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IEC C14 Madness

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frank kayser:
I was looking for what I thought would have been an a simple answer to a simple question.  Seems neither are simple.  On an IEC C14 panel connector, which side is hot, and which side is neutral? 

Much has changer over the years since Fender design where they were the power switch switched not the hot, but switched the neutral to turn the amp on and off. They also deployed the polarity switch and the "death cap".  I'm guessing modern circuits switch both the neutral and hot these days.  I would like to put it back as I found it.  Of course, if the wall outlet had hot and neutral reversed, how the socket is wired would be moot.
Some of the confusion is that the C14 is a multi-purpose, international connector, each with varying color codes, use for both 120v and 240v applications.
Some confusion comes from "language", not so much German, Spanish, or regional languages, but the use of words like plug and socket.

Part of the problem is one of definition I've had personally.  Male vs female connectors.  For example, one can see the outer, smaller shell plugging into another larger connector shell could be characterized as male to female connection.  Now I know it is not.  It is about the pins, not the shell.  Pins are male.

In case of NEMA, they use plug and receptacle - that logically translates to male and female parts of the connection.

Just as I was writing this, I came across this: IEC 60320 Reference Information.

This adds some official clarity of terms - from the  reference "Each Plug, Connector, Inlet is unique and can only be mated with a component with comparable voltage and amperage ratings. One consistent distinction between the names of each, is the male is an even number and the female is an odd number.

"Unfortunately, they use three terms, not two, in the bolded section above.  The document does explain the use of odd and even numbers. (second bold section), but fails to link Plug to Male, and Inlet to female - for good reason.  We can agree that exposed pins, blades, etc are never energized, except when in a safe female device.  Otherwise, death is not far away.

IEC C13 is at times a female cord-end device that supplies power to computers, amps, mixers, etc.  Most would refer to this device as a plug.  Contrast that to a NEMA 5-15p for example - one "plug" is male, built "P" into its name, and one device, many of us also call a plug, is female.  NEMA calls the other 5-15r end a receptacle, where the we would assume panel-mount C14 an inlet, receptacle, or socket.  And what is a connector? A C13/C14 pair?

This male-female, plug/inlet connector receptacle and socket language makes finding information on the web, shall we say, interesting. One answer to a the question started along the lines of the "socket, being female...".  Furthermore just about every explanation includes a picture - one being a C13 head on, and one being a C14 head on.  Hello, they both look the same from that angle!  Of course since they all look the same, one of the drawings or explanations had to be right - like a stopped analog clock being right twice a day.

Of course, a 120v circuit most likely has 120v hot, and 0v on the neutral, while 230v would have 115v on the hot, and 115v on the neutral.  To further confuse the matter, the small Honda gennies put 60v on hot, and 60v on neutral.

My conclusion regarding the C13/C14 wiring, it appears there is not a "right" answer.  It appears it does not matter which side is wired hot. 

However I did get a clue on how *some* cords are wired from a picture of a C13 end that was marked "H" and ground.  Still a bit concerned, I plugged in an "IEC cable"  and with a neon tester, found which side was hot.  I wired the plug accordingly.

However, this entire exercise was a circular waste of time.  Thought I'd share.

Mike Caldwell:
As you look at a IEC inlet with the with the middle pin at the top left to right
is.... hot/line  - ground - neutral.

Geoff Doane:

--- Quote from: frank kayser on November 13, 2020, 06:35:58 pm ---
My conclusion regarding the C13/C14 wiring, it appears there is not a "right" answer.  It appears it does not matter which side is wired hot. 

--- End quote ---

I would agree that "properly" (safely) designed equipment should not matter which side is hot, but I did a quick survey of four IEC female cordsets that were sitting around my shop, and not plugged into anything at the moment.  All four of them had the sockets marked L, N and [the electronic symbol for ground], in the order that Mike described them, so it looks like the answer to your question (was there a question?) is readily available.


Kevin Graf:
If the AC power line has a Hot & Neutral, then the switch & fuse must be on the Hot line.
If both the Hot & Neutral are switched, it must be a interlinked double switch.
If both the Hot & Neutral have a circuit breaker, it must be a interlinked double circuit breaker.
Two independent fuses are not permitted.

Daniel Levi:
Double pole fusing was common in the early days of electricity in Britain, of course it can cause the issue of the neutral side fuse failing but not the live side fuse, creating the dangerous situation where you think a circuit/appliance is dead and thus safe and it isn't.

As for wiring an IEC C14 connector on a Volex power lead I have here that is marked with the polarity on the face of the female (C13) connector it states that with the earth contact at the top, neutral is to the left and live/hot is to the right.
So looking from the back of a C14 (male) connector the wiring would be the same (Neutral left, live right, with the earth facing up). 


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