It just makes sense. @PeterGreen The UL, CSA or ETL marks should be considered as good as a BSI Kitemark re: quality. AliExpress crud won't have it, it will have the utterly useless CE mark, which is universally and unrepetently faked by any builder with no assets inside the EU. UL is a civic organization who will aggressively defend its mark anywhere. CE not so much. Feb 14, 2023 at 19:08
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica - I'm merely commenting on the OP's provided picture, which looks like an accident waiting to happen. I've used those plugs many times before, having worked for an electronics multi-national for over a decade. They're just cheap nasty wobbly things that will pull half out at the slightest provocation. [Japanese plugs are just as bad, it's not entirely a US thing.]
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 14, 2023 at 19:25
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    Half of the 300 million plus residents of the United States are below average intelligence, so you’d expect nearly everybody would have electrocuted themselves with nema 5-15 plugs and sockets, right? Wrong. From a technical perspective they aren’t great; from a practical perspective, they work fine. Feb 14, 2023 at 20:16
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Assuming that it is legal and otherwise acceptable to use NEMA (US/Canada) standard plugs (as two other answers have suggested), you might be interested in the NEMA ML “midget locking” series. These are twist-locking connectors (which prevents pulling out accidentally when in the middle of a cord as you plan), but only 1 inch in diameter (smaller than the more common NEMA L-series twist lock plugs), and they have grounded (ML2) and ungrounded (ML1) versions.

Of course, since they are fairly obscure they may be even harder to acquire in the UK.

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