Power plug & outlet Type N
Type N is used almost exclusively in Brazil and South Africa. (Click here for a complete list of all countries with their respective plugs/sockets)
The type N socket and plug are the official standard in Brazil and South Africa. The plug consists of two pins and a grounding pin. There are two variants: the prongs of the 10 A version have a diameter of 4 mm and a length of 19 mm. The second version, rated at 20 amps, is used for heavier appliances and has 4.8 mm round pins, but also measuring 19 mm in length. The centres of the line and neutral pins are spaced 19 mm apart. The centre-to-centre distance between the earth pin and the middle of the imaginary line connecting the two power pins is 3 mm. Type N sockets were specifically designed to accommodate the ubiquitous type C plugs as well. Type N looks very much like the Swiss type J standard, but it is incompatible with it since type N has the earth pin closer to the imaginary line that connects the two power pins (3 mm instead of 5 mm).
Type N is actually based on the international standard 230 V household plug system, called IEC 60906-1. In 1986, the International Electrotechnical Commission published this standard, which was intended to become the common standard for the whole of Europe (and, by extension, all other regions with 230 V mains). Unfortunately, the effort to adopt it as a European Union standard was put on hold in the mid-1990s. Brazil had been using as many as 10 (!) different types of plugs and sockets, including the frequently used type C. In order to put an end to this proliferation of different socket and plug types, the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards (Associação Brasileira de Normas Técnicas (ABNT)) decided to standardize on IEC 60906-1. In 2001, this standard was adopted in Brazil as NBR 14136 and its implementation started in 2007. This Norma BRasileira 14136, however, is not completely identical to IEC 60906-1: the Brazilian standard has a pin diameter of 4 mm for the 10 A plug and 4.8 mm for the 20 A plug, whereas the original IEC 60906-1 standard only has one single pin diameter of 4.5 mm and a maximum current of 16 A.
Thanks to modern injection moulding technology, which did not exist when most other plug types were originally designed, the very recent type N standard is more compact, robust and safe than any other plug/socket system in the world.
Brazil’s standardization on one single plug and socket type, however, does entail some risks. Why? Simply because Brazil is one of the very few countries that does not have a standard voltage, but at the same time it has only one official type of socket! In other words, you cannot tell the difference between a 220 V and a 127 V socket! (Click here for an exhaustive list of all 27 Brazilian federative units and their respective voltages.) Most states use 127 V electricity, but a couple of them are on 220 V. This means that a 127 V hairdryer bought in the state of Minas Gerais will be destroyed when plugged into a compatible 220 V socket in Distrito Federal! Make sure you check out the local voltage before plugging something in! The standard trick to know the local voltage (checking a light bulb to see what voltage is printed on it) often does not work, since quite some homes have both 127 V and 220 V power supplies for their lighting. It must be said, though, that many appliances sold in Brazil are dual voltage, but that’s definitely not the case for all of them.
Fortunately, in the past few years, there has been a tendency to make the difference in voltage clearly visible. Usually, 220 V sockets will be red and 127 V outlets will be white. If that is not the case, the sockets may be labelled with a sticker indicating the voltage. Such red and white stickers can be bought at most DIY shops nowadays.