Understanding Every Angle

Power cords with angles can be a bit tricky. Understanding one’s left from right involves acute perspective. In a matter to simplify a rather confusing topic (and thereby curing any predisposed dyslexia), I am providing a comprehensive overview of understanding the difference between IEC and NEMA power cord angles.NEMA-LogoIEC-logo

Angled power cords  feature a number of benefits:  they’re ideal for use in confined spaces, as well as eliminating stress placed on the power cord conductors and the strain relief. The space-saving angled power cords provide substantial value when equipment is positioned in atypical ways, such as behind home/office furniture or anywhere with limited clearance.

People often use the term “right angle” to describe a 90-degree angle (or elbow). In reality, this could be four different directions: up, down, left, or right. This post will help you recognize the different power cord angles and how to read them based on their layout.

We will examine two of the most popular plugs and connectors – NEMA and IEC. Both NEMA and IEC cords have a particular way of determining how the power cord angles are named based on cord direction.

There is a significant factor in understanding the various plug angles between NEMA and IEC power cords: the ground pin (the middle blade/slot of a three-pronged plug or connector). It’s important to note that the angle is based on when the plug or connector is plugged into a power source or equipment, not when facing the cord itself.

  • North American Power Cords are using NEMA configurations. Let’s use the NEMA 5-15P plug found powering most household items. As a point of reference, angles are based on when the NEMA power cord ground pin is facing down (or 6 o’clock position). The angles are determined by the position of the power cord when plugged into a power source or socket. When looking at a wall outlet as the power equipment is plugged in with the ground pin down and the wire is trailing toward the left, then it is a left-angle plug. On the other end, if the cord is trailing right, it is a right-angle plug. The same logic applies to up and down angles. Below is a diagram for all four NEMA 5-15P angles:


  • Let’s look at the IEC configurations, more specifically the IEC-60320-C13 connector. When looking at a power cord plugged into equipment and after locating the ground pin faced as an up position, if we see the cable trailing to the left side, then the power cord is featuring a left-angle connector. On the other hand, if the cable is trailing to the right, then it is a right-angle connector. Up and down IEC cords are determined by the ground pin facing up (or 12 o’clock). Refer to the C-13 angled chart below:
UP IEC-60320-C13 UP ANGLE_N Model (1)
DOWN IEC-60320-C13 DOWN ANGLE_N Model (1)
LEFT IEC-60320-C13 LEFT ANGLE_I Model (1)
RIGHT IEC-60320-C13 RIGHT ANGLE_N Model (1)

To summarize, angled power cords are distinguished based on two factors: the location of the ground pin, and the direction the cord is trailing from the vantage point when connected to a power source.

Along with the reference charts, this thorough explanation on the different power cord angles should give you a better idea on the types of cords needed based on the job it serves.