Electricity Saving Tips For Homes And Offices

Why Use 3-pin plugs for electrical safety?

By on October 25, 2015

Putting a plug in a socket is something very basic thing which we all do; in fact it is a very much part of our daily and necessary routine in the modern times. Everybody knows how to do it, REALLY?

Now, in this article to begin with we will pose two questions to our general readers/ audiences. Please answer to yourself honestly.

Question -1: How many times, have some of you poked the earth lever with a screwdriver, pen or other object to insert the plug and push the pins into the live and neutral?

I am sure, majority of you must surely have. Now, as long as a good solid connection was made, all have remained well and then somebody must have given you a mature advice, Please Do Not Do It! In any case we should not start pushing metal objects into the mains plug holes. By Putting a screwdriver anywhere near the holes on a mains wall socket, one might get a shock of life from the electricity!

Before we discuss the uses of the 3-pin plugs any further, let us first understand the basic concept of the plug and wires. Below is a schematically representation of a plug with its colored wires.



The LIVE wire is represented as BROWN.
This is connected to a fuse on the live pin, the electric current routes through the live wire.

The NEUTRAL wire is represented as BLUE.
The electric current routes out through the Neutral wire, i.e. this is the route the electric current takes when it exits an appliance; it is for this reason the neutral wire has a voltage close to zero.

The EARTH wire is represented as GREEN & YELLOW

This is connected to the earth pin. This is used when the appliance has a metal casing to take any current away, in case if the live wire comes in contact with the casing.

A 3-pin plug consists of three pins (hence the name). It is important to know how to wire a 3-pin plug correctly. The 3-pin plugs are designed so that electricity can be supplied to electrical appliances safely. Each wire has its own specified color, as shown above and each pin must be correctly connected to the three wires in the electrical cable.

Now, coming to the second question –

Question-2: Have you also have ever wondered why some appliances use a 2-pin plug and others have 3-pin plug? Appliances such as TVs and DVD players, mobile phones use a 2-pin plug, while other appliances such as refrigerators, microwave ovens, ACs use a 3-pin plug

Let us examine the reasons of this also after studying the table below:

A3-rectangular-pin, earthed,
This type of plug is generally used for class III electrical appliances such as refrigerators, microwave ovens and especially those with metal bodies. These appliances need to be earthed/ grounded to avoid the risk of electrocution in case there is an electricity leakage to the metal body. It also works as a safeguard for insulation failures threepinplug 1
B2-round-pin, unearthedThis type of plug is generally used for class II electronic devices such as TVs and DVD players. These class II electronic devices operate on low current and do not require being earthed/ grounded. It can be fitted into local 3-pin socket with plastic adapter. threepinplug 2
C3-round-pin, earthedThis type plug is commonly used for heavy appliances such as the air-conditioners. threepinplug 3

There are earthed instruments and unearthed instruments. The Earthed instruments require a third pin to provide the Earthing connection in case of insulation failures, while unearthed instruments use safeguards such as double insulation. As already stated above, appliances such as AC, refrigerator and washing machines do require an Earthing connection, as it is not easy to design these instruments without the chance of safety hazards in case of any failures, while instruments such as mobile phone chargers do not require a third Earthing pin because they have simple construction and possess double insulation in their design.

Most 3-pin electrical socket outlets can tolerate maximum current upto13 amperes (A). It is imperative to ensure that electrical equipments can operate under these situations before putting their plugs into the electrical outlets. Almost all new electric appliances these days, come with a complete fitted 13 Amp 3-pin plug.

How to Protect Against Electric Shocks

Electrical appliances with metal bodies are required to be properly earthed for protection against possible electric shock. If there is a fault current (leakage) inside the appliance, the whole metal case becomes LIVE and if someone touches it by mistake, current will flow through his or her body, resulting in a shock which can also become sometime life threatening.

How the Earth pin is connected in the appliances:

In a 3-pin plug, the wire that is connected to the ground pin of a plug is also connected to the metal body of the equipment.

