Electric Plugs and Sockets

Also you dont need to connect the brown on the right and blue on the left. just make sure the earth cable if used is in the middle otherwise no huge deal. Due to the sockets in Europe are fused in the consumer unit and not at the plug.

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Best to stick to convention, brown live on the right for plugs with an earth. It makes no difference to an appliance, but it’s possible that just the neutral/blue is protected by a fuse.

Thanks everyone this has been really useful and probably not just for me either. As we will be looking to completely renew all the electrical systems from the meter onwards in time I will ensure we put in more than enough sockets to cover our needs. Taking note of those that need or are advised to have their own feeds. Appreciate all of your inputs.

We in the UK must be doubly safe then.

We’ve discussed that one before, the fuse in a UK plug, if correctly rated protects the appliance cord in the case of a fault which doesn’t blow the ring main fuse otherwise appliance cord would have to be rated to carry 32A which is a bit much.

In theory all appliance cords in France should be rated at 20A for full safety - not sure if the regs actually specify that but I did post a slightly scary video of what a cheap Chinese cable did at 20A which does give a bit of food for thought.

It was a bit tongue in cheek Paul, partly because we and many other forums have discussed it. In some old building there are still fuses but most both side of the channel are on circuit breakers with RCD devices so all round much safer than previously. Dear old thermal fuses can take a while to actually blow whereas modern circuit breakers/RCD’s sense an abnormal current and cut the power very much quicker depending on the specification. That said, although the plug top fuse does technically protect the device a lot of people have been grateful over the years for that little piece of fuse wire.
Some equipment is fused internally, therefore it is still important for the right cable connected to the phase and neutral or the equipment chassis could still be live.

Sorry, tongue-in-cheekness always a bit difficult to pick up online :smile:

Agree that internal fuses are almost always on the live side and getting live & neutral swapped can leave live bits but the average punter probably shouldn’t be opening covers and prodding around the innards with the power on.

Note that a UK travel adapter plugged into a conventionally wired French prise (earth at the top live in the right looking at the socket) will swap live and neutral.

Absolutely, it catches me out when I plugged in my Martindale tester to check earth impedance. Kept flagging phase reverse!

I have a Seaward Powerplus 1557 which I picked up relatively cheap on eBay, works fine but no current cal cert.

It takes L/N/E on shrouded 4mm sockets so, rather than use a UK adapters I bought a Schucko to 4mm tails lead - from CPC I think or maybe Conrad.

It confused the hell out of me at first, for exactly the same reason - it’s wired to the German pattern which has live and neutral on the opposite sides of the socket compared with the French.

I still need to sink a new earth at the property, the earth impedance varies a bit but somewhere from 120 to 170 ohms. At least the RCDs now trip, the one in situ when we bought just sat there with an earth fault and did nothing.

Not arguing with the need for an earth - but an RCD has nothing to do with earthing. An RCD only looks at Live/Neutral - its an on/off switch basically- the old school earth leakage breakers needed an earth but an RCD in itself doesn’t. An RCD shouldn’t trip if the earth is faulty/none existent - it does mean you probably become the earth for a fraction of a second in a fault condition and a live chassis can sit live until you touch it - so Earth is important safety wise (theoretically you’re safe without if there’s an RCD but …).

Thats two of us… I spent several hours wondering why the lights were wrong on my little tester doing the first bedroom. Only when every socket swore it was reverse polarity did it dawn on me to try engaging brain properly.

True… to a point.

An RCD does not need an earth reference to work - it just looks at the imbalance between live and neutral currents and, as you say faulty earthing won’t somehow make an RCD trip.

The “to a point” is that there has to be an alternate path for the current so absence of an earth will stop an RCD protecting anything. It doesn’t matter to an RCD if the current has flowed from live to neutral through you. To be fair this is a common misconception with RCDs - they don’t prevent shock if you get yourself between live and neutral, just if you get yourself between live and earth.

Three real link between the two though is simply that thinking about L-N swaps due to UK adapters or different practices when wiring Schucko sockets reminded me that I’d had to replace the RCD and still need to sort out the out of spec earthing.

Edit: Ah, just realised what I said - when I mentioned the RCD did nothing with an earth fault I meant did nothing with a fault that caused current to flow from live to earth. Said fault was me grabbing the business end of a live wire, in my defense (since I normally try to avoid this particular mistake) was that the wire was green and yellow…

I have no electrical expertise whatsoever… but I do know that if someone puts in electrics which do not conform to the French Normes…

Insurers will come down like a ton of bricks…in the event of anything dire occurring in which electricity plays a part…

I am just reminding folks… not getting at anyone.


Indeed, in fact I wonder if a list of things normal in UK wiring which are a no-no in French installations would be useful?

Offend I could suggest:

  • Twin and Earth is not used or legal in France
  • colours are blue=neutral, green/yellow is earth and “anything else” is live, most commonly red or black
  • BS1363 sockets are not allowed
  • ring mains are not used/legal in France
  • UK consumer units do not meet French normes
  • UK sourced single pole MCB’s do not meet French normes
  • rural properties tend to have TT earthing with higher permitted loop impeedance than is typical in the UK (≤ 100 Ohms rather than 10 Ohms or so)

I’m sure there’s more

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Thanks for this Paul - it certainly knocks on the head some ideas I had!

Nothing more fancy than taking my own reels of wire out to wire up a series of led tube lights in our semi-basement garage. Will have to bite the bullet and source the wiring local. I take it I can take my own lamp units?

My bigger headache will be sorting out what fuse or circuit breaker protects what circuit!! If I recall, there are 3 units on the garage wall - and all 3 are representations of 3 generations of wiring standards…

OH boy…

Search around SF for the guide to international wiring that I posted it’s either LeGrand or Leroy Merlin and very useful as a basic introduction.

You can take UK sourced cable over as long as it is the single conductor stuff intended for conduit - it will need running in gaine but as long as it is the correct cross section it will be fine. I did this - the only thing I would do differently would be to bring red for live not brown as it would be a bit more pukka (brown is acceptable for phase but “sticks out” a bit).

As for lamp units CE ones should be OK but the French do like to see NF on stuff.

We should do the same list for plumbing but the main advice I can think of there is do not use 15mm pipe and expect any sympathy from any French plumber. Oh and 40mm plastic pipe for drains in the UK is not the same as 40mm plastic pipe for drains in France.

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French copper is even numbers 10,12,14,16,18,20. The wall thickness is bigger usually 1mm. Plastic drainage like 40mm is outside diameter unlike UK which is nominal bore

One category of stuff which can be brought over with no problems is any 1/2" BSP compression fittings - you just need to get that correct nuts and olives in France to match the French pipe sizes - 14mm definitely works and I think 16mm is OK as well.

There is a story somewhere in SF about a Brit who did his whole house in 15mm UK stuff, had a problem he couldn’t solve and wound go doing the whole thing over to French standards :hot_face:

Again, if you can get the right size it can be sourced in the UK - I brought some 12mm with me - was much cheaper in the UK, not least because our copper pipe is 0.7mm wall thickness so there’s a noticeable amount less copper in it for the same diameter but the stuff I bought was adequately rated for French mains pressure and meet the relevant CE standards so I figured why not?

This link is very informative and you can download the complete guide pdf, scroll down and find each room detailed.

The Normes are current (pun) 2018

As I say… I am only making folk aware to take care…


Quite right, some Brits bring over poly plumb (other makes are available) flexible plastic pipe, this doesn’t comply to French Normes. The flexible pipe in France has the aluminium layer so it stays in shape, multicouche.

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