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Adapters / Converters / Voltage - Will My Appliances Work Overseas?

14 May 2007 Curtis71 asked

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I keep seeing a lot of questions about using electrical appliances overseas, so I thought I'd just make a good post on this so I can refer people to it instead of retyping the same answers again and again.

"Will my camera / hair straightener / whatever work overseas?"
"Will I need adapters?"


To answer this question, you must check for matches in 3 categories:
1. Physical shape of the plug
2. Voltage (V)
3. Frequency (Hz) - prounced "Hertz"

Physical Shape Of The Plug: Does the shape of the plug on your device match the shape of the plug(s) in the nation(s) you plan to visit? Look up the shapes on the Voltage Valet site. If your device doesn't match the outlets in the nation(s) you're visiting, you'll need at least a plug adapter to convert it. You can get the adapters at lots of department stores, travel stores... they are everywhere. I got mine at Wal Mart.

Voltage (V): Voltage is the "pressure" with which electricity is "pushed" into the appliance. More and more devices these days have multi-voltage support built in because it simplifes manufacturing lines and global product distribution. You must check whether the accepted input voltages of your devices match the voltage at your destination(s). Check the destination's voltages at Voltage Valet.

As for the devices you're travelling with, look closely at the area where it plugs into the wall. The input voltage(s) will be printed there. Something like "Input: 110-240V" means that it's good for all voltages starting at 110V up to 240V. That means you will not need a voltage converter anywhere in the world! However if your device doesn't match the destination's voltage, you may need a voltage converter. More on this later. Converters can also be bought at travel stores. They're more costly and less common, so it might just be cheaper to replace your device with a multi-voltage one.

Frequency (Hz) - Strictly speaking, the input frequency of the device should match the one at your destination. Again, the frequency should be printed somewhere on the device. However this really only matters for complex electronics like cameras, camcorders, computers, etc. Simpler things like battery chargers, hair appliances, etc. won't know the difference. Frequency converters do exist but they are really outlandish contraptions. Try getting a tour of a hydroelectric power plant and you'll see what I mean! If you really do need your computer on tour and it doesn't support the destination frequency, you should order a foreign power supply from the manufacturer.

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When Is A Voltage Converter Really Needed?
If you are travelling to an area whose voltage is higher than what your devices accept, you need a converter. Period. Never over-volt because it can lead to electrical fires and might even burn down the building!

If you're travelling to an area with lower voltage, it's probably OK to use simple things like hair straighteners and blow dryers without a converter. However they will not be as powerful due to the under-volting. These things would probably operate almost identically if travelling from a 240V nation to a 220V nation.

Simple battery chargers would probably work, but more slowly. I would not charge any lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery on an unsupported voltage. NiCd and NiMH only!

Do not use more complicated electronics on voltages for which they weren't designed unless you want an expensive paper weight!

My Hair Dryer Supports 220V, But Only On The Low Setting...
The low setting in a 220V zone will be twice as powerful as the low setting in a 110V zone. 110V x 2 = 220V. Do NOT use the high setting unless you like melting hairdryers! This is probably just a feature of the hair dryer's manufacturer skimping on electrical components so they can increase their profit margin.

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So what do we take away from this?

1) 110-240V, 50-60Hz = Best case scenario! Only a plug adapter needed!

2) Never over-volt!

3) Under-volting is sometimes OK.
  • 14 May 2007 michAel-89 said

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    Swell!

    ive a duracell 30-mins battery charger and its got a 110-240v, 50-60hz mention on the label.. :]

    my ipod charger on the other hand, works in a 110-220v ratio, however, it doesnt say anything on Hz, it doesnt matter, right?

    Peace! ^^

  • 15 May 2007 bellyk said

    bellyk

    How long did that take you to write out curtis??

