This guide outlines the need for caution when purchasing commonly available USB chargers, and shows how they cannot possibly comply with electrical standards.
The items under discussion are pictured below:
The charger at left is a very common design. The casing isn't attached well, and they can spring apart with very little effort, exposing live mains voltages. While inspecting one internally I also noted that the switching transformer is inadequately insulated. Finally, in Australia and Europe the pins are supposed to be insulated to stop children from inserting metallic objects between the plug and wall and electrocuting themselves. Not that you would let a child near something like this, it already fails on the other issues noted above. Three strikes, it's out.
The other two pictures show variations on a folding plug design, and any country that actually has electrical standards will agree that these are completely taboo. The don't have insulated pins, require an adapter to use in most countries and will internally overheat due to the wear on moving mains pins. When they eventually start arcing—as they always will—think yourself lucky if all you lose is the attached device on charge. It could also have caught fire and burned your house down.
None of these could be legally sold in retail shops, and for very good reasons. Do yourself a favour and pay a few extra dollars for an approved device. You'll save money in the long term by not having to replace expensive electrical items that have been damaged by this junk.
Faulty and/or dangerous USB chargers
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31 July 2011
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