What Is a Portable Electrical Equipment?

Portable electrical equipment (mobile electrical equipment): electrical equipment which can move or can be moved while in operation or which can be moved from one place to another while connected to the supply [defined in the IEC 60050-826]. The IEV (standard IEC 60050-826) specifies the term “portable equipment” as deprecated and not recommended for use.

Different Definitions

The term “portable equipment” was used in the previous standard IEC 60050-826:1982, which was also defined as “mobile equipment” in the current standard IEC 60050-826. However, the unfortunate term “portable equipment,” which in many IEC standards refers to hand-held electrical equipment, has been replaced in IEC 60050-826 by the more definitive term “mobile equipment”.

Standard IEC 61439-1 defines a specific term “movable assembly” as an assembly which is designed so that it can readily be moved from one place of use to another.

IEC 60950-1 and IEC 62040-3 define a similar term, “movable equipment” – equipment which is either:

  • 18 kg or less in mass and not fixed; or
  • equipment with wheels, castors or other means to facilitate movement by the operator as required to perform its intended use.

The British Standard BS 7671 uses the term “mobile equipment,” defined as:

Electrical equipment which is moved while in operation or which can easily be moved from one place to another while connected to the supply.

BS 7671

The quoted definition is identical to that given in IEC 60050-826. However, the term “portable equipment” is declared by BS 7671 to be deprecated and not recommended for use.

IEC standard 60950-1 defines another type of equipment – “transportable equipment“:

Movable equipment that is intended to be routinely carried by a user. Examples include laptop and notebook personal computers, pen-based tablet computers, and their portable accessories such as printers and CD-ROM drives.

IEC 62109-1 defines the term differently: equipment with a mass of less than 18 kg that is not fixed equipment and is intended to be routinely carried by a user.

The definitions provided in IEC 60950-1 and IEC 62109-1 characterise transportable equipment as hand-held equipment because it is carried by the user.

The term “transportable equipment” is defined differently in IEC 60079-29-4: equipment not intended to be carried by a person nor intended for fixed installation. According to this definition, transportable equipment is not hand-held equipment.

The definition of “transportable equipment” in IEC 62302 is different from the above-mentioned:

equipment designed to be in place for a limited time and capable of being transported to other locations for measurements. This definition also does not characterise transportable equipment as hand-held equipment.


In international standards, thus, along with the term “mobile electrical equipment” similar terms “movable electrical equipment” and “transportable electrical equipment” are used. And the latter term characterizes in the IEC standards both portable equipment and mobile equipment, which by its physical characteristics cannot be portable. This situation confuses specialists working with different IEC standards and is the cause of many mistakes made in the preparation of national standards based on them.

Regulatory and legal documentation should use one term – “mobile electrical equipment”, describing all electrical equipment, which is moved or can be easily moved from one place to another during its operation. It is advisable to define this term on the basis of IEV.

Portable Electrical Equipment Examples

In addition to stationary and hand-held electrical equipment, portable electrical equipment is used in the electrical installations of buildings.

Portable electrical equipment includes such electrical equipment that is usually moved during its operation, such as electric vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, cultivators, etc., or can be moved, such as electric table lamps, electric table and floor fans, kettles, etc.

Electric vacuum cleaner example of mobile electrical equipment
Electric vacuum cleaner example of mobile electrical equipment

Connecting Mobile Equipment

Mobile electrical equipment is usually connected to the fixed electrical wiring of the electrical installations of buildings using plug connectors. In some cases, mobile electrical equipment is connected to low-voltage switchgear using flexible connection cables, for example, when mobile electrical equipment is used during repair work in a building.


  1. IEC 60050-826
  2. IEC 61439-1-2020
  3. BS 7671
  4. IEC 60950-1
  5. IEC 62109-1
  6. IEC 60079-29-4