If any current leakage is appearing on the metal body of the equipment then, it must be discharged safely to ground. It will prevent the users from any electric shock while using the equipment.
If there is any serious fault on the equipment, it also makes the fuse blow, hence protecting the user. Therefore, the system should be properly earthed or grounded to prevent electric shock.

The earth pin or the 3rd- pin on a plug is generally bigger and thicker than the rest pins, probably the live and neutral pins allowing the earth pin to be the first to connect and the last to disconnect. Let us also identify the reasons for making the earth or the 3rd-pin like that:

  1. The length is made larger, because this allows the Earth pin to make the contact first and later when the supply is disconnected and it breaks the contact ensuring high safety.
  1. Insertion of a longer earth pin first helps in opening the shutters, which thereafter facilitates the insertion of the other two pins. In many wall sockets, there are safety shutters on the live and neutral lines to prevent people especially the children from inserting any conducting materials which may result in an electric shock. These types of sockets are known as Earth-pin operated shutters.
  1. The earth pin is made thicker so that even by mistake, it cannot be inserted into the live or a neutral hole. The smaller pins on the plug, the live and neutral pins can go into the larger hole, but the larger pin will never go into a smaller hole and any live wire cannot be connected to the body of the equipment. Hence, the earth pin is made thicker so that there is no chance for it to be inserted into the live or neutral hole of the socket. This also prevents earth pin from establishing an electrical contact with the live terminal.
  1. Technically speaking, we can say the thickness of earth pin is more in order to decrease its resistance and more the fault current will pass through low resistance path. Let us explain this via the mathematical formula, provided below:

R= (¶ * L) /A where r= resistance, ¶ (also called as Row) = Resistivity of the material, L= Length of the material, A=Area of cross section and R=resistance of the material

Hence resistance (¶) is inversely proportional to the cross-sectional area of conductor area (A), hence the resistance of the earth pin decreases due it being thicker than the other two pins, because it will have more area in this case. So more the area, less the resistance and more the fault current will pass through low resistance path. Earth pin carries fault current, which is several times the normal current. Therefore, to ensure proper safety the current carrying capacity of an earth pin should be more than other pins.

Lastly there are several brand s and kind of 3-pin plugs available I the market. One is requested to only purchase and use the 3-pin plugs which properly comply with the safety requirements. The 3-pin plugs must be marked with all the information as shown in the diagram below:

threepinplug 4The socket holes must also be fitted with the safety shutters one must also not purchase any adapter or extension units, which is fitted with the irregular socket holes. Each socket must allow only one type of the plug to be inserted. One must always make sure that the plugs are correctly inserted into sockets. One must also not insert the 3-pin-plug or for that matter, even the 2-pin plug socket by force. Shocks may occur when the pins are partially exposed and still connected to the socket.

We hope that the article suits the requirement of our readers well, and all would have benefited with more knowledge and day-to-day safety practices, to use the multi pin plugs. Importantly, also one would have now got answers, why matures and the elders have always advice the beginners to please “Do Not” poke the earth lever?

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When purchasing an extension cord/box for a heavy electrical appliance like an iron box or grinder, what are the factors to consider? Should we be looking for a particular thickness and wattage of wire? Can heavy duty extension cords be plugged into light-duty 3-pin plug points?

Also can a 5A, two-pin plug extension cord be used to run a TV that needs 50W power and has a three-pin plug?


Abhishek Jain (Mod)

Increased thickness of wire means more current carrying capacity. But that does not mean that it cannot be used for lesser current, it certainly can be.

In a house, there are 5 Amp plug points and 15 Amp plug points. But ultimately the Amp current drawn will depend on the appliance. So if you put an appliance that draws only 5 Amp on a 15 Amp plug point then it will not fail for sure.

But if you put a 15 Amp appliance on a 5 Amp plug point then the plug point will burn because the wire in it has capacity only to carry 5 Amp.

A simple formula for calculating current would be to divide wattage by 220 (The voltage that we get in our houses). So a 50 Watt appliance will have 50 divided by 220 = 0.23 Amp current. So it can easily work on a wiring that can carry 5 Amp current.

