Electrical Outlet and Voltage Information for Panama
Panama is a country located in the southernmost area of Central America. For people who want to visit this country, some of the things that they must know are the types of electrical outlet and plug present in the country and the standard voltage used by the electronic gadgets and appliances.
In Panama, the standard voltage used is 110-120 volts while the primary types of electrical outlet and plug are the Type A NEMA 1-15 and Type B NEMA 5-15. Specifically, the whole of Panama uses 110 volts except Panama City which uses a voltage of 120 volts.
Aside from the information about electrical outlet, plug, and standard voltage, tourists going to Panama must also bring along adapters and voltage converters on the trip. Adapters are used when the shape of the electrical outlet in Panama is not compatible with the shape of the plug used by the electronic gadgets and the appliances. There are different kinds of adapters depending on the type of plug and there is also the universal adapter that is ideal for travels. For the voltage, there are the voltage converters that adjust the voltage between the electrical outlet and the electronic gadget so that they would be compatible.
Type A NEMA 1-15 / JIS C 8303 North American (Non-grounded and Non-polarized) Plug, Electrical Outlet, and Adapter
The NEMA 1-15 is mostly found in North America and in the east coast of South America as well as in other countries like Panama. This is used for smaller devices that do not really need a ground connection. Also, the NEMA 1-15 is a flat blade attachment plug that uses two flat parallel pins or blades. Older designs allow the blades to be inserted either way; however, contemporary NEMA 1-15 plugs in Panama are designed with the neutral blade wider than the live blade allowing just one way of plugging and ensuring that the polarized plug is inserted appropriately into the electrical outlet.
The NEMA 1-15 is also known as the Type A North American/Japanese 2-blade Electrical adapter plug and electrical outlet. It also has the technical name North American 15 A/125 V ungrounded. The new design of NEMA 1-15 changed so much that it will not fit in the old type of NEMA 1-15 electrical outlet in Panama. With the NEMA 1-15 adapter, the receptacle end will accept any standard household plug in Panama, aside from the Type M South African SABS1661 plug, which is also known as the Old British BS-546 Large plug. The blades of this adapter are 6.4mm long, 1.5mm thick, and are spaced 12.7mm apart. The NEMA 1-15 plug is also non-polarized and non-grounded which is very important.
Although the NEMA 1-15 looks similar to the plugs of the U.S. and Canada and the appliance and electronic gadgets might be manufactured in the said countries, an adapter might still be needed because of the grounding and polarization requirements in Panama. In the NEMA 1-15 plug and electrical outlet, grounding is done by the third, round pin located beneath the two vertical blades on the plug. On the other hand, polarization is done by the left vertical blade being taller than the right one. If the plug does have grounding or polarization and the electrical socket does not have one, it would be physically impossible to insert the plug into the electrical socket in Panama. If this happens to a tourist in Panama and there is also no adapter present, that person might not be able to use his or her electronic gadgets and appliances.
There is also another electrical outlet that is commonly used in Japan, the JIS X 8303 Class II (Japanese 15 A/100 V ungrounded) which is similar to the NEMA 1-15, the only difference from Panama is the stricter dimensional requirements for the plug housing, marking, and mandatory testing and approval.
Type B NEMA 5-15 North American (Grounded) Plug, Electrical Outlet, and Adapter
The Type B NEMA 5-15 is often used in North and Central America as well as Japan, and it is also what is used in Panama. Also, the Type B NEMA 5-15 is a class I plug that has two flat parallel prongs and a grounding pin, rated at 15 amps. The Type B NEMA 5-15 has blade contacts 6.4mm tall, 15mm thick, and are spaced 12.7mm apart.
The grounding pin, on the other hand, is 4.8mm in diameter. The Type B NEMA 5-15 is also compatible with any standard household plug in Panama, except the Type M South African SABS1661 (Old British BS-546 Large) plug. Although the Type B NEMA 5-15 is grounded, it is not polarized. In Japan, this kind of plug and electrical outlet is the standard. Similar to Type A NEMA 1-15 plugs, the NEMA 5-15 is also one of the most dangerous plugs in Panama and even in the world because the prongs are not insulated. The black covering that is supposed to cover the plug body is lacking hence if the plug is pulled halfway and the prongs are still inserted in the electrical outlet, there might be some accidents in Panama like electrocution or a minor electrical shock.
There are three kinds of voltage converters available: the transformer, the network-resistor converter, and the combination of these two. For laptop computers, cameras, mp3 players, and charging of batteries in Panama, the recommended voltage converter to be used is the transformer as it has a lower maximum watt rating of 50 to 100 watts and it could be used continuously although it could be heavy because of the large iron rods and copper wires inside. The resistor-network converter could support 50-1600 watts and are often used for a short period of time and in light-weight electrical appliances like hair dryers and irons.
It is important to know the proper voltage, electrical outlet, plugs, and adapters to use when visiting Panama and other countries because sometimes these electric requirements vary depending on the location. If the the wrong plug is inserted in the wrong electrical outlet or the voltage does not match, there could be some real damage to the appliance or electronic gadget. In worst cases, this might even cause electrocution or fire in Panama.
Also, if the voltage of the appliance or electronic gadget to be used in Panama does not match its 220-240 volts requirement, like most American products that only use 110-120 volts, a tourist in Panama would need a voltage converter.