Travel Adaptors

32A circuit breaker

The reason for fuses in British plugs

Socket outlets in the UK are usually wired using a ring circuit. The ring circuit is designed to supply a large number of sockets and is usually protected by a circuit breaker rated at 32A. Most other countries predominately use radial circuits with a limited number of sockets protected by a circuit breaker with a much lower current rating.

The fuse within the British plug protects the flexible cord fitted to the appliance. Without the fuse, the appliance would need to be fitted with a much larger flex with a current rating suitable for the 32A circuit breaker. Most other types of domestic plugs do not have a fuse, so they must be used with a suitable fused adaptor for safe use in the UK.

Adaptor Requirements

Adaptors designed to enable a non-UK plug to be used with a UK socket must meet the requirements of BS 1363:

  • 1) Be fitted with a fuse
  • 2) Have the Line and Neutral contacts protected by shutters
  • 3) Be marked by an approval body

Plug adaptors are designed for short-term use by visitors to the UK. Adaptors being used on anything other than a temporary basis should be replaced by a British plug or a conversion plug.

adaptor with shutters
Fig.1. L & N contacts must have shutters
adaptor with fuse
Fig.2 Adaptors must have a fuse fitted

Substandard travel adaptors that do not meet the legal requirements are often sold on sites like eBay and Amazon.

un-fused adaptor
Fig.3 Un-fused adaptor, no approval mark
adaptor missing shutters
Fig.4 No shutters on the L & N contacts

adaptor with CE mark
Fig.5 Un-fused adaptor, CE marked
adaptor with no shutters
Fig.6 No shutters on the L & N contacts

Fig 5. Shows an adaptor incorrectly using the CE mark. Plugs and adaptors should NOT be CE marked.

"CE Marking is not to be used. Its use may constitute an offence under section 1 of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968." - Guidance notes on the UK Plugs & Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994.

adaptor allows earth pin to be connected to live
Fig.7 Earth pin can be plugged into the live terminal!
dangerous adaptor
Fig.8 Extremely dangerous adaptor

Fig 7 & 8. Demonstrate how a non-compliant plug adaptor will allow the earth pin of a BS1363 plug to be plugged into the live terminal. This is extremely dangerous, the metal case of a Class I appliance in this situation would become live. Identifying substandard electrical equipment is becoming an important part of the inspection process and is something that we cover in our courses.

New Equipment

All domestic electrical appliances sold in the UK are required to have a British 13A plug (BS 1363) or conversion plug fitted. (Except for equipment designed for use with a BS 4573 shaver socket.) Online sellers often ignore the regulations and illegally supply equipment fitted with a foreign plug. If an electrical appliance has a non-UK plug, it must be fitted with a conversion plug. The conversion plug must enclose the non-UK plug and it must be designed so that it can only be removed by using a tool. A travel adaptor is not a suitable replacement for a conversion plug.

conversion plug
Fig.9. Conversion plug
BSI approval mark
Fig.10 Must be fused, approved and screwed shut.

The supply of electrical goods in the UK is covered by statutory legislation under the Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994. Further information:equipment-plugs-sockets-guidance-notes.pdf