    I started a topic about this about a month ago, but seeing as curtis has gone to the trouble of trying to put everything together, I got an adaptor that can work anywhere around the world.
    Most of them look sorta like the one i found here:
    travel adaptor

    but you can also get them in other forms as well that make you take out one piece and replace it with the country you need.
    The one I’ve got will save you having to carry around more than one adaptor, but if you’re like me and will most likely want to be charging/using more than one thing at the same time then you’ll need two! I got mine from ebay, so it wasn’t expensive as the one on the website – hopefully they work! Razzer<!--graemlin::p-->

    ~Kelly~

  • 16 May 2007 Pirate Tara said

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    Thank you so much for this post, Curtis! I had posted some questions about hair straighteners and gotten answers, but nothing that was as clear as this…plus a lot of the answers were from Australians and I’m not sure if I would even have been able to apply what they told me, being from the US myself.

  • 28 May 2007 Bree 24aus said

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    Great post Curtis!!!!

    Q. is everyone bringing just one adapter?? or shoud i be bringing 2.. or more?
    i’ll have my phone, ipod, camera.
    i wonder if the bus has multiple plug in sites per person, or just one? or i spose you could get a double (or more) euro adapter? – wherever you find that?!

  • 29 May 2007 bellyk said

    bellyk

    I have 2 single ones, but the company ‘Korjo’ now makes double adapters for voerseas destinations – you can get them at luggage/travel stores

  • 30 May 2007 Chestnut1 said

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    Help! I’m going to France in June and really need to bring my hair styling iron. It’s a Canadian/US unit rated for 125V, 60Hz, and uses up to 200W. My question is can I use a travel power converter like this:
    http://tinyurl.com/2v6m32

    My biggest concern is the 125V rating on the unit which seems higher then your normal 110/120v. I read the 50Hz isn’t a concern for hair appliances (true? false?)

    Thanks for the help Smiler<!--graemlin::)-->

  • 31 May 2007 bellyk said

    bellyk

    I just looked at that conveter/adapter thing and it says it converts 220/240v – 110/120v which means it is a step down one. You’ll need one that goes the opposite way 110/120v – 220/240v

  • 31 May 2007 Chestnut1 said

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    quote:
    Originally posted by bellyk:
    I just looked at that conveter/adapter thing and it says it converts 220/240v – 110/120v which means it is a step down one. You’ll need one that goes the opposite way 110/120v – 220/240v



    are you sure that’s right? don’t you step down the voltage at the outlet? it doesn’t make a lot of sense because if you look at the diagram it’s a N.A plug that goes into the converter which then goes into plug adapter. Since N.A. doesn’t use 220V in that plug configuration I have to assume this is the right unit.

  • 31 May 2007 smithyana said

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    I’m just taking 1 adapter and a powerboard.. i saw the suggestion somewhere and figured at least i wont annoy anyone with hogging all the outlets.. i’ll only need one and will probably have a spare aussie spot on my powerboard!

  • 31 May 2007 Bree 24aus said

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    oh my god i’m prob jusr a little slow, but i never thought of taking the single euro-aussie adapter, and then an aussie powerboard (which i’m assuming is just a multi adapter -type thing).

    Brilliant!
    Thanks for the idea!

  • 31 May 2007 Curtis71 said

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    quote:
    Originally posted by bellyk:
    I just looked at that conveter/adapter thing and it says it converts 220/240v – 110/120v which means it is a step down one. You’ll need one that goes the opposite way 110/120v – 220/240v


    You’ve got that backwards. The converter posted by Chestnut1 is the corrent one. The power SOURCE is 220/240 so you’d want to step that down to what the styling iron accepts.

    The difference of 125V vs 110/120V is negligible for an iron as you would be slightly under-volting anyway.

  • 1 Jun 2007 bellyk said

    bellyk

    Sorry!! Must have been half asleep when I looked at the page

  • 1 Jun 2007 Chestnut1 said

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    quote:
    Originally posted by Lothiel:
    I have a Dell mp3 player (not an ipod) that does not have the option of switching between the 2 voltages.
    I’m just wondering if charging an mp3 player will draw as much power as a device such as a hair dryer, and risk causing a fire, etc.



    1. on the charge unit read the label and see what the voltage is. if it says 110-240v you’re good, but you will need a plug adapter (plug the charger into the adapter then plug that into the wall socket). if it says 110/120v only then you’ll neeed a power converter
    2. your MP3 player will not draw as much power as a hairdryer.

