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The CEE plug provides electricity when camping

It’s always the same picture at every campsite or motorhome site: no sooner has a caravan or motorhome reached its assigned plot than the crew jumps out of the vehicle. After a quick search in the gas box or an outside storage compartment, the cable drum and blue CEE plug are lying on the ground. Then the CEE plug is quickly plugged into the vehicle’s external socket and connected to the cable drum. After the cable drum has been unwound, the plug is inserted into the supply column. And the electrical appliances in the vehicle are already running on the electricity from the campsite or pitch.

What is a CEE plug?

CEE stands for “Commission on the Rules for the Approval of the Electrical Equipment” – translated as “International Commission for the Regulation of the Approval of Electrical Equipment”. CEE plugs are available for a wide variety of applications. The round plug device, as it is called, is based on the international standard IEC 60309, which generally applies to “plugs, socket-outlets and couplings for industrial applications”.

What is available for CEE plugs?

These circular connectors differ in colour: for a frequency range of 50/60 Hz, purple stands for a voltage of 20 to 25 volts. White stands for 40 to 50 volts and yellow for 100 to 130 volts. Our blue CEE plugs mark the voltage from 200 to 250 volts and red for 380 to 480 volts. There is also black for 500 to 690 volts and green with a frequency range of 60 to 500 Hz for a voltage level of 20 to 500 volts. All connector systems have one thing in common: their different designs make it impossible to accidentally connect plugs and sockets of different amperages.

How does a CEE plug work?

The two most common connectors are the red ones for three-phase alternating current with neutral and protective conductor and a nominal voltage of 400 volts. On the other hand, the blue connector type, the camping plug, has an outer conductor and neutral and protective conductor and is designed for a voltage of 230 volts. Officially, these are called “L+N+PE-6h connectors”. L stands for the current-carrying conductor, N for the earthed neutral conductor and PE is the protective conductor, which is placed at a position of 6 o’clock, i.e. at the bottom.

When designing the connectors, the developers placed emphasis on optimal current transmission through large contact surfaces between the pins of the plug and the sockets of the receptacle. Slotted brass sleeves with steel tension springs are used for the sockets. As a result, the entire shell surface is effective for current transfer and, at the same time, undesirable heating at high current loads is avoided. The production of the plugs is standardised, so that no plugs are commercially available that do not meet the high European safety requirements. In addition, the plugs are more robust than standard household Schuko plugs, they are splash-proof and can be permanently loaded with 16 amperes of current.

Europe agrees for once

Perhaps you also wonder from time to time why things can’t be more uniform in Europe. A prime example of the opposite can be seen in the CEE adapters. These are actually found as standard at campsites, motorhome sites and marinas throughout Europe. Even the manufacturers of recreational vehicles such as caravans and motor homes as well as motor and sailing yachts use only the blue caravan sockets for the power supply, with which the shore power reaches the vehicle.

You don’t have to worry about the voltage within Europe. Generally, it is 220 to 230 volts. Most campsites have supply pillars into which your CEE coupling fits. However, many campsites also use typical national connections. You will need an appropriate adapter for this. However, any campsite operator will be happy to help you with this.

So how does it work with electricity on the campsite?

Where you used to find a bucket of cold water next to the caravan to chill the beer, today there is an electrically powered cool box. Electric power, which provides the necessary energy in the recreational vehicles, is standard today. After all, the coffee machine, refrigerator and lighting should contribute to the usual comfort on camping trips. In addition, the vehicle battery or the mobile phone, tablet or camera battery need their juice for the next use.

Your motorhome or caravan is equipped with a CEE power socket, which is housed in an enclosure in the outer wall of the vehicle. Inside, the fused cable runs to the electrical devices and 230-volt sockets of your vehicle. When you open the flap, you will discover the three pins of the CEE adapter. This is where the CEE coupling of your power cable is plugged in. Connect the other end to the power supply column of your parking space and your vehicle will have 230 volts.

On the safe side with the CEE

Besides the robustness and the protection against dust and moisture, there are many other reasons for using CEE plugs. As already mentioned, it is impossible to connect a CEE plug “incorrectly”. In addition, the connections are all designed for 16 amps. Many campsites have a power supply of 4, 6 or 10 amps, which is often only slightly fused. Your kettle or hairdryer can quickly blow the fuse on your pitch. However, you can easily calculate the amperes you need to use your electrical appliances:

Watt : Volt = Ampère.

This means that your hairdryer has 850 watts. Divide that by 230 volts and you get about 3.7 amps.

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Which CEE plug should I choose?

Play it safe with a CEE cable. This provides you with a CEE plug at the front for your vehicle’s external socket and a CEE plug for the socket column at the campsite. The length should be 25 metres to cover the distance to the nearest distribution box. Since some campsites separate the supply stations by up to 40 metres, you can also cover longer distances with this length.

Make sure that the power cable is made of rubber and has a diameter of at least 2.5 mm². Rubber cables offer the great advantage that they are insensitive to UV radiation, rain and snow as well as mechanical influences due to the standardised IP44 protection class.

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Alternatively, you can use adapter cables that you connect via an extension cable. These are available on cable drums in various lengths. However, when using the cable, uncoil it completely from the drum to avoid heat build-up. If you then secure the connections against rain and dirt with suitable safety boxes, nothing can go wrong.

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In addition to the “normal” CEE coupling, you can also find those with an additional socket. If you use this adapter, you connect your caravan or motorhome to the mains. In addition, however, you can then operate another electrical device such as an electric barbecue with the Schuko plug.

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Conclusion on the CEE plug

When camping, whether with a tent, caravan or motorhome, you cannot avoid buying a CEE adapter. If you want to be supplied with electricity on your campsite plot, you need the CEE plug and an extension cable. Thanks to the standards and manufacturing guidelines for the adapters, you are definitely on the safe side when using them and can enjoy the electricity from the campsite or pitch without any worries.

Photos: © Hubert Hunscheidt

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