Power Cords 101: A Brief Guide

Power cable types are innumerable. The intricacies of which type of power cable connector belongs to which appliance and gadget are complex. Some cables are wired to the appliance, while others can be detached. This generally depends on two factors: the device's portability and the appliance's voltage requirement. 

So how many power connector types exist? Let's go through them! There are two main types in the US: NEMA, short for National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and IEC, short for International Electrotechnical Commission.

The types of NEMA connectors are 1-15, 5-15, and 5-20, and IEC connectors are C5/C6, C7/C8, C13/C14, C15/C16, and C19/C20. 


A fair amount of cables contain NEMA 1-15, 5-15, or 5-20 connectors to an outlet. The older and ungrounded type of connector that has two metal prongs is the 1-15. Generally, one is a little larger than the other, but these prongs were the same size on the old cables. 1-15, which is the grounded type, has seen an update in the 5-15, which is three-pronged. 5-15 and 5-20 look similar, with the key difference being that one of the metal prongs is horizontal instead of vertical. 5-15 are not rated as high as 5-20 for amperage and are most commonly used for hospital equipment. 


For devices that have international usage, IEC cables are used, including but not limited to computers, kitchen appliances, etc. These connectors are not referred to as male and female but given their unique number. For instance, a C6 is the male version of a C5. To avoid confusion, remember that the male side will always be even numbers, and the female side will be odd numbers. 


C5/C6 will have three circular holes connected. Frequently, these are called "Mickey Mouse" connectors because their shape bears a resemblance to the famous Mouse symbol. Most commonly, they are seen on laptop power supplies. 


C7/C8 resembles figure 8 and can be seen on older TVs, laptop power supplies, and smaller DVD players. These are generally paired with 1-15 NEMA connections. Non-polarized and polarized are the two different versions of the C7/C8. Both sides of the connector are round in the non-polarized version. One side will be flat in the polarized version. You need to make sure to figure out which version you require to guarantee the power cable will fit your device. 


C13/C14, AKA a Universal Power Cord, is the current standard for TVs and desktop computers. Older laptop power supplies, which were smaller devices, used a C13/C14. Nowadays, these smaller devices use scaled-down options like C5/C6.


C15/C16 and C13/C14 look similar, the only difference being that C15/C16 has a notch above the prong used for grounding. C15/C16 is primarily used for high voltage equipment, like insulators. These cables are rated for high temperatures generated by extra electricity.


A step up from C15/C16 is C19/C20, which is rated for even higher amperage. It is most commonly used in areas with abundant power running through cables, like data centers or hospitals. 

And these are all the most popular power cords. We stock all of them and will be happy to be your power connector supplier!