  • 5 May 2008 yekis1 said

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    i know this is an old post but i was wondering about a power strip , i am fromthe usa and i know i need a converter and adappter but what i was wondering was if i take a power strip that has 6 us plugs and i just take one adapter and one converter and then plug in all my appliances to the strip would it work or would it over charge please help , in reality only my ipod and camera would charge at the same time but my hair iron and so on every once in a while thanks in advance
    leslie Big Grin<!--graemlin::D-->

  • 5 May 2008 Curtis71 said

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    quote:
    Originally posted by Explorer1087749:
    i know this is an old post but i was wondering about a power strip , i am fromthe usa and i know i need a converter and adappter but what i was wondering was if i take a power strip that has 6 us plugs and i just take one adapter and one converter and then plug in all my appliances to the strip would it work or would it over charge please help , in reality only my ipod and camera would charge at the same time but my hair iron and so on every once in a while thanks in advance
    leslie Big Grin<!--graemlin::D-->


    Assuming your adapter & converter can handle the current (up to 15 amps) that could be used, you should be OK. Look at the manual or packaging to see the ratings.

    Chargers for iPod and camera use up very little current, so I wouldn’t worry about them, but hair irons tend to be pigs in this department.

  • 5 May 2008 Curtis71 said

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    quote:
    Originally posted by Danielle:
    For all you Canadians/americans…i think i understand the straightner and hair dryer thing…and charging batteries (the rechargeable ones) with my charger just needs an adapter yes? what about my ipod…I will have the ipod charger that just plugs into the wall….will just plugging the charger into the euro/brit adapter then the wall be fine? or is that something that needs a voltage converter as well?? tks Smiler<!--graemlin::)-->


    If your appliance takes batteries only and does not plug into a wall, you only need to worry about converters/adapters for the charger.

    As for your iPod charger, check for the things listed in the original post to determine what you need.

  • 6 May 2008 yekis1 said

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    curtis thanks so much and at the risk of sounding stupid , how do i check the amps and the amps to what the strip or the converter ? and once i figure out then ill be fine , the reason is me and my cousin will be sharing a room so it will probably be two ipods , only one camera and then the iron , it would be helpful if someone could post a website with the power strip and the correct converter

  • 7 May 2008 Curtis71 said

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    quote:
    Originally posted by yekis1:
    curtis thanks so much and at the risk of sounding stupid , how do i check the amps and the amps to what the strip or the converter ? and once i figure out then ill be fine , the reason is me and my cousin will be sharing a room so it will probably be two ipods , only one camera and then the iron , it would be helpful if someone could post a website with the power strip and the correct converter


    In terms of amperage, it’s a “weakest link” sort of game. You are limited by whatever has the lowest capacity in the chain of devices.

    I would not worry about the power strip because they are designed to take at least the max that a normal household circuit will provide as the manufacturer knows you’ll be plugging in lots of devices.

    For the converter, it’s probably written somewhere on a sticker on the device or in the manual.

    Here you will see that this converter don’t really provide a lot of current and would not be suitable for a hair straightener:


    Wattage = Current * Voltage
    45 W = Current * 110V
    Current = 0.41 Amperes

    A normal household circuit in Canada and the US supplies up to 15 amperes!

    If you look at your hair straightener, I guarantee you it takes more than 45 watts!

  • 7 May 2008 yekis1 said

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    ok so im not worried about the power strip any more, do you have a picture or a website of the actual converter that would work fine ? my hIR IRON WORKS AT 230 WATTS!!!! as is my blow dryer , my cell and ipod are dual so they will be fine either way Big Grin<!--graemlin::D-->

  • 8 May 2008 Curtis71 said

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    quote:
    Originally posted by yekis1:
    ok so im not worried about the power strip any more, do you have a picture or a website of the actual converter that would work fine ? my hIR IRON WORKS AT 230 WATTS!!!! as is my blow dryer , my cell and ipod are dual so they will be fine either way Big Grin<!--graemlin::D-->


    Honestly I suggest you just get a travel hair-iron that supports dual-voltage so you don’t need the converter for it. It would probably be a lot cheaper than getting a powerful converter. Travel blow dryers are also cheap. Not to mention that bigger voltage converters tend to be bulky and heavy!

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