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How much do you know about the types of power cord?

Telecommunications engineers are very familiar with the different plugs and sockets that are used in data centers. However, when working in a data center in another country, this can be difficult if you don’t know which power cord is used there. There are different types of standards used in the world, and in turn, different countries use different types of power cords, connectors, and especially plugs. In this article, we will introduce the most commonly used types of power cables, NEMA and IEC, and we will also give you some buying advice.


What are power cords?

Power cables are line cables or main cables with two or three connecting couplers at one end. These can have both ends removable from the electrical supply and the device or one of their ends fixed to the electrical device. Its function is to temporarily connect a portable electronic device to the main power supply cable through a wall socket or an extension cord.

As shown in the previous image, these types of power cables have two main parts. One is the cable plug, the male connector, used to connect the AC outlet and thus provide electricity, and the other end is the receptacle, the female connector that connects to the computer. Several different types of connectors and interfaces are used around the world. The NEMA and IEC power cord types described here are the most widely used in North America.

Overview and differences in different types of power cables

NEMA power cables

The National Electrical Manufacturing Association ( NEMA ) certifies various power cords in North America and other countries. These range in amps from 15 to 60 and voltages from 125 to 600. Thus, different types of unique, non-interchangeable plugs are created based on specific voltages or amps.

There are many variants of NEMA plugs in the United States and North American countries, but NEMA 1-15-P and NEMA 5-15-P are the most common. NEMA Type 1 has a round pin just below two flats, while NEMA Type 5 uses its third pin for ground connections.


IEC power cables

The IEC 60320 is one of the international models used by most countries of the world. This specification defines non-locking devices and interconnects couplers to connect power cables to electrical devices up to 250 volts. The “320” refers to the specification number that describes the power connectors. Different types of IEC 60320 power cables are specified, ranging from C1 to C24 for different combinations of current, voltage, and temperature.

Appliance inlet(male) Configuration
International North America
C1 C2 C1C2 connector No 0.2 250 10 125 70
C5 C6 C5C6 connector Yes 2.5 250 10 125 70
C7 C8 C7C8 connector No 2.5 250 10 125 70
C9 C10 C9C10 connector No 6 250 / 125 70
C13 C14 C13C14 connector Yes 10 250 15 125/250 70
C15 C16 C15C16 connector Yes 10 250 15 125/250 120
C15A C16A C15AC16A connector Yes 10 250 15 125/250 155
C17 C18 C17C18 connector No 10 250 15 125/250 70
C19 C20 C19C20 connector Yes 16 250 20 125/250 70
C21 C22 C21C22 connector Yes 16 250 20 125/250 155
C23 C24 C23C24 connector No 16 250 20 125/250 70


Note: The C13, C15, and C19 are the most widely used in data centers.

IEC 60320 C13 vs C15

In the image above, we can easily see that the IEC C15 power cord is similar to the C13, except for the opposite grounding pin on the C15 connector. Also, IEC-C15 connectors would work on C14 inputs, whereas IEC C13 connectors would not fit C16 inputs.

IEC C15 connectors are specifically designed for higher temperature devices (up to 120ºC), such as electric kettles, racks or server rooms, and PoE switches with higher power supplies. At the same time, the standard IEC C13 power cord works with everything from desktop / personal computers, monitors, printers, and amplifiers to fixed setting switches. They are generally rated at 15A / 250V (nationally), and 10A / 250V (internationally) with a withstand capacity of a temperature of 70ºC.


Differences between the standards used by each country

Although most of the countries of the world use the NEMA and IEC types of the power cord, the main connectors being C13, C15, C19, in terms of plug types, their use varies greatly from one country to another.


Europe: CEE 7/7 (Type E, Type F)

CEE 7/7 is now the most widely used plug standard in many European countries and some countries that follow the CENELEC standard. The European countries that don’t use CEE 7/7 are Denmark, Ireland, Italy (CEI 23-50), Malta (BS 1363), Cyprus (BS 1363), and Switzerland (SEV 1011). The popular power cords that adopt the CEE 7/7 plug include CEE 7/7 to C13 socket, CEE 7/7 plug to C15 socket, and CEE 7/7 plug to C19 socket.


Other standards: JIS C 8303, AS / NZS 3112, etc.

Other countries also have themselves plug standard. For example, Australian standard AS/NZS 3112 (Type I), Brazilian standard NBR 14136 (Type N), and Japanese standard JIS C 8303 (Type A, B), etc. However, all of these can also adopt the IEC 60320 connector standard.

country Plug type Tension
Spain C, F (In the Canary Islands also E, L) 230 V
Mexico A, B 127 V
Argentina C, I 220 V
Peru A, B, C, F, L 220 V
Chile C, F, L 220 V
Colombia A, B 120 V
Bolivia A, C 230 V
Ecuador A, B 120 V

How to buy the correct power cord?

It is extremely important to choose the right power cord that offers high performance in terms of speed and durability. Following a few simple steps will help you make the right decision.

Identify the correct plug for the country of export.

When you know the correct plug pattern, keep in mind that this does not mean that this is the correct cable for your computer, while some may look similar. For example, removing a NEMA power cord from a cord set made from a North American cord and replacing it with a continental European plug (CEE 7/7 power cord) will not make the cord set usable in Europe.


Confirm voltage

The voltage rating for plugs in North America ranges from 100-127 to 200-240. Higher or lower amperage can mean a different plug pattern, even in the same country. If the 125 volt power cord is mistakenly inserted into a 220 volt receptacle, this will destroy the appliances.

Check the current capacity of the power cord.

Another specification to check is the current capacity; the capacity in North America is different from other countries, 15, 20, and 30.

Choose the plug type if you use a set of power cords.

The number of pins in a plug varies from 2 to 5. These can be oval, round, straight, or rectangular. For North America, they would have NEMA 5-15P and NEMA 5-20P. Knowing the current capacity and voltage can help you distinguish the four types and help you choose the correct plug.

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