Small Hack for North American Electrical Plugs

This is a small electrical plug hack, that you may find useful. Since polarized plugs became mandatory some years ago in the United States, manufacturers have found ways to squeeze every possible penny off of manufacturing costs, electrical plugs notwithstanding. For those of you living outside of the United States, you may have your own plug connector issues to contend with. Perhaps my little hack will help you too.

I think when it comes to electrical plugs, they have shaved the last fraction of a penny of these plugs. The idea of a polarized plug is pretty simple. Looked at from a high level, electricity enters your home, follows a path where all the electricity is going the same direction at the same time.

Think of a small many branched stream of water flowing through a meadow. All the water in the separate branches of the stream flow in the same direction, and eventually join up at a far off point.

In our imaginary water stream, if two branches of the stream met, there would be a sluggish pool, and no movement. The same idea applies to electricity. You must not have two separate branches of electricity meeting from opposite directions.

Hence the polarized plug with one plug blade larger than the other, it was practically impossible to put the plug in the wrong way. The larger plug blade was significantly larger than the other, and it was easy to tell which plug blade was which.

The way an electrical plug should be built


Once the standards were met, manufacturing penny pincers were unleashed to shave off excessive costs, and ever penny counts. The end result is an electrical plug that looks like the one below. If you pick up the plug and not look closely, you have a 50:50 chance of inserting the plug incorrectly into the socket because the tolerances of the larger blade have been shaved down as far as possible, meeting minimum standards.

Several hundred dollar item and a cheap plug, hacked

















Of course it would cost an extra penny or perhaps two pennies to make the larger plug blade obvious, and that cuts too deeply into profit. Two cents is two cents after all.

My little hack, such as it is, was to take a marker and blacken the large plug blade as you can almost see in the picture above. I am sure even with the used marker which I used in the process, I could mark one-hundred more before the ink ran dry. Not as good as an obvious wide blade, but an improvement.

If you are far sighted or are using top quality outlets to plug into, the polarization thing may not be a big deal. I am not in that category of consumer for the most part. I use extension cords that are acceptable, but not best in class. Same with power strips. When the difference between acceptable and the best is $20.00 – $30.00, acceptable is good for my needs.

As for the plugs themselves, shame on the manufacturers and other companies for being so tight. I know the mark up can afford a two cent improvement on the cost of a better polarized blade. “Penny wise and Pound foolish”, sums it up pretty well.

In the future, I may pay more attention to the plug itself, all else being more or less equal. It may be the tipping point deciding which item I purchase. It would be a shame for any business to lose a sale over a few cents saved.

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