An iron box is 1500 watts, so it is 1500/220 = 6.81 Amp current (check the wattage on your iron box). If it is 6.81 Amp then it should not be used on a 5Amp plug point.

A mixer grinder is about 750 watts.

A two pin plug point has just phase and neutral and no earthing. A three pin one has phase, neutral and earth. Although it is not mandatory it is always better to have the earth for safety reasons. So two pin points are not good for safety.


Thanks for the detailed reply! You are great and so is this website!


very interested


In India, for a properly installed and connected 3-pin 5A plug, what should be the acceptable voltages:
Between live and neutral? 230V, I suppose!
Between live and earth (ground)?
Between neutral and earth (ground)?

Thanks in advance!

Abhishek Jain (Mod)

Voltage between neutral and earth is ideally zero but due to imbalance it is around 10-15V.

Abhishek Jain (Mod)

The current flows between live and neutral. Earth is for safety. Earth is usually connected to the metal case of the appliance so that in case there is any current leakage that goes to the earth. The difference between live and neutral is 230V.


Best explanation!

Jacqueline Caprari

The earth pin broke from my outdoor tree lights. I have had these lights for just over a year. They still work if I use the plug with two pins insteae of three. Will this be ok?

sudhanshu anand

Ya sure.

Abhishek Jain (Mod)

It will be better to get it repaired. Earthing is very important.


Nicely written article,I have a question "can earthing be done with the neutral wire by connecting the body of device to the neutral wire?"I'm asking this because the electrician that came to do geyser fitting was trying to connect the earth wire to the neutral wire.

Abhishek Jain (Mod)

In a perfect system, the neutral and earth wire works same. Neutral wire is connected to the earth at transformer whereas the earth in the house is connected to the nearest earth of your house. The earth and neutral wire shall run separately.


Kudos to the highly descriptive article.

I opened a 3 pin plug of a locally made extension box and found out that there was no connection to the Earth pin and the only two wires are connected to L & N pins respectively.

1. Is it safe if I connect a 3 pin plug device to this extension box?

2. How can I convert it to a proper 3-pin extension board?

Abhishek Jain (Mod)

Is it 5Amp or 15 Amp extension board? Electronic devices like mobile chargers etc. are two terminal boards and do not suffer for any earth fault. If you are using the extension board for such appliances then it is OK otherwise don't use it for electrical appliances such as mixie, toaster, tea maker, etc. as it can be fatal without earth connection.

I doubt you can modify the extension board if the incoming cable is two core. In case, it is three core, then connect the earth wire with the third terminal and short all the earth terminal of the extension board. In any case, I will suggest, not to carry out the modification yourself.


Thanks for your reply.

Its a 5A extension board and is used for desktop PC.

Its having only 2 wires. The wires are Finolex and the other parts used are branded ones.

I would like to do a DIY :-)

So can I add a new wire and make it perfect.

Abhishek Jain (Mod)

If you have 3 incoming wires from mains then you can go ahead. Just try avoid using the extension board for any appliance that has metallic body.



Sorry, I couldn't get you. Can you please explain?

Also why not to use with any appliance that has metallic body?

Abhishek Jain (Mod)

3 incoming wires means that your line has an earth line. You need a proper earth line. Also if your earthing is not proper, then an appliance with metallic body may give you shock.

chode udaya bhaskara rao

Most of the inverters used in homes are hug sized ironcore transformers based and their convertion efficiency not exceeds more than 80%.some chief brands efficiency is not more than 60%.High efficiency inverters made with ferritcore transformers their Efficacy's can exceed more than 95%. We have designed and developed such an inverter.
It drives 2celing fans (es-40) and 6 led ligts of 7watts.unbelievable no load drain from battery is just 0.2amps only that is why it gives 15 hours back up to 1 fan with 60ah battery alone.another important factor to be considered is when battery is fully charged power drawn from mains is just 3 watts.


Most electrical appliances don’t have thicker Earth wire. It may be a defect.


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