Power cables are incredibly varied, with different types of cables and standards being set by their use and the country they are used in. In the United States alone, there are over a dozen types that are commonly used. Each type of power cable connector has its own name, so most power cables will have two names associated with them. There are two main standards for power cables in the US, NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

Types of NEMA connectors include:

  • 1-15
  • 5-15
  • 5-20

Types of IEC connectors include:

  • C5/C6
  • C7/C8
  • C13/C14
  • C15/C16
  • C19/C20

NEMA

Many cables will contain either a NEMA 1-15, 5-15, or 5-20 connector for connecting to a wall outlet. 1-15 is the older, ungrounded type of connector with two metal prongs. On old cables, these prongs can be the same size, but typically one is slightly larger than the other. 5-15 is the three-pronged upgrade to 1-15 that has been grounded. 5-20 looks similar to 5-15 but one of the metal prongs will be horizontal instead of vertical. These are rated for higher amperage than their 5-15 counterparts and commonly used for hospital equipment.

NEMA 1-15, 1-15P, 1-15R
NEMA 5-15, 5-15P, 5-15R
NEMA 5-20, 5-20P, 5-20R

NEMA 1-15 (left), 5-15 (middle), and 5-20 (right)

IEC

IEC cables are used for devices that see international use. This can be anything from computers to kitchen appliances. Each one of these connectors is given its own unique number instead of being referred to as male and female. For example, a C5 is the female version of a C6. When using these numbers, an odd number will always be the female side while even numbers are the male side.

C5/C6

C5/C6 have three circular holes connected together. These are sometimes called “Mickey Mouse” connectors since their shape resembles the iconic Mickey Mouse symbol. These are most commonly seen on laptop power supplies.

C7/C8

C7/C8 is in the shape of a Figure 8 and commonly seen on older TVs and laptop power supplies as well as smaller devices like DVD players. These are typically paired with 1-15 NEMA connections. There are two different versions of C7/C8, non-polarized and polarized. On the non-polarized version, both sides of the connector will be round. On the polarized version, one side will be flat instead of round. Make sure to check which version you need to ensure the power cable will fit your device.

C13/C14

C13/C14 is also called a Universal Power Cord, being the current standard for TVs and desktop computers. Some smaller devices, like older laptop power supplies, may have a C13/C14 but for the most part, these smaller devices now use downsized options like C5/C6.

C15/C16

C15/C16 looks similar to C13/C14, but with a notch above the prong used for grounding. C15/C16 is used for equipment that uses high voltage, like kitchen appliances. These cables are rated for the higher temperature rating (120°F vs. the 70°F of other standard power cords) generated by the extra electricity.

C19/20

C19/C20 is the next step up from C15/C16, being rated for even higher amperage. It is used for areas where large amounts of power will be running through the cables, such as equipment used in a data center or hospital.


C5 C6 C7 C8 C13 C14 C15 C16 C19 C20

Top: C5 (left), C7 non-polarized (middle), and C7 polarized (right)

Bottom: C13 (left), C15 (middle), and C19 (right)