It’s Christmas, which means there’ll be mountains of tech from all corners of the globe soon to be unwrapped. But while you’re enjoying your new swag, make sure you give a thought to safety – particularly when it comes to AC mains power adapters.
Many tech devices now get their power through a USB socket from tiny lightweight AC plug-in adapters. They’re convenient and you can buy these USB power adapters almost anywhere.
But you need to be careful – not all of them will be made to Australian standards.
The pic here is one I purchased online from overseas for under $2 (and that included shipping!). Light-gauge wire is soldered directly between the AC pins and the circuit board, with no internal insulation on the ends whatsoever. The wire ends soldered to the circuit board were not ‘driven home’, there is no shielding anywhere and I now keep this only as an exhibit.
The way I try to distinguish a good-quality adapter from a poor one is to look at the AC pins themselves.
Since 2005, new mains-connected devices sold in Australia are meant to come with insulated AC pins – that’s the black coating on the steel pins that plug into the AC socket, shown in the top photo by Jim Donovan (public domain). Of all the USB power adapters I’ve seen, none that have originated from devices bought online from overseas have included this insulation coating. It’s only those sold locally in Australia that do.
In reality, having the insulation alone doesn’t make a USB power adapter perfect – no one can guarantee that – but having that insulation does at least show some effort has been made to ensure it complies with Australian standards.
And that’s a much better